The A4 protests were not the only protests that happened in China during the pandemic, but they were some of the first to go national, and then receive global attention.
Protests over pandemic conditions, especially from medical workers and factory workers, have been active for the entire duration of the pandemic. You can map and track them in real-time online here, using the China Labor Bulletin Strike Map. According to this map, between June 2022 and December 2022, there have been approximately 335 workers' protests. Most protests in that period were regarding the wages and working conditions of medical workers and essential workers in pandemic conditions.
Prior to this national-level protest, workers organized a number of local, regional protests against their local or provincial-level governments. Contrary to the widespread anti-China beliefs in the minority world (white-majority countries in the west), local and provincial governments in China, especially in autonomous regions, have a lot of control and impact on the daily lives of their citizens. Pandemic travel and policies varied greatly from region to region depending on material conditions, and restrictions fluctuated with infection numbers, or localized protest demands.
Colonial powers and their allies, throughout China's dynamic Zero COVID-19 policy, have overemphasized China's international travel policies in their news reports to create an anti-China narrative of widespread, national "human rights abuses". However, dynamic Zero COVID-19 policy in itself only works with strong local and provincial-level control to adapt to changing material conditions, rather than relying on national mandates to manage the need for quick active response.
It benefits USAmerikan imperialism to emphasize the uncommon instances of local mishandlings as a widespread, national issue, while conflating these conditions with national and international travel restrictions, as if they were synonymous.
Our globalized, or more accurately USAmerikanized, international culture feels threatened by China exemplifying an alternative to the way global capitalism has handled the pandemic. USAmerikan imperialism has, from the beginning, been invested in quelling the possibility of China’s dynamic Zero COVID-19 policy from succeeding, in order to maintain USAmerikan capitalism as the global hegemony.
To maintain the status quo, China must not succeed at conquering COVID-19.
With the A4 protests, what started as localized protests against poor COVID-19 isolation processes from local regional governments somehow caught fire when USAmerikan imperialist powers inflamed the issue. Metropolitan Chinese students, who were tapped into internationalist rhetoric, then got involved, which led to larger protests in the larger Chinese cities, against the national government.
These national protests were then exaggerated out of proportion and conflated with a revolution, when their very purpose was counter-revolutionary and deadly.
The mass protests against the pandemic restrictions were yet another unfortunate case of self-righteous educated student classes being influenced by pro-democracy rhetoric from USAmerika that was publicized and changing the media narrative on the actual material conditions inside China.
In reality, it was mainly international travel that was more heavily restricted with the national mandates across the country, and so long as people have a green code for both their residence city and the destination city as well as for themselves personally, people were free to move around the country. This policy meant that travel restrictions could be unpredictable, but they successfully kept outbreaks localized.
China was already facing immense media scrutiny and citizen scrutiny from both internal and external forces, with the added unfortunate circumstances that internal citizens' voices were heavily inflamed and influenced by the covert COVID-19 disinformation and pandemic ideologies that the minority world injected into the minds of the Chinese people.
China’s national government was in a lose-lose situation: they could choose to ignore the internal and external voices calling for a national loosening of restrictions, and risk being called authoritarian and inhumane by the minority world, while losing the trust of their citizens who have long held pride in how their right to protest has genuine impacts on governmental policy; or, they could loosen restrictions nationally to protect their citizens' trust in their government, while plunging themselves and the world into pandemic chaos.
China's government chose the latter, paying extra consideration to the negative press surrounding the rhetoric of authoritarianism in the New Cold War, and for the sake of preserving citizen trust.
We now all have to face the consequences of the international, USAmerikan-led colonial powers and allies forcing China’s hand.
In the meantime, the poor, working-class, and Disabled people of China will be the first to suffer, as the minority western world watches in glee, more concerned with seeming "right" than caring about the cost of the lives of their fellow human beings.
Even with the loosened restrictions following what the international audience had so long pressured them to do, China continues to face negative anti-China press from the minority world.
The same minority world powers that were previously harshly criticizing dynamic Zero COVID-19, the very same powers that forced China to make this decision, are now accusing China of making the wrong decision.
In the midst of all of this death, the western imperial propaganda machine seems to revel in glee watching China’s COVID-19 cases climb, while simultaneously condemning China's decision.
In the New Cold War, there was no possible outcome where western imperial media outlets would give China a break.
USAmerika is politically gambling with the very lives of Chinese citizens for the sake of maintaining USAmerikan hegemony and moral superiority.
We are grieving the deaths of our people enough already.
We are grieving the future that we as Chinese people face as a nation, and what this represents for the people of the Majority World.
We are grieving the loss of the future for countless people, and for generations to come.
Colonial powers and their allies do not have the decency to admit to the part that they have played in the deaths of millions, and the deaths of millions more to come.
China may be the first to feel the force of this forced decision, but the rest of the world will feel it too soon enough.
Disabled people around the world are mourning the consequences of the New Cold War using COVID-19, and our very lives, as a proxy war.
We will remember this genocide, and we will not be silent about it.
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黃蘊子 JiJi W. Wong (pronouns: they/them/theirs) is a Disabled and autistic Malaysian Chinese person with hEDS and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ME, living on stolen Quinnipiac, Paugusset, and Wappinger Lands.
They are devoutly Buddhist, which has informed basically their entire outlook in life, including their Marxist-Leninist politics and advocacy. Their passions in organizing are disability justice and transformative justice, which also inform their work as a restorative practices mentor in the public school system.
They live an interdependent life with their parents and dog, sharing the burden of oppression under white supremacist capitalism.
Please compensate JiJi for this article.
They need funds for their medical expenses.