Don’t demonize China – look for lessons instead

By Peter Miller in Chongqing

I’m in China during the pandemic and it’s pained me to see anti-Chinese propaganda gaining ground in the West, including in Canada.

Instead of blaming China for a virus that knows no borders, we should be looking to China for lessons on how Canada should respond to the COVID-19 crisis. During the height of the crisis in China, both in Chongqing where I live and all over China, residents followed rules on how often they could go out. For me, I could only leave my apartment complex once every two days to go shopping for groceries. This was labelled as “authoritarian” by writers in the Western press, but instead of being authoritarian, it was clearly a measure needed to quell the spread of the virus.

China did not have enough hospital beds in places of the epicentre of the crisis, like Wuhan, but hospitals were quickly built over 10 days. Touching videos of nurses and doctors unable to be with their children because of the quarantine were shown on China Global Television Network (CGTN), with the recognition that this temporary hardship was necessary in order to defeat the virus and to not risk spreading the disease to one’s families.

I left China on February 20 to come back to Canada, but I headed back to China on March 11 after being asked to come back for work. I went back before Justin Trudeau advised people to stay in Canada, but I’m thankful I came to a country that is clearly safer and doing more to defeat the virus. Today, most of the new cases in China are imported from abroad so there are measures to stop a second spread of the virus. For myself, just like all other new arrivals into China, I am on 14 days of quarantine in my apartment after arriving back in Chongqing. I have my temperature checked every two days by nurses, and I have also been tested for COVID-19 just in case I am asymptomatic. There is a camera pointed at my apartment door to make sure I don’t leave. You might think this is overkill, but the camera does not impinge on my privacy and is instead a sign of just how serious this virus must be taken.

Every day that I am in China I worry about people back home in Canada. Neoliberal governments there have not been taking the virus seriously enough. Sure, there have been efforts to encourage people to practice social distancing, but I don’t see the massive investment by Canadian governments in creating more hospital beds and more ventilators that will be needed very soon. A friend of mine who is showing symptoms is having great difficulty getting tested, while I was tested in China as a precautionary measure. Nurses, doctors, and patients with mild symptoms are being left to fend for themselves and self-quarantine after spending time in the ER, when instead the state should find adequate places to quarantine people without them risking getting their friends and families infected. The list of issues I see in Canada goes on and on, and governments need to be held accountable.

The Liberal government will use this virus as an excuse to cut back on working people in Canada, but we can’t let them do it. Instead, we must demand better public health care, more robust unemployment insurance and free education. While we work to defeat this crisis, we should also be investing in green jobs to defeat the even more existential climate change crisis. Don’t fall for anti-Chinese propaganda – instead, demand more from your governments.

This article originally appeared in Rebel Youth magazine.

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