- Fact 1: China’s Lockdown regime between early 2020 and late 2022 was more brutal than that of almost anywhere on Earth, up there with Australia and New Zealand in degree of severity and reality-detachedness. Even as Corona-Mania ebbed elsewhere, even as the Corona-juntas that had taken control of most rich-country governments began to stand down and mostly allow civilian rule again, China clamped down. A moderate-severe flu virus is too risky. Forever-lockdowns are the only answer. So it went.
- Fact 2: To all accounts, the Chinese citizenry was remarkably passive through near three years of this, with very few if any real reports of meaningful organized resistance to the regime’s Lockdownism and associated power-expansion. Pundits have said it fits with these people’s lack of protest in general despite (or “because of”) living under one of the world’s worst governments. (Neither do North Koreans protest.)
- Fact 3: The World Cup opened on November 20, 2022. There were multiple games per day thereafter until December 5, when the pace slowed down considerably as many teams had by then been eliminated. The feed for these games was shown freely in China showing jubilant maskless crowds.
- Fact 4: A series of small protests appeared in China in the last week of November 2022. These protests were generally tame. But any organized, multi-location, sustained protests are unprecedented in that system.
The cause and effect in visuals, for those many of you out there who prefer pictures to words:
(originally written, December 2, 2022; revised and published, Dec. 7)
The question: What galvanized some Chinese to — finally — protest their Corona-regime?
You can see by the way I have set up the four facts above — note especially the chronology — that I see a causal link between them. In other words, the World Cup caused the protests in China.
In media coverage, by far the most common explanation went like this: there was a fire somewhere, Communist Party lockdown regulations prevented rescue, ten deaths resulted, and people got so angry at these deaths that they spontaneously protested the Lockdowns — for the first time on any large scale.
When the specifics on this “fire” explanation are probed a bit, it looks too weak to explain the unprecedented anti-Communist and anti-lockdown protests.
Some reasons why the fire explanation doesn’t make sense, or leaves very much to be desired:
One, disasters and mass-death incidents are frequent and the country is large, so why one single fire? There are no doubt deadly fires somewhere in China many times per week, many caused by corruption or incompetence. Anti-Lockdowners could have used any other such incident to push protests but never did before late November 2022!
Two, there have been plenty of other general and specific Lockdownist-related outrages over the three years not related to the Urumqi fire or any fire or even any comparable incident. The cruel system involving arbitrary ‘snap’ Lockdowns and all the rest of what they do is itself an outrage, the various restriction on rights and dignities and opportunities presenting the person affected with a barrage of outages (recall that the English quasi-portmanteau “lockdown” has its origin in 20th-century U.S. prison jargon, and was usually only heard in the context of prisons before 2020). There must have been substantial attrition in China in which the “do not resist” political-will that seems to exist weakened. That means there have been many previous sparks, kindling, and fuel for protest-fires, but none occurred before late November 2022.
Three, the fire occurred not in some prestige setting like Shanghai, but in the far west where the Uighurs live. Yet we are told the relatively wealthy in prestige eastern-China cities protested. This is equivalent to right-wing White Americans hearing that there had been x preventable deaths on an American Indian Reservation in New Mexico and becoming so outraged that they stage the boldest protests seen in decades across the U.S. East Coast (in our context maybe something like the Canadian Freedom Convoy movement blocking trucks from resupplying big-blue metro areas; that relative level of bold action) –count that one as “unlikely.”
Another question: What were the protests, really? The protests were over the Forever Lockdowns. The scattered calls by a few for the Communist Party to “step down,” which have caused so much excitement in some quarters, must be judged as secondary in that they would not have happened without the larger and earlier moves against the monstrous Corona-regime. You may say the two are closely related, but the order of causality goes Anti-Lockdown –> Anti-Regime.
Therefore, in any search for causes of the protests, we have to look to the multi-tentacled Corona-Moloch, the social-political-cultural phenomenon I like to call the Corona-Panic for short. We cannot to any garden-variety political discontents, nor to a reservoir of silent anti-Communist opposition, nor to one single fire in one place.
The protests were over the brutal regime of forced testing by injecting things into the body without voluntary consent (although at least the supposedly-improved-accuracy Communist-concocted Anal Corona Test stunt, which humiliated that group of U.S. diplomats so tested last year, doesn’t seem to have become widespread); the forced masks, the forced health- and movement-monitoring apps, the hazmat suits, the whole thing.
The old nightmare we also remember, even if it seems a strange distant world now in the relative light of day. The insult against our tradition of Western-Christian liberty. Against the dignity of Man. An existence in which power is brutally enforced over you, in which people are ruined or damaged by fiat, on which many faceless unfortunates are statistically condemned to Lockdown-induced deaths. Lockdownist life is hardly worthy of the word “life” for Western Man, with such a thing tolerable to a Westerner only if he be deeply committed to the cause, as by religion (or, more commonly, if “she” be so committed; and, these days, one must also toss in the “they”-singular, as the “they”-singular people may also be on board).
Why the Chinese and others went along with it all is uncertain, a little like trying to sort ouf the plotline of a dream.
In any case, the long outrage continued.
And then came the World Cup.
The World Cup is said to be the greatest of sporting events in terms of attention garnered, rivaling or beating the Olympics. The sport is plenty popular in China despite China’s own very consistently poor performance in international football/soccer.
The Communist Party graciously allowed the World Cup FIFA televised feed to be shown to its locked-down subjects.
Exactly how much did they see? I believe FIFA — a big-big-money operation — runs one single feed which they send out to all the world TV networks and streaming services. This feed is a many-camera, high-tech operation. Their camera-teams also give regular shots of the crowds of fans and spectators. Sometimes these are incidental shots of fans en masse shown at certain camera angles from the field/pitch, sometimes they are close-ups of particularly enthusiastic groups of fans to enliven the mood. Here is where the Communist Party of China met a little dilemma out of its control: No one has a mask at any of the games. There is no one “social distancing.” There are no masked masses of obedient locked-down losers. There are no capacity restrictions evident. None of it.
Japan did well in the World Cup and nearly advanced to its best position ever, the Quarter-Final, just one goal in their final game being the difference. Japanese fans were present in force and none had masks:
Then there are large gatherings back home in the native countries of teams playing, and these also get shown on the FIFA feed, I think. These gatherings are comparable to something like major-holiday parades of old or New Year’s gatherings in major city-centers, with people crammed together as far as the eye can see — and no masks, no gangs of thugs in hazmat suits ready to club anyone who dissents or wears a mask improperly, no one getting zapped by tracking-app reports to by order of the state you are to report for mandatory quarantine until further notice.
Another thing the World Cup does NOT have is spray trucks dispersing Corona-control chemicals into the air at random, sprayed out of Communist Party vehicles manned by more hazmat-suit thugs. There is not much any sign, from the World Cup coverage, that a Virus Panic cult had ever been in power at all (though assuredly it had been). Instead, what is shown is normality, from people from the 32 qualifying nations/teams and their fans and supporters who show up.
I got the idea that the World Cup must be the cause of the protests from an Indian think-tank commentator today (Dec. 2), Manoj Kewalramani. I came across his hypothesis on December 1 or 2. he had proposed it already on November 28.
The World Cup itself, Manoj Kewalramani said, is responsible for the galvanization. If the word “trigger event” doesn’t quite work, it is the most important element that started the “fire” (the metaphorical fire of protest, not the Urumqi fire, which is just incidental in this theory). It may sound like a trite hypothesis at first, but everything about it lines up with what we know.
The chronology for the World Cup theory lines up perfectly. The Urumqi fire was on the fourth day of the World Cup. The various storylines that come with any World Cup had by then begun to emerge< with an the attendant increase in interest and emotion by viewers worldwide. For example, the King of Saudi Arabia declared a one-day national holiday November 25 after the Saudi team unexpectedly beat one of the world’s best teams, Argentina, on November 24 — the same day of the Urumqi fire, incidentally. Most who had interest in watching games or following events was, by then, doing so.
The world was throwing a party, and there some tens of millions of Chinese were, tightly locked down like caged rats, and all the rest subject to similar restrictions and distortions to normal-reality. Then come these scenes of huge crowds of people moving about freely on this large international ‘prestige’ stage. That was the galvanizing factor.
Theorists of protest-movements speak of the “demonstration effect” which pushes protests to become significant. This was a World Cup demonstration effect, the demonstration coming from foreigners thousands of miles away and associated with a sport and not politics (although make no mistake, with the World Cup there is generally a political layer, sometimes thin, sometimes thick). “The power of sport”?
The Western reaction as a coda to the Corona-Panic
This has been commented on very much already, but I can’t write an essay like this without touching on it. The Western media cheered on the China protests in the name of human rights and often even saying they were justly resisting cruel policies. This is a total change in tone. The same Western media supported the Panic when “we” did it (had it imposed on us), the crackdowns on protestors, the demonization of dissidents, the marginalizing of resisters. When domestic Corona-Panic regimes were at or near the height of their power, they did all of that, and sometimes cried “mass murder” at the opponents of the Panic and encouraged a mass psychotic-break with reality.
We should do not simply ingest the contents and toss this in a pile labeled “Hypocrisy!” For me, that is not useful as it just represents rah-rah cheerleading one side, bashing the other side.
One thing I take from the spectacle of Pro-Panickers and Panic-pushers of 2020, 2021, and even into early 2022 turning into mainline Anti-Panickers (anti-lockdownists) in late 2022, is this: Western regime-adjacent media reaction to the China anti-lockdown protests looks like a bookend or ‘coda’ to the Corona-Panic phenomenon in the West. Except for a few lingering distortions and the awful second- and third-order effects of the Panic, which are real and not to be dismissed, the once-mighty Corona-Panic has been basically over for most people in most places in most contexts. The visceral aspect of the Panic wound down in early 2022, sooner and more quickly and more easily perhaps than many expected given that for two years the Panic and its partisans and its puppets had so consistently outmuscled the good guys.
If my interpretation is right and the agenda-setters and U.S. Regime-adjacent media will no longer fight for lockdowns and associated things, and only half-heartedly for the injections (vaccines, so-called), it means the Corona-Panic is over and will not return in the form we recognize it, some flip backward into 2020-Panic-mode because some suspicious character flashes a dubious “millions of deaths” graph at you.
The Corona-Panic demonstrated how fragile our civilization is today, how susceptible to mass-Panic frenzies we now seem to be as a civilization, which is probably tied foremost to technology and the Internet. Just because the Corona-Panic itself is “over” (if it is), the mechanisms and techno-social forces that led to it seem likely lead to more things, also destructive.
I have been interested in my writings on the Corona-Panic to date its beginning and end, which is not necessarily an easy task. The start-date or the point-of-no-return date and the reasons for those dates. How could we have avoided the Panic entirely, or, if need be, resolutely fought our way through it and defeated the Pro-Panic coalition in 2020 given a leadership with the courage and moral conviction to fight? I have asked these questions before and tried to offer tentative answers or ideas, but I don’t know for sure. There are a number of good books on the matter, some of which I have read and a few of which I have reviewed here at Hail To You. The flip-side is dating the “end” of the Panic, which will vary over a wider range than the question of when it “began.” The China protests are relevant to out timeline on the end of the Corona-Panic in the West, not because they are chronologically or causally associated, but because “our” reaction to them seems to confirm every which way that it’s over and the Panic people “shall fight no more forever” on the narrow front of the early-2020s Corona-Panic.