After days out of the public eye, President Xi Jinping has reappeared in videos designed to project confidence in his government’s handling of a virus, Covid-19, that has killed more than 1,000 people in China.
The world isn’t buying it, and neither should the Chinese people.
Weeks ago, Beijing appeared to act with authoritarian speed and decisiveness — the type of response that democracies, with checks and balances and respect for civil liberties, sometimes envy: It shut transport links, tracked the movement of infected individuals, quarantined large populations and built a major hospital in just days.
But the command-and-control Communists failed to contain the virus because far more important ingredients were and remain missing: transparency, trust and the free flow of information.
The biggest failure was early on, as apparatchiks, true to form, buried all negative news. That official silence enabled millions to carry the microbe from its Wuhan epicenter across the nation and across borders.
When a doctor — a public health hero — sounded the alarm, Beijing repaid him by discrediting, then detaining him. He contracted the virus, dying.
Beijing’s persistent efforts to starve its populace of information are backfiring. Maybe the people are catching another kind of bug, from Hong Kong.
Let’s not be too smug. The United States has yet to be severely tested; our public health infrastructure has its own major vulnerabilities. But China’s struggles remind us that a government that treats its people like mushrooms has no hope of containing a highly communicable pathogen.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS