Editorial: Neither ‘time’ nor ‘situation’, only ‘errors’ everywhere | Apple Daily HK

Published (HKT): 2021.05.05 10:36

By Koo Lap

Xi Jinping previously claimed that “in response to the global COVID pandemic, the superiority of leadership and systems of different countries is made clear. When time and momentum are on our side, this is where we show our conviction and resilience, as well our determination and confidence.” Such smugness that was exhibited through his words.

Prior to the London G7 summit, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken and British Foreign Minister Raab responded to this “resilience” with Chinese characteristic this way: “the West is not over yet,” and declared that countries sharing democratic values will cooperate closely, not only to stop the rise of China, but to maintain the basic international order to counter challenges from Russia and China. The smell of gunfire between the two sides is strong and clear. Is “time and situation” truly on the side of the highly-centralized Xi Jinping?

Not quite. Just take epidemics that come up from time to time for example, how did it go from an eruption in Wuhan to a “global pandemic”? After all, isn’t that the result of slow response of a highly centralized system? Everyone ought to remember that back in December 2019, when the virus was first reported in Wuhan, and “whistleblower” Dr. Li Wenliang sounded the alarm in a social media post on December 30. Were the authorities vigilant in their response?

Nope. The Wuhan Municipal Government was busy with meetings and planning of the governing direction for the coming year, as well as the singing and dancing in the Chinese New Year celebration with 10,000 people. At the same time, the Wuhan police arrested Li Wenliang, charged him with “publishing false statements on the Internet”, and forced him to sign a letter of admonition. It was not until January 20, 2020, three weeks after Li Wenliang sounded the alarm, when Xi Jinping gave instructions on the epidemic after returning from his visit to Myanmar. By then, the highly contagious virus had been around for more than a month.

Why such a delay? Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang spoke to the CCTV News Channel on January 27 that under China’s system, everything must wait for Xi Jinping to make the call, “as a local government, I can only disclose information after being authorized…eventually, especially after the January 20 State Council meeting…asked local governments to take charge. From this point on, we took more initiative in our work.” It was made very clear how “superior” a system is under one person’s rule, and is under the final decision of the Party Central Committee. Li Wenliang’s last words – “A healthy society should not only have one voice” – argued against the notion that “time and situation” are on the side of this system.

Despite the slow fight against the pandemic, isn’t China’s economy extremely “resilient”? For Xi Jinping, perhaps not so much either. In April 2020, in order to respond to the new situation brought about by the epidemic, Xi Jinping issued a “major instruction” of a new dual-cycle development pattern in which the domestic cycle is the mainstay, and the domestic and international dual cycles promote each other.” One year later, even he could not deny that the “implementation” of the dual-cycle brought about “eight errors”. For example, the focus on the large domestic cycle has shrunk the external cycle which opens up internationally; separate governance and demarcation; “low-level logistics cycle”; engagement in “high and large” repeated construction that ends poorly under the façade of resolving technical “bottlenecks”; blind expansion of investments and excessive stimulation of consumption, etc.

In short, under the centralized power system, there are many failures and omissions with a distorted policy-implementation; the “errors” are not just limited to the eight according to Xi Jinping. Can such a greedy and exorbitant system of wasting resources lead to real economic benefits? Whatever the answer is, only Xi Jinping himself knows. In November 2013, he stressed at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the CCP that “market allocation of resources is the most efficient form”. If he knew this, then why has he bothered with the cumbersome directing of this and that all day long?

China’s GDP in the first quarter rose 18.3% year-on-year, seemingly unstoppable. However, how much of that is due to the Xi Jinping-led formalistic projects like “domestic circulation as mainstay” and “promotion of high energy consumption and high emissions”? During the same period, exports were undoubtedly strong, especially with anti-epidemic supplies. With the improvement of the epidemic situation in Europe and the U.S., it is not unusual that this type of exports has already peaked. In fact, it can be seen from the Purchasing Managers Index that exports have already slowed. Moreover, the consequences from “bottlenecks” in Europe and the U.S. are gradually becoming more obvious. Among other things, the continuous supply of chips has caused Huawei’s mobile phone production to drop. During all this, anti-monopoly efforts are slaughtering the most dynamic technology companies such as Alibaba, Ant Group, and Tencent, while state-controlled enterprises such as Huarong, Founder Group, and China Fortune Land Development were caught in hundreds of billions of debts. God knows what other chaos would follow this.

On the other hand, led by “the most efficient market”, the U.S. launched three highly effective WHO-approved vaccines in one go; the U.K. quickly followed behind with one as well. As of today, China’s vaccine is still not yet approved by the WHO, and its vaccination rates are far behind those of the U.K. and the U.S. When has “time and situation” ever been on the side of “errors”?

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