There are a great many details, but the essence of it seems to be this:
The first victim was a researcher in a lab in the city of Wuhan, in central China. The virus began to spread. China - that is, the Chinese government - that is, the Chinese government acting under the implicit (and perhaps explicit) orders of Emperor Xi, tried to hide the fact of the virus from the outside world. They succeeded initially, and caused thousands more to die - that’s the considered opinion of a wide range of authorities - and caused untold trillions of dollars in economic loss.
Beijing has since repeatedly resorted to lies. To date more than 100,000 world wide have died. We can assume tens of thousands more will die as a result of the world wide economic recession (and certainly a depression in many countries) that will follow.
Inside China the lies continue; how many people contracted the virus? The Chinese number stands firm well below 100,000, with fewer than 4,000 dead. The numbers are certainly fabrications. How many people have or had COVID 19? We’ll probably never know. Nor will we know how many died. One estimate is that, as of more than a week ago, roughly 100,000 had died in China. We do know that more than 7,000 bodies were cremated in just a few crematoria in Wuhan in a several week period in March. We know that cell phone accounts of millions of people have been cancelled, presumably those who are related to or know of the correct number of infected and dead. We know that hundreds of thousands (probably well more than a million) of citizens of Wuhan and the surrounding area traveled outside of Wuhan and Hubei province after the virus began spreading; that means the virus spread to the rest of China - no matter what Beijing says. And we know that bloggers in China keep reporting (and having their service cut off) that the real situation in China is vastly different, and worse, than what is being reported.
Meanwhile, Beijing has tightened controls on the media, and has continued to pump large amounts of money into the economy (far larger than normal. So has the US, but we’re quite open about it). The Chinese are hiding, as best they can, any accurate numbers about their economic performance.
Anger and frustration inside China continues to mount. The anxiety generated by concerns over the virus itself have been compounded by the belief the government in Beijing is suppressing the truth about the virus and about treatments and care for the sick.
An economy with grave structural weaknesses, open political dissent in Hong Kong, a virus that may still be uncontrolled in certain Chinese cities - all compounded by a government that’s seen as hiding the truth from an already troubled population.
These are not circumstances that allow those at the top to sleep well at night.
Autocracies and oligarchies like an appearance of law and legitimacy but in reality that’s a veneer; in the end they fall back on power - the police state. China - and Emperor Xi - have developed that to a fine edge over the past decade or so, and he now sits atop the largest, most sophisticated police - surveillance state in history. But that level of power and control can work against him - he has deputies, and the deputies want to keep their position, their power. What happens when they start feeling that they’re sitting on top of a “tiger” - a population increasingly frustrated with lies and oppression , angry at Beijing, angry at Xi, for covering up the virus in order to make himself look good. And all this on top of a looming economic failure only made worse by that same virus and Beijing’s actions in covering it up.
What if one of the cliques at the “top of the pyramid” now see Xi as a direct threat to their staying on top as well? Might Xi’s ouster be a way to ameliorate the problem, to calm the anger of the mob, to throw fresh meat to the tiger?
If so, how might it happen? As a general rule, there are two ways for kings, dictators, and emperors to fall: either from an outsider - in which case everyone on the inside is at risk, or the insiders get rid of him themselves. While violent “palace coups” make for great operas and action movies - and it’s certainly possible, consider what happened to Nikita Khrushchev: plotting began months earlier, certainly by March 1964 , inside a very small circle led by Leonid Brezhnev. On October 12th, 1964, while Khrushchev was on vacation in the Caucasus, Brezhnev held a meeting of the plotters, they agreed it was time to act; they then contacted Khrushchev and asked him to return to Moscow for a special meeting of the Praesidium. Khrushchev was vaguely suspicious that something wasn’t right, but traveled home and was greeted by his friend Gen. Semichastny, head of the KGB, who then arrested him. Two days later a meeting of the Praesidium and Central Committee and officially removed him from power and he “retired” to his dacha.
Perhaps Xi can hope for a similar fate…
The elites may be thinking about it - they’re idiots if they’re not. Real power, as Mao cautioned, “grows out of the barrel of a gun.” And while Xi controls the guns, he controls the guns through his minions. Are his minions getting antsy?
And let’s hope there’s been some thinking about this at the Pentagon and the State Department; that we have a plan in place - just in case - to provide some sort of regional stability during such a transfer of power.
And maybe, just maybe, an internal collapse would provide a chance for all those “others” who have been trampled on by the Chinese Communist Party, the Tibetans, the Mongols, the Uighurs, etc. Maybe we can even hope Communist China might break up into its component parts. Maybe something good might come of this virus after all.
Perhaps folks are just being hopeful. But, it’s Easter after all, a time of infinite hope.