New Year in China: Absurd statistics

China’s fake news strategy is not well received by the people. The traditional spring festival is overshadowed by the high number of dead and distrust.

Many people in a waiting room, one of them in a protective suit

Tourist traffic ahead of the Chinese Spring Festival at a train station in Beijing Photo: Thomas Peter/reuters

This Saturday is the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year in China. A festival that should give cause for joy and hope. This year it will be massively disrupted by one statistic – that of mortality due to the rampant pandemic. Spectacularly, mortality is less of a central disruptive factor than statistics as such. In early January, China’s Disease Control Center (CDC) announced 4 deaths on a given day.

Barely two weeks later, the CDC corrected this statistic: In the five weeks to date, they have been in China around 60,000 people died of the corona infection, counted to the day there were 1,714, 428 times the daily statistics that triggered waves of indignation when they were announced, after all, two weeks earlier crowded crematoria reported.

In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, even shut-down steel furnaces were fired up again to cremate the dead, according to halfway tolerated reports on social networks. With the drastic increase in severe disease progression – officially 90 percent of those infected have clear symptoms, half of which are severe – the situation is likely to be even more depressing today.

According to the university hospital in the capital Beijing, the first wave of infections could have already “infected” 900 million Chinese. If one takes as a basis a mortality rate developed in the USA after vaccination of over 70 percent of the population, i.e. 1 in 10,000, this would give the alarming figure of 900,000 deaths. That’s 15 times the five-week statistic in China, where vaccination coverage of the over-75s just barely touches the 50 percent mark.

Feel like chives

The immune system of the population there is likely to be many times weaker than in the USA and the mortality rate is correspondingly higher. Hardly anyone in China has long since trusted the official figures. Be it when official economists for the beginning of 2023 economic growth forecast of more than 5, in some places even up to 10 percent, be it that the employment offices still indicate unemployment close to the 5 percent mark – at best they all elicit a weary smile from the Chinese.

Instead, there are more and more open protests and bitter denunciations: Normal Chinese have been calling themselves “chives” for a while, the herb that is cut off several times during its short life, i.e. from those up there it is repeatedly harvested until it recovers and again grows. Now the mortality statistics are coming to the public for the festival of happiness and hope. Sarcasm is spreading across the country.

Even if most bloggers still don’t dare to insult the rulers, there is rarely a good word left for the “experts” who fabricate the lying statistics ever more brazenly. “Bloodsuckers” it says instead, “those who dance on our dead”. Worst of all is an ancient metaphor created by the most critical writer in Chinese literature of the 20th century, Lu Xun: “Those who eat dumplings soaked in our blood.”

One entry says cynically: “We are laughing at the USA, in three years 100 million infected produced. We’ll do it in three weeks, great!” Everyone knows who to judge. “Guan chu shuzi, shuzi chuguan” has been a dictum in China for 30 years. In other words, power embellishes the numbers, the other way around, the result is all the more.” And that pretty much gets to the heart of political cynicism.

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