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  • Alastair Cavendish

Try Not to be a Hunt this Christmas

If you enjoy irony, here’s a Christmas present. After almost three years of brutal, pointless lockdowns, the Chinese Communist Party is ready to try a new policy. Their last magnificent effort on this front was the socialist version of a rebrand, when they decreed that the “Zero Covid Policy” should henceforth be known as the “Dynamic Zero Covid Policy”. Oddly enough, this did not seem to make much difference, so they decided upon a strategy which really is novel and dynamic. Are you ready to hear about this stroke of genius? Can you handle the intellectual daring of Xi Jinping’s innovative thinking? Brace yourselves. Here it comes. Herd immunity.

Yes, that’s right. The policy Boris Johnson announced in March 2020 before performing the mother of all U-turns and slavishly imitating the Chinese is, as of December 2022, the new strategy of the Chinese Communist Party. This morning, students wrote to me from Hangzhou, the provincial capital of Zhejiang, about two hours’ drive from here, telling me that the city, like so many Chinese cities in the last month, has descended into a state of lawless panic because “it seems that the government wants us to be immune collectively.”

I have spent more than seven years in China, and love many things about this country. The one aspect of it for which I have unreserved hatred and contempt is the Communist Party, which combines apparently limitless evil with umbilical incompetence, as though Hitler had decided to appoint the Three Stooges to carry out his master-plan. What has changed in the past few years, as it has changed to varying extents around the world, is that one used to be able to ignore the wretches in government, whereas now they find ever more intrusive ways to make their presence felt. There is no doubt that evading their scrutiny was always much easier for foreigners than for the Chinese population, but the secret police were a joke, albeit a sinister joke, to many people. I once had to teach a course on Ancient Greek civilisation in which I was asked not to mention democracy. When I arrived at the first lecture, I found that two of my students were glassy-eyed, stone-faced forty-year-olds dressed entirely in black. Several of the real students asked me later if I had spotted the secret policemen, and I quickly discovered that they were far too stupid to understand a single word I said about democracy or anything else.

How many of the people who, earlier this month, held up blank pieces of paper and called for the end of the Communist Party are now in underground cells being tortured by the sort of unlettered oafs who once attempted to prevent me from talking about democracy without bothering to learn the word democracy? The thought is a chilling one. A couple of weeks ago, when protests broke out in Hangzhou, the fleet of vehicles the police brought with them were not enough to arrest all the protesters they decided to incarcerate, and they had to commandeer buses to take them away. Many parents are still making desperate efforts to find their missing children. Students throughout the country were hurriedly dispersed from campuses and sent home, whether they have homes to go to or not, for fear of further protests.

Every aspect of China’s pandemic policy has been a disaster. The Party’s secrecy and dishonesty unleashed the virus on an unsuspecting world in the first place. Their corruption of the World Health Organisation denied us impartial information on how to deal with it. The mass-testing policies created super-spreader events, particularly among the elderly, who would otherwise have been inclined to stay at home in self-imposed quarantine, as they normally do. The brutal lockdowns exposed China’s barbarity to the world. The economy has been devastated. Young people are in despair at the bleak prospects before them. And for what? Herd immunity, that’s what. After driving the country into misery and beggary for three years, Xi Jinping has decided to pursue a brilliant, dynamic new policy called herd immunity. Who knew that tyranny was not the antidote to disease? Who could possibly have predicted that totalitarian repression would not be the perfect solution to a virus?

Not the Chief Medical Officer for England, apparently. Christopher John MacRae Witless recently announced that there would be a prolonged period of excess deaths due to lockdown. Can anyone, perhaps, recall which medical authorities advocated this disastrous policy at the time? I can certainly remember that the former Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who I believe is still involved in politics in some capacity or other, praised China to the skies for its enlightened policies, and wished that Britain could be more totalitarian in its approach to dissent.

Hunt’s comments have aged like a pint of fine vintage milk. We should never forget how he and many other people who occupy positions of power and influence in Britain rushed to jettison liberal democracy and embrace totalitarianism at the first opportunity. Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, Matt Hancock, Michael Gove, Neil Ferguson, Patrick Vallance, Piers Morgan, Kier Starmer… these are only a few of the very worst offenders against freedom. As it turns out, they are stupid as well as evil. The totalitarian method of handling the pandemic, as modelled by China, has been a catastrophe on every possible level. The only effect it may have had that the Chinese government intended was, as Ebeneezer Scrooge so memorably put it, to “decrease the surplus population.” Perhaps, however, even Jeremy Hunt might hesitate before declaring his enthusiasm for genocide, particularly during the festive season.

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