April 12, 2022 Reading Time: 3 minutes

Shanghai, the financial capital of China with a population of 25 million people, currently faces its third week of steep increases in cases of COVID-19.

In response, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) implemented harsh COVID-19 restrictions in Shanghai, sending an army of healthcare workers to enforce them. Citizens cannot leave their homes. They can only receive medical care upon presenting a negative COVID test. Healthcare workers are forcing COVID-positive individuals into quarantine camps and stripping children from their parents. Government officials are even executing pets in the street when the pet owners test positive for COVID. People are running out of food, screaming from their windows, and jumping out of buildings in protest.

These measures follow the CCP’s “zero COVID” pandemic policies. These policies use extensive government intervention to “control” the coronavirus, disregarding all costs. During the past two years, the strategy gained admirers throughout the Western world, including Australia and New Zealand, each implementing similar zero COVID policies.

Zero COVID is a failed strategy. Data does not support it. Lockdowns, mass quarantines, strict border closures, and other policies do not stop COVID. New Zealand and China are experiencing increases in COVID cases. The societal and economic carnage severely outweighs any potential benefits of Zero-COVID policies.

Horrific Hubris

Unfortunately, the CCP refuses to recognize that zero COVID is ineffective, and the starving, trapped, exasperated people are using social media to share their stories.

Individuals across the city are audibly screaming from their windows in protest.

On Weibo, the highly censored social media platform, the following comment went viral: “We are not killed by Covid, but by the Covid control measures.” A tweet from a lawyer trapped in his home also went viral:

Further, NPR reports that citizens created makeshift indoor grass mats for their dogs to defecate on.

I’ve talked with friends who have created these – they call them DIY nature toilets inside their homes. So they, like, bought a patch of grass. They collected some old leaves as a place for their dogs to…Do their business.

The CCP’s response uses militarism and media gaslighting. The CCP-controlled media claims citizens should “be confident, trust the policy, not to panic or be overly anxious, and not to make up and believe rumors.”

Drones fly throughout Shanghai, telling citizens, “Please comply with covid restrictions. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing.”

The zero-COVID measures in Shanghai ought to be recognized for what they are: human rights abuses. The policy ends (zero COVID) are not possible, so they cannot justify the means (locking down a city of 25 million). Similar to its abuse of the Uyghurs in China, the CCP’s national socialist policies are causing significant harm to the Chinese people. Like all national socialist policies, they result in human suffering rather than human flourishing.

State Capacity Hurts

China’s zero COVID approach is yet another example of the devastating risk introduced when totalitarian regimes implement centrally planned policy via brute force. Under the classical liberal ideal, governments are formed to protect individual rights. Nothing could be further from this in Shanghai. A city of over 25 million people is being dehumanized because of a spike in largely asymptomatic COVID-19 cases.

We were dangerously close in the United States to implementing zero COVID adjacent policies, particularly in our larger cities. Admirers of this approach are still with us in the Western world, even if they are in apparent retreat. 

The experience in Shanghai permanently discredits their opinions with respect to COVID-19 policy. The rest of the world should take note and ensure “zero COVID” ideas are placed squarely in the past.

David Waugh

David Waugh is a business development and communications specialist at Coinbits, a bitcoin investment platform. He formerly served as AIER’s Managing Editor from 2021 until 2023, overseeing the publication of The Daily Economy. He previously worked for S&P Global Market Intelligence.

He has co-authored numerous academic book chapters and journal papers on cryptocurrencies, financial markets, political economy, and higher education. His popular writings have appeared in The Hill, RealClearMarkets, National Review, Commentary, Seeking Alpha, and various other media outlets and publications.

Waugh earned his BA in economics from Hampden-Sydney College.

Selected Publications

“General Institutional Considerations of Blockchain and Emerging Applications” Co-Authored with Peter C. Earle in The Emerald Handbook on Cryptoassets: Investment Opportunities and Challenges, edited by Baker, Benedetti, Nikbakht, and Smith (2023)

The Hyperpoliticization of Higher Ed: Trends in Faculty Political Ideology, 1969–Present.” Co-authored with Phillip W. Magness. Independent Review, (Winter 2022-2023)

“Cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, and Public Choice” Co-authored with Ryan M. Yonk, Cryptocurrency Concepts, Technology, and Applications, edited by Leibowitz (2023)

“Enrollment declines increase pressure on ‘woke’ higher ed” The Center Square, (January 2023)

“Fed’s cryptocurrency pilot opens door for dangerous retail option” The Hill, (December 2022)

“Pandemic Socialism: Hayek’s Critique of Scientism and the Fatal Conceit of Government Lockdowns,” Co-authored with Matt Kibbe in Pandemics and Liberty, edited by Raymond J. March and Ryan M. Yonk (2022)

“Do Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Offices Achieve Their Stated Goals?” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal (August 2021)

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