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Debbie Lerman
Debbie Lerman
Debbie Lerman, 2023 Brownstone Fellow, has a degree in English from Harvard. She is a retired science writer and a practicing artist in Philadelphia, PA.

Zero Covid Ends but Zero Sense Continues

China decided to finally drop its disastrous draconian zero-Covid policies.

In response, major Western news outlets have revealed how completely and absolutely nonsensical their coverage of the pandemic in China has been from the very beginning.

A front-page article in The New York Times from December 30, 2022, is a perfect example. The title: “How Bad is China’s Covid Outbreak? It’s a Scientific Guessing Game” seemingly makes sense. As the subhead explains, there is an “absence of credible information from the Chinese government,” so it’s difficult to figure out what’s actually going on.

The rest of the article belies the notion that anything resembling sense has informed the reporters and editors at this once venerable newspaper of record.

Let’s look at the claims in the article, starting with the first paragraph:

As Covid barrels through China, scientists around the world are searching for clues about an outbreak with sprawling consequences – for the health of hundreds of millions of Chinese people, the global economy and the future of the pandemic.

Here are the unproven – and, according to the headline and subhead of this article unprovable, – assumptions underlying these claims:

  • Covid is barreling through China. Says who? If there is no reliable data coming out of the country, how do we know there’s any barreling going on? The word “barrels” is linked to a New York Times article about the confusion and chaos following the end of zero Covid policies. No proof of barreling.
  • The unproven outbreak has sprawling consequences – why? The rest of the world has gone back more or less to normal, post-pandemic functioning, and China is attempting to do the same. Even if there are hundreds of millions of Covid cases in China, we know that the overall Covid mortality rate is extremely low in all except the elderly and infirm, and as Western media (including the NYT) reported ad nauseum in 2020, China built lots of extra capacity, so no reason to imagine its hospitals will be overrun.

Next paragraph:

But in the absence of credible information from the Chinese government, it is a big scientific guessing game to determine the size and severity of the surge in the world’s most populous country.

The overarching assumption in this paragraph, and in the entire article, is that there is a fundamental “absence of credible information from the Chinese government.” Again, this assumption makes sense, given what we know about the Chinese government’s manipulation of information to serve its various agendas. It means that whatever China’s leaders say about the pandemic in their country is not credible.

Yet just a few paragraphs down, the article makes these astonishing claims:

Until this month, the world seemed to have a reasonably clear understanding of what was happening with the virus in China. The ruling Communist Party proudly published low daily case numbers and deaths as a testament to its stringent ‘zero Covid’ policy. A countrywide system of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing largely kept the virus at bay.

But in early December, the government abruptly abandoned ‘zero Covid,’ leaving the scientific community largely in the dark.

Wait, what?

When they were pursuing the clearly unattainable, unscientific and incredibly destructive zero Covid policies, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was completely credible, and all the data they published was 100 percent reliable? For example, this data, as presented in Michael Senger’s excellent article on this subject:

China Zero COVID news

In case there’s any doubt: This graph, based on the data reported by the CCP, shows no Covid deaths in China for two years, starting in March 2020. It means that, while the entire world was affected by an extremely contagious respiratory virus that caused millions of deaths, one country of 1.4 billion people managed to avoid it completely. That is the data that The New York Times and the scientific community deemed credible.

Then, suddenly, when the CCP decided to stop with the terrible, misguided, and destructive policies, their reported data is not credible and scientists are “in the dark” about what’s happening in China?

The absurdity of these claims is so glaring, it should discredit anything anyone has to say about the data from China now, if they do not acknowledge that it was equally incredible from the very beginning. One cannot help but wonder: where are the fact checkers when such levels of misinformation and blatant fear-mongering are published on the front page of The New York Times?

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  1. Yes, nothing to see here as per usual. But thank you Debbie for your opinion piece on the NYT article, which could have popped up in almost any other leading daily. Absolutely agree, zero sense continues ad nauseum in the official news outlets of the establishment. And some of the headlines have been remarkable in their audacity – “driving to work can give you a heart attack” and “exercise can kill you” two of my favourites… 🙃🙃


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