How the Coronavirus Revealed Authoritarianism’s Fatal Flaw in China

An article worth reading, if you want to know, why China’s use of surveillance and censorship makes it harder for Xi Jinping to know what’s going on in his own country.

A worth reading article, written by associated professor Zeynep Tufekci, in the newspaper – The Atlantic.

Here are four interesting quotes from the article:

1 – Authoritarian blindness is a perennial problem, especially in large countries like China with centralized, top-down administration. Indeed, Xi would not even be the first Chinese ruler to fall victim to the totality of his own power. On August 4, 1958, buoyed by reports pouring in from around the country of record grain, rice, and peanut production, an exuberant Chairman Mao Zedong wondered how to get rid of the excess, and advised people to eat “five meals a day.” Many did, gorging themselves in the new regime canteens and even dumping massive amounts of “leftovers” down gutters and toilets. Export agreements were made to send tons of food abroad in return for machinery or currency. Just months later, perhaps the greatest famine in recorded history began, in which tens of millions would die because, in fact, there was no such surplus. Quite the opposite: The misguided agricultural policies of the Great Leap Forward had caused a collapse in food production. Yet instead of reporting the massive failures, the apparatchiks in various provinces had engaged in competitive exaggeration, reporting ever-increasing surpluses both because they were afraid of reporting bad news and because they wanted to please their superiors.

2 – Authoritarian blindness had turned an easily solvable problem into a bigger, durable crisis that exacted a much heavier political toll, a pattern that would repeat itself after a mysterious strain of pneumonia emerged in a Wuhan seafood market.

3 – SARS was contained, though barely, and not before significant economic costs following a failed cover-up.
Such an experience should have made it clear that cover-ups are futile when it comes to pandemics, because viruses don’t respect borders.

4 – The Soviet Union learned that radiation doesn’t either, when Sweden alerted the world to the Chernobyl accident.

And here is the link to the article from the newspaper – The Atlantic:

NB. The author of the article – ZEYNEP TUFEKCI – is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina, and a faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. She studies the interaction between digital technology, artificial intelligence, and society.