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Not so stealthy now, eh?
On "stealth" lockdowns, Tip O'Neill's advice for staying in power, and the madness of Communist management
An observer writes from China that "Beijing is going into a 'stealth' lockdown. We're not confined to our homes (yet) but so many restrictions are being rolled into place that going anywhere or doing anything is becoming extremely difficult." For any number of reasons, this seems indefensibly crazy.
■ First, with a population of about 22 million people, Beijing is just a smidge more populous than Florida. By that measure alone, the scale of a Beijing lockdown, whether "stealth" or openly declared, would be gargantuan. The logistical nightmare that resulted in Shanghai as people became desperate for basic necessities like food.
■ There is also the matter of basic efficacy: The "Zero Covid" policy is enormously disruptive, and there is plainly no rationale by which locking tens of millions of people at home (or, according to some reports, at work for some 20,000 people) for weeks at a time beats having an effective vaccination program. Bloomberg's reporting says that "only half of the population aged 80 and older are fully vaccinated" in mainland China -- and none of them have gotten the extremely effective mRNA vaccines known to work so well in the United States and elsewhere.
■ And then, there is naked self-interest. China's ruling party doesn't like competition nor does it tolerate criticism. The problem with an institutional attitude like that is that it prevents essential signals from making their way to decision-makers. The long-time Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, said, "If your staff thinks you can't take the bad news, for fear you will behead the messenger, something is wrong with you. You are paying them to provide you with information. They shouldn't fear you. I wanted the bad news because then I could do something about it, and fast."
■ It's hard to avoid the conclusion that there's something wrong with the czars of China's Communist Party. They've hidden themselves from the facts (and from critical analysis), and have censored even the economists from acknowledging that "Zero Covid" is far from zero-cost.
■ People can be kept ignorant of facts far from them for a long time. Misinformation, disinformation, and censorship alike are used for exactly that reason. But people can't be denied the witness of their own lived experiences -- particularly those of imprisonment and hunger. And when a regime tries to keep an iron-clad lid on everything experienced by its people, tens of millions at a time, it inescapably lights a fuse -- maybe long, maybe short -- on its own demise.