With “Zero Covid” China has proven that it is well in control. Governance is more difficult.

A widely shared WeChat article speculated that the shortage of fever medication reflected the government’s unpreparedness for an easing of controls. And if the government had shown the same political will it had in implementing ‘zero Covid’, the article argued, it could have ensured there was an adequate supply of such drugs.

“It doesn’t care about the common people, leaving them to fend for themselves and even enjoy their mess,” the article reads, urging officials to show up where the public needs them most to build trust to win back.

The low trust in the government forces people to help themselves and to help each other. In local WeChat groups, people made arrangements to share their fever medication and rapid test kits with their neighbors.

Tencent, the social media giant, also built a WeChat program where people could ask strangers for medicines with extra. The requests for help are modest: six tablets of paracetamol; four tablets of ibuprofen; two rapid test kits; a clinical thermometer.

They ask strangers for help because they can’t get it from their government.

“Don’t expect anything from Leviathan — there’s no point in appealing either,” Chen Min, a former journalist better known by his pen name Xiao Shu, wrote on his WeChat timeline, referring to the central government. “In the end we have to help ourselves.”

Only by building a vast network of social connections, he continued, “can we weave a true social safety net in the darkest of moments, build a true Noah’s Ark, and save countless lives.”

This is exactly the kind of governance crisis Mr. Xi once warned the party about.

“It is not for us to judge the governing capacity or performance of our party; they must and can only be judged by the people,” Mr. Xi said in a 2013 speech. “If we are presumptuous and separate from or put ourselves above people, they will surely let us down. This applies to every party and is an iron law that allows no exceptions.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *