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Saturday, May 15, 2021

COVID AND DEMOCRACY PART TWO

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Graham Perry
Experienced Arbitration Lawyer | China & Chinese Business Affairs | Public Speaker/Lecturer.

The World is still in the middle of the pandemic. Many problems exist. New variants threaten. Wealthy countries have looked after themselves first and non-wealthy countries are struggling as they look for droppings from the table of the wealthy. In India, oxygen is in short supply; crematoriums are turning away families eager to bury their dead; distant townships lack any State help and people are left exposed and vulnerable as deaths mount.

There will come a time when national investigations will focus on the performance of respective governments and judgments will be made about how they responded. That is down the road but, when it comes, searching questions will be asked. Initially, the focus was on China. Why did Covid happen? How was it handled by the Chinese authorities? The WTO has visited and a report has been issued. Some have criticised the report because it is alleged that China made insufficient disclosure – and some have praised the openness of the authorities in facilitating the availability of laboratory investigation and the examination of medical reports.

But in time the focus will switch to an investigation into how countries performed with regard to their own people. Did governments rise to the challenge or did they abdicate their responsibilities and allowed serious consequences to flow? In particular, there will be an examination of the well-being or otherwise of the people. We can make a start by examining the figures which reveal the extent to which some governments performed well and other governments performed badly. And here the evidence is stark.

The US and the UK with a combined population of 401m people have suffered a death count of 730,000 people and rising. China with a population of 1.4bn people has suffered a death count of fewer than 10,000 people.

The first duty of any government is to protect its people. That is to say, to take action to ensure the safety and well-being of its population. By this standard, the performance of China’s government far outstrips the performance of the US/UK governments and this raises the question about the credibility of the government. If the figures are so high in the US/UK and so low in China what does it say about the ability of the respective governments and the functioning of the respective democratic systems?

These are the questions that are going to rise again and again. Of course, there will be rejoicing as normality returns and people can go about their lives in the usual way. They will travel, eat out at restaurants, meet up with family and friends. It will be similar to the post-war euphoria in 1945 when, in the US and UK, there was rejoicing in the streets. There was a pause to remember the dead and the sacrifice and the families that were forever blighted by family members that lay dead in Europe, N Africa, Burma, China and more. Their deaths came as a result of the wickedness of the German Nazis, the Italian Fascists and the Japanese Empire seekers. World War II was unavoidable. Were Covid deaths avoidable?

Could more have been done by Governments to avoid a large number of deaths? And the answer is unmistakeably Yes. Xi Jinping announced to the world at the end of January 2020 the existence of Covid-19. He did two things; – he warned the world of the existence of the virus and he took action in China. At this time the media were predicting mass deaths in China. The media would have done better to turn the spotlight on their own governments in the US and UK. This was the time for urgent action – Xi Jinping took the action, Trump and Johnson didn’t. But why did US/UK leaders fail to act? Information about Covid was in the public arena. They had been warned; Xi Jinping had alerted the world and yet it was not until 13 March that Johnson put the UK in lockdown  – and with Trump, there was no lockdown at all.

In the meantime, the Communist Party acted. They took decisive action. The streets were empty; by order, people stayed at home; people had to submit to testing; new hospitals (new buildings not converted buildings) were built in eight days. Trains did not run. Planes did not fly. Entry into China was stopped. China, speedily and effectively, put an end to the cycle of transmission. China acted and the predicted millions of deaths never materialised – in fact, less than 10,000 today 16 months on from Xi’s announcement at the end of January 2020. That is 10,000 too many. There is no glory in these figures just a quiet realisation that China attacked Covid, took action and limited significantly the spread of Covid. By comparison, the US/UK froze and allowed Covid to spread.

Trump was in denial and told people to drink disinfectant. Johnson buoyed by Brexit and General Election success and distracted by personal pressures to conclude a matrimonial settlement with his second wife missed key meetings of Cobra, the top security body, called to deal with Covid. The Boss went missing. Things drifted in the US and things drifted in the UK. Democracy failed to protect the people and very high death rates followed.

So questions are asked about democracy – why did US/UK democracy fail so badly and why did Chinese democracy succeed so well. The West and China believe that their respective procedures are democratic so why did the Western version fail and the Chinese version succeed. Remember where we start – the first duty of any government is to protect its people. China did with a relatively small number of deaths and the US/UK didn’t with a relatively high number of deaths.

Part III to Follow

GRAHAM  PERRY

APRIL 2021

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