China, COVID-Zero, and the Guarantees of Authoritarian States

Confluence of the Salmon and Snake Rivers from the air

One of the more pathologically fascinating things to watch, as the COVID pandemic winds down for the rest of the world, but is in full swing in China, is to watch the various riot/panic videos as the forces of the CCP implement various instantaneous quarantines on the ground. I’ve discussed this before in this piece — that at some level, the more extreme measures are political moves against certain memetic factions in the larger Chinese landscape. Which should come as no surprise. If you don’t think the government bureaucrats are jealous of the wealth being generated in Shanghai, think again. The video below is from an IKEA in Shanghai, where a child was found to be exposed, and the security staff immediately attempted to trap the population inside the store. At this point in the pandemic, the population is having far less of it than in earlier days.

At some level, I’m limited in the videos I can post, because of fear of them vanishing. The ones from major news sources are more likely to be here a year from now. But the really wild ones are on my Twitter feed. People are getting fed up.

But the government is still doubling down. Here’s a video of barricades going up in Shenzhen, which is China’s version of Silicon Valley (and having been there, it really is.)

I suppose if you were going to get stuck in a store, an IKEA might not be the worst option. Dibs on the bed!

But why would China persist in this? That’s the real question. And why would a population of 1.4B people go along? The answer is, as always, in the v-Memes.

Even with the reforms initiated under Deng Xiaoping, China remains largely an Authoritarian society, with extensive legalism applied to major sectors. The civil service exams originated likely over 1000 years ago. And while at the time, the innovations that occurred in the Tang and Song Dynasty were profound at the time, they also had the effect of freezing the culture. For 1000 years! I’ve written a couple of pieces on this, that are really relevant concerning the U.S.’s cultural freezing around the issue of race. Parallels are there — but are worthy of a post of its own.

Authoritarian societies can persist only if they, like every government, follow a social contract based on a given population’s aggregate level of development. China is no different. And for the last 35 years, China has been lurching into the future, dangling improvements in quality of life in front of the population, while maintaining the baseline promise of any Authoritarian regime — utter safety for the majority of the population. China has it relatively easy as far as population homogeneity — some 90% of the populace is Han Chinese. Those that are not occupy an ambiguous circumstance that ranges from ‘OK’ (a lot of the small ethnic minorities, isolated in various spots across China, but still following the party line) to ‘Awful’ (the situation in Xinjiang Province with the Uyghurs is appalling and approaches full scale enslavement.)

China’s governmental elite, in the CCP, have managed to walk a thin line between rewarding the majority population for obedience and personal sacrifice with increased material prosperity, while maintaining almost total information control over much of the country. To the extent that there are real problems that might fuel unrest (like environmental issues) the government then even creates GONGOs (gov’t organized NGOs) to release pressure. You can protest. Just sign up at your local government office.

But COVID has radically rewritten the script. As I discuss in this piece, I believe that COVID was an accidentally released bioweapon (its release was NOT deliberate – but rather a system failure in a weapons development trajectory) from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. China’s racial homogeneity offered an angle that its bioweapons designers took to heart. Through extensive genome research, my hypothesis is that China was not able to engineer a virus that would deliberately target, say, white people, or brown people. Pandemic history curves basically bear this out. But they could create a virus that would not affect East Asians, or rather, affect them less. Looking at population spread and infection curves have convinced me that this is a worthy hypothesis.

The problem with all bioweapons, however, is they are nigh on impossible to control once they’ve escaped. And once escaped, they will continue to mutate. If one looks at the original strand of SARS-COV2, it was likely successfully contained inside a virally naive population in Wuhan, especially considering that there may have been residual immunity in the Asian populace from the SARS version from 2003.

But the problem with engineering a virus is what I call the ‘sharp knife/dull knife’ problem. Any particular specificity one puts into a virus, like a sharp knife, will erode over time. That is fundamental entropy at work. And then you end up with a virus that anyone, including the native population that might have had some a priori protection from, can get infected with. And once infected, even with extreme measures, the viral cat is out of the proverbial bag. You then are facing a disease that you created, without the lack of affinity that was originally programmed into it. And your population, especially if you’ve been disrupting normal civic life for a couple of years, are now profoundly virally naive, with weakened immune systems.

It is now this bed that China and the CCP, having created it, must now lay in. And it’s worse than that. As embodying a preeminent narcissistic authoritarianism with 2500 years of history behind it, trust me that the CCP has convinced everyone (like Zero COVID activists) everywhere that their lack of the disease was a direct result of a eugenic and cultural superiority.

So when you promise, especially in regards to safety concerns, AND you’ve actively undermined any validity grounding on the issue, you better deliver. Or you compromise the entire idea that the current emperor, Xi Jinping, actually has the Mandate of Heaven. I’m not an expert in Chinese history, though I’ve read quite a bit. But believe me when I tell you that the Mandate, unlike the Western, genetic version, is allowed to pass to other houses.

That’s what has the CCP fired up, especially in the run-up to the CCP’s big meeting, the 20th Communist Party Congress, on who should be the new emperor. Xi is running on being granted a third term, which is basically against the rules. But Xi is devious in a way that only a country with 2500 years of history in mastering deception can be. All this was in the bag until COVID came along. But here we are.

And China, like many of our modern states, is facing major economic misalignment from the usual suspects — real estate, banks, and building disruptions from COVID Zero policies that have disrupted supply chains across China and the rest of the world. China has built much of its recent economic success on importation and partnership of foreign talent into its factories. But COVID Zero has shut that down. To get into China now is a two-week quarantine, followed by an additional week if one moves out of the gateway city to another part of the country. No American engineer I know wants to sit in a Chinese military hotel, being served food behind a locked door, for three weeks. Having slept in those hotels, with their rock-hard beds, I can tell you it’s a non-starter.

So what do you do, if you’re the CCP, and especially if you sit on the Central Committee of the CCP, who extremely likely knows the whole backstory (as do our various organs, like Fauci/NIAID and the CIA)? You double down. Because you now know that you’re in Nazi High Command territory, where when the Big Lie comes due, your head will roll. Forget about Grandma. People in China love their kitty-cats too, and no one wants to be the one that tells the general public they murdered their pet for a failed governmental strategy. (Note — I am not inserting easily found Youtube videos on this because it is so upsetting.)

If there’s a meaningful analogy behind today’s high tech., hyper-efficiency economies, it’s something near and dear to my heart — a spinning piece of machinery in the 100K RPM range (some aircraft component rotors spin that fast.) When such a piece of equipment becomes unbalanced, it rapidly, and unpredictably shakes itself to death. There is so much inertial energy stored in such a piece, that when balance is lost, it shakes itself apart. China is looking at exactly this problem. There is no way that COVID can be restrained from mutating. And with a virally naive population of enormous extent, there’s also no way it can prevent it from spreading. Large economies — especially manufacturing systems –are highly socialized, peer-to-peer systems. So China will have a choice to make. Roll back the veil on the Big Lie, which is the linchpin of its reinforced Authoritarian promise to its people, aka Mandate from Heaven, or watch its developed manufacturing capacity move offshore to Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

That places the inevitable grounding validity of Mother Nature against the bullshit spread for the last 2.5 years by the CCP. And Nature bats last.

PS – there’s some actual good news in this post — and it’s about the potential for creating bio-super-weapons. Not bloody likely. The epidemiological/bio-engineering physics are fundamentally against this. My super-bright son actually told me this after playing the various viral simulation games over and over. “Spread vs. lethality, Pops.” Remember that the next time someone tells you about engineered super-weapons.

4 thoughts on “China, COVID-Zero, and the Guarantees of Authoritarian States

  1. Given that being 90% ethnically homogenous seems to be a gigantic liability in terms of wholesale genetic vulnerability, I wonder how much of zero covid is low-key population training for when a biological attack occurs against them.


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