The last emperor of the Ming Dynasty in China was Chongzhen. He presided over an empire bloated with bureaucracy, drowning in lies and desperately trying to stave off the inevitable. In the end, as the system crumbled around him, he rang the bell in his palace to signal his ministers to assemble before him. No one came. He was alone, and the empire was no more. He hung himself in despair.
Perhaps things have not yet reached quite that point for Xi Jinping. They may yet, however.
For decades now the world has told itself the lie that China represented the future, that its society and government were liberalizing, that the Chinese people supported their government and its policies. The coronavirus crisis has exposed that lie in all its monstrosity.
The Chinese Communist Party is not the vanguard of anything. It is a brutal, thuggish syndicate more akin to a criminal mafia than a political party. It oppresses its people with ruthless efficiency. It feeds on lies, false statistics and meaningless claims of success and progress. It is hopelessly incompetent at everything other than oppression.
The Chinese economy is at a standstill. Factories are shuttered. The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed factory production and new orders collapsing to the worst levels on record last month, while employment also took a nosedive. Satellite images published by NASA show a massive drop in air pollution over Chinese cities consistent with an 80% drop in industrial activity and traffic.
Nothing is being produced. No one is moving.
Chinese efforts to force workers back into factories and restart industrial production have met with limited success. Undeterred the bureaucracy has simply decreed that factories will use minimum amounts of electricity daily and report those results to party officials. Factory owners and managers have responded to the mad edict by simply turning on equipment and allowing it to run continuously, using electricity, producing nothing and feeding the gargantuan bureaucracy the meaningless statistics on which it feeds.
Faced with a populace that cannot or will not return to work and contending with fatality levels far in excess of what they have admitted, the Chinese can presumably still count on a time-honored tactic, the use of slave labor. For years the Chinese have faced stiff international criticism for their treatment of the Muslim ethnic minority known as the Uighurs who have been herded into modern-day concentration camps where they are “reeducated. Increasingly, those same Uighurs have been used as a ready source of slaves to work in Chinese factories.
Now in dire need of labor to run shuttered factories, the Chinese can still turn to some 80,000 Uighurs they have moved into what are now urban “hot zones” where they will toil away making products for export. At least until they all die.
One of the major brands now producing for the U.S. market using slaves? Nike. One wonders if Mr. Kaepernick’s moral conscience will compel him to take a knee in response.
Meanwhile, as the economy dies, and slaves may be the only ones still working on shop room floors, vast numbers of Chinese remain locked down in apartments, which increasingly appear to be destined to become their tombs. Social media is filled with videos of Chinese citizens so desperate to escape confinement that they are attempting to climb down the exteriors of buildings to the street below. In at least some cases, these desperate actions have resulted in death.
Video coming out of Wuhan – where people have been locked down for a month and a half in their apartments – shows the night air filled with screams of desperation as an entire city waits to die. No one is coming. There will be no rescue.
It may already be much, much worse. Unconfirmed but persistent reports (show in below Tweet) suggest that in some areas, older patients diagnosed with the coronavirus are being burned alive. No need to devote precious resources to caring for someone who is likely only going to die anyway.
Forty incinerators are working 24 hours a day in Wuhan alone. Each incinerator is capable of burning thirty bodies a day. At that rate in that locality alone 1200 people a day are being cremated.
Meanwhile in his palace Xi Jinping appears increasingly out of touch. Speaking to 170,000 party officials via video teleconference in late February Xi seemed focused more on meeting production goals and restarting the economy than he did on the death toll. He also blamed lower-level party officials at the provincial level for having failed to gain control over the growing epidemic and expressed concerns about social stability. A new party loyalist with direct ties to Xi has been dispatched to Wuhan to oversee efforts to combat the virus and, one presumes, to make sure that only good news gets communicated to Beijing from this point forward.
Communist China is a nightmare built on deceit and oppression. Neither of those things can contend with a disease that is eating the heart out of the nation. Like Chongzhen before him, Xi seems destined to become increasingly irrelevant as events unfold and a virus that knows no ideology eats away at the heart of his kingdom of lies. In the end, when he rings his bell, it may be that no one will respond and that the last Communist emperor of China will realize too late the end has come.