China has failed its citizens


Illustration by Jade Harris

A Chinese girl wears a COVID-19 mask that represents the Chinese flag.

Jade Harris, Assistant Opinion Editor

When my grandfather contracted COVID-19 at 92 years old in China, his one fear was being hospitalized in the notoriously cramped, overwhelmed clinics. My aunt, a doctor, moved in with my grandparents to care for them as hospitals quickly became overwhelmed with the massive COVID-19 boom—a result of Chinese President Xi JinPing suddenly lifting the zero-COVID policy with no precautions taken.

While economists finally cheered for the revival of businesses, families and elders contracted COVID at alarming rates until the streets were flooded with burning bodies, as funeral homes were no longer able to meet the demands. During  this apocalyptic time, the Chinese government hid death and case counts  from scientists as they were forced to use social media to garner estimates of how terrible the conditions truly became — a sign of the failure of the Chinese government and its international response.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, China was notorious for its strict policies that have since been dubbed the “zero-COVID”  policies, aimed to eradicate COVID-19 in the country before reopening its borders.. While the Chinese population initially supported such strict government measures, citing the lack of COVID-19 cases as proof of its success, years passed with lockdowns becoming increasingly strict and oppressive.  Protests finally broke out all across China,  criticizing both Xi Jinping’s policies and totalitarian leadership. .

While initially shocked by the sudden protests, the Chinese government decided to fully open up the country despite after years of shutdown. This imprudent decision was set up for failure, given the country’s incredibly low vaccination rates; according to the New Yorker only forty-two percent of people over 80 were vaccinated by mid-December, making them the most vulnerable population. In fact, the majority of China’s vaccinated population isn’t protected; and the Sinovac Biotech Ltd. COVID-19 vaccine is not nearly as effective with cases spread faster and an increased death rate, according to Bloomberg.

According to  Yale Law Professor Taisu Zhang, China’s sudden reversal of  the zero-COVID policy aimed to lessen the blame on the government by scapegoating  rising case counts onto the citizens because they   demanded more freedoms. Such actions are incredibly deadly and brash upon all of China, selfishly making a point of the government’s strength at the expense of the citizens and striking fear among the general population. Instead of granting citizens more freedom, the government chose to suddenly drop all protection requirements in a vindictive policy to punish any dissent. 

The irresponsibility of the Chinese government only grew as they continued to deny the COVID cases and deaths, leaving scientists and the World Health Organization to simply make guesses about the spread of COVID. China stopped counting cases and abandoned a new criteria for counting deaths that will not accurately track reported fatalities, according to the British Medical Journal. This situation has left scientists completely in the dark and their  models predict a million deaths or more.

China needs to  integrate the people’s concerns into their country and also stop using citizens’ lives to prove a point about their overwhelming power. Such actions should be heavily frowned upon by the international community, and it is the job of Chinese Americans to be aware of the situation that has gravely affected many of their relatives. This is especially true as discussions surrounding China’s abusive actions quickly dwindle from the media, despite the ever-worsening conditions.

Additionally, there needs to be greater transparency and accountability between the Chinese government, the World Health Organization and other medical groups. This  lack of communication during a pandemic shows a critical flaw within our society — government power and security trumps the lives of innocent people. When organizations that are meant to form diplomatic policies during crisis are incapable of merely obtaining data from countries, it sets a terrible precedent for future health disasters.

While many countries have implemented mandatory testing for anyone traveling from China, which is helpful to protect any new variations from spreading globally, more needs to be done internationally to pressure China into being honest with the cases. Scientists should not rely on social media videos or leaked information to make estimates.

In an age when medical advancements and communication are at their height, covering up mass suffering and death  is a telling sign of the major flaws in our international community and the failure of the Chinese government. Western media is incredibly influential with a large sphere of influence and needs to actively defend the lives of these people while advocating for their rights — so citizens can protest with the knowledge that their government’s response will reach an international audience.

Additionally, the global community must take stricter action to ensure health diplomacy isn’t compromised by corrupt governments. Countries must put greater influence on criticizing the Chinese government’s actions while putting more pressure for accurate, reliable and life-saving statistics. The world can have a massive impact on ending China’s corrupt rule, and the first step is advocacy.