China is often criticised by Westerners for hushing up difficult topics. Today the FT reports of complaints by citizens of Tonghua, Hebei Province of food + medicine shortages due to strict epidemic Covid controls.
“We weren’t knocked down by the virus but by hunger + basic illnesses” wrote one blogger. Facing public discontent, Tonghua’s Deputy Mayor, Jiang Haiyan, apologised for late deliveries of necessities. Last night the Mayor was questioned about the shortages on CCTV + admitted that high volume of orders had caused online delivery platforms to fail.
At the same time, however, the People’s Daily posted an interview with the Tonghua epidemic control unit saying that reserves of groceries and necessities were sufficient + asserted “there is no shortage”.
The bad news? – on the skimpy account available, it appears the authorities are playing down the problem. The good news? – there is evidence of people’s complaints being aired + the authorities being called to account.
China is in the process of reconciling a top down authoritarian structure with bottom up scrutiny and criticism.