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Coronavirus Chaos

China Is Facing a COVID-19 ‘Nuclear Winter’. The CCP Can’t Stop It

Image: Screenshot from Chinese State TV.

Perhaps as many as 90% of China’s 1.41 billion people will come down with COVID-19, said Feng Zijian, former deputy chief of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, to Bloomberg News. Feng predicts 60% of the population will be infected in the first wave.

China did not have to wait long. There is now a fast-moving wave ripping through Beijing.

The capital city was not prepared. “We have a child with a high fever but all the pharmacies are out of ibuprofen,” said a Beijing resident surnamed Lin to the Financial Times. “It came too fast, we didn’t have time to prepare.” Shortages are widespread. “Beijing is running out of medical supplies,” the London paper notes.

The situation is so bad, Peking University’s Michael Pettis reports on Twitter, that Beijingers are thinking of deliberately exposing themselves to the disease, so they won’t get it later when the public health care system has completely broken down.

There are also outbreaks across the country, including in Guangzhou, the capital of southern Guangdong province, the country’s factory floor. Some are calling the nationwide situation China’s “nuclear winter.” During the winter, the forecast is one million Covid deaths. Some estimate the toll could reach 2.1 million.

The Communist Party, as a result, faces one of its most severe tests ever.

The CCP, as the ruling organization is known, has no one to blame for its regime-threatening predicament. From the beginning of the pandemic, it made its control of disease a test of its legitimacy, boasting that its ability to deal with the coronavirus was proof of the superiority of Chinese communism over democracy in general and American democracy in particular.

Chinese ruler Xi Jinping, to prove his case, adopted a “dynamic zero-Covid” policy, perhaps the most draconian set of disease control-measures in the world.

For instance, whole city districts were locked down over the presence of a single infection. People were tested multiple times a day.

The emphasis on isolation deprived the Chinese central government of the resources to build, among other things, ICUs and general hospital beds. The government did build—and appears to be still building—massive quarantine facilities, like a 250,000-bed location in Guangzhou.

Chinese health authorities vaccinated large portions of the population, but only with China-developed jabs. The Chinese products, produced mostly by Sinopharm and Sinovac, were not especially effective.

Beijing decided not to import better mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. It appears the regime did not want to admit that foreign technology was more advanced than China’s.

The Communist Party, therefore, had no Plan B should its isolation defense fail. Its approach, however, was obviously unsustainable.

For one thing, the Chinese people eventually rebelled in a series of extraordinary protests starting in Foxconn’s Zhengzhou facility at the end of October and continuing into nationwide demonstrations after a fatal fire in Urumqi on November 24.

Moreover, municipalities, which bore most of the cost of the zero-Covid measures, could no longer afford them. And lockdowns drove the Chinese economy deep into contraction, something evident from even official numbers like the November trade and producer price reports. Disruptions to manufacturing have resulted in companies moving production from China, including Apple.

In response to pressures, the Communist Party tried to relax disease-control measures in stages, starting with “optimization” measures announced November 11. In China’s “new phase,” officials eased rules, but they did not move fast enough. Finally, on Wednesday the National Health Commission capitulated by issuing a 10-point plan, scrapping most health code tracking, scaling back testing, permitting home quarantine, and limiting lockdowns. The plan was essentially the end of Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid.

As central government officials removed isolation measures, the wall of disease hit an essentially defenseless Chinese population. At the moment, people are, without government prodding, isolating themselves. Beijing pavements, as CNN’s Selina Wang reported on Twitter Saturday, are deserted except for those near pharmacies. There are also reports that Beijing hospitals are now packed with desperate residents.

There is one obvious solution to China’s scarcity of resources. The thoughtful Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics argues the international community should “proactively step forward and offer whatever medical supplies and other forms of assistance the Chinese government would be willing to accept.”

The issue, Bown suggests, is whether Xi will accept humanitarian aid. It’s unlikely the arrogant Chinese leader will. After all, he weaponized the pandemic against democracy and cannot admit, even obliquely, the superiority of democratic governance.

This reluctance means China will, for months, remain crippled, as disease runs through the population. And as China remains closed and the economy continues to erode, the regime will run out of once-considerable resources.

Xi, in short, has no viable options because the coronavirus is devastating China as the country is beset by simultaneous crises: accelerating debt defaults, collapsing property prices, a contracting economy, worsening food shortages, and a deteriorating environment.

The most dangerous crisis, however, is that of confidence. At the moment, the Chinese people are suffering “whiplash” as the regime for two years exaggerated the potency of the disease and now is trying to convince them it is mild. “How can it change so fast?” asked Echo Ding, a Beijing resident, to CNN, referring to the regime’s change of propaganda line. “It gives me the feeling that we are like fools.”

The Communist Party has lost trust and support. It can still coerce, intimidate, and imprison, but it will nonetheless be hard-pressed to maintain rule in a critical period.

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China. Follow him on Twitter @GordonGChang. He is a 19FortyFive Contributing Editor. 

Written By

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Great U.S.-China Tech War and Losing South Korea, booklets released by Encounter Books. His previous books are Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World and The Coming Collapse of China, both from Random House. Chang lived and worked in China and Hong Kong for almost two decades, most recently in Shanghai, as Counsel to the American law firm Paul Weiss and earlier in Hong Kong as Partner in the international law firm Baker & McKenzie.



  1. 403Forbidden

    December 10, 2022 at 8:18 pm

    Wow, china didn’t collapse when trump was in the white house, but now with Biden in charge, china is going to experience a nuclear winter.

    All hail Biden. And Gordon.

    Muchos gracias.

  2. Ben Leucking

    December 10, 2022 at 8:29 pm

    So, is the US government doing anything to prevent Chinese nationals from entering our country while 90% of them are coming down with COVID? Is Mayorkas going to tell us our border is “secure,” like he says it is with illegal aliens on the southern border?

  3. Jacksonian Libertarian

    December 10, 2022 at 8:58 pm

    Authoritarians don’t care about the people, and Leftist authoritarians are the worst, killing millions of their own people rather than lose face. China is using their engineered bioweapon to oppress their own people (poor Hong Kong), and those low on the social credit system will not survive.

  4. Johhny Ray

    December 10, 2022 at 9:34 pm

    Interesting contrast: Xi at the peak of his career and power, China on the edge of change and revolt.

  5. Jimmyf40

    December 10, 2022 at 10:23 pm

    Can’t stop it cuz there’s zero mental fortitude or strength so long as xi the tourist is in charge.

    Xi was touring myanmar and south-western china when AFP was seen going ape in jan 2020 with “SARS, SARS, SARS in wuhan” doing ersatz photo ops to project a fake image of a wise and fatherly figure.

    Same with putin, annunder leader with a distinct lack of mental strength at a time when a crisis issa blowin’ his way.Putin has treated his special operation as if it is a picnic and glaringly failed to pound kyiv to the ground like what allies did to cities such as Wesel during the great ww2. In march 1945, the allies in a display of super ungodly & unmatched cataclysmic-earthquaking power turned it into a field of rubble.

    Same with england & portugal that got knocked out of qatar world cup just last few hours ago due to lack of mental strength and nothing else.

  6. GhostTomahawk

    December 11, 2022 at 12:14 am

    So much for covid lock downs.

    For those who keep advocating for these barbaric draconian measures….

  7. Commentar

    December 11, 2022 at 3:42 am

    How to stop it.

    It’s a cinch to stop it, or more accurately, the predilection or predisposition of western journos to put ‘china’ & ‘covid’ together in same one sentence.

    But xi jinping can’t care less, as he’s right now too busy cavorting and frolicking with middle eastern leaders who are known to always be willing to sell their grandmas for the right price.

    Xi is like Mikhail Gorbachev, somebody hankering for the prize, like Obama and zelenskiyy. Dumb and dumber, as they say.

    The people need to pull xi down from his horse and send him to rikers island.

  8. Kelvin Clarke

    December 11, 2022 at 5:03 am

    It will take a whole lotta propaganda and coercion to regain control, but you know that the Chinese Communists are nothing less than cynical thugs capable of whatever it takes.
    On the other hand, it has become obvious to the diaspora and anyone else who is interested that the myth of Communist omniscience is a façade for the corruption and nepotism that is the core of the Party.
    And to be disrespected is the greatest fear of any Communist.

  9. David Chang

    December 11, 2022 at 6:54 am

    God bless people in the world.

    In our times of major danger and sorrow, we always pray to God for help guide us through trials and periods of uncertainty. As we continue to face the unique challenges posed by the major danger and sorrow. But in this time we must not cease asking God for added wisdom, comfort, and strength, and we must especially pray for those who have suffered harm or who have lost loved ones. Pray for God’s grace to be placed on the people in major danger and sorrow.

    In March 30, 1863, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of people in the world, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

    And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of people, to own our dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess our sin and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that people only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

    It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our sin, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

    God bless America.

  10. Chvding

    December 11, 2022 at 8:36 am

    What you said makes me laugh. I am from China, and your description now has nothing to do with authentic China.

  11. wait and see

    December 11, 2022 at 11:06 am

    In keeping with the vast majority of reporting on COVID since it began, I doubt the veracity of this report. In particular the crazy, panicked reports out of Wuhan at the beginning, presaged nothing. Reporting on events in the USA has been wildly inaccurate. Will we get any real reporting out of China, with video, and on the record interviews by citizens, doctors, and officials? LOL. So, I’m waiting for some serious confirmation. My guestimate is that nothing bad will happen in China, that a mild Omicron will be all that happens, but I concede it’s all a grand experiment and real science has been masked and gagged around the world since this began.

  12. SpC

    December 11, 2022 at 11:59 am

    I avoided the ‘rona until the week of Thanksgiving. Vaxed, one booster over a year ago. Thought I had a cold, took a day off work. Learned from HR I had to test (-) before I could return so I bought an Abbot at-home test on Wednesday. Came up (+) within about two minutes.

    That was three weeks back, I’ve been back at work for the last two. Finally began to feel like myself again last Friday, finally. I’ve had worse flu, colds, pneumonia six decades back.

    This man-made scourge is doing much the same as unmodified viruses, weakening over time as variants are produced that have less severe effects but with increasing infectiousness.

    My suspicion is that there’s worse stuff out there that’s been created, just waiting to be released on an unprepared population by mal-doers. The tools exist yet with uncontrolled oversight, time is not on the side of good.

    I certainly hope I’m wrong.

  13. Lucy

    December 11, 2022 at 8:49 pm

    This report raises many questions. Is some uniquely virulent strain of Covid circulating in China that’s fatal to the baby mentioned? If not–and China is dealing with the milder covid version that’s afoot everywhere nowadays–why would millions die now?
    Western vaccines didn’t prevent anyone from getting covid; why are they presumed to be superior to Chinese vaccines?

  14. Miles Monroe

    December 12, 2022 at 7:14 am

    Better vaccines Gordon? You have to be joking right?

  15. Lance o Lot

    December 12, 2022 at 9:20 am

    When China realized what they had unleashed on an unsuspecting world, they went on a massive overseas shopping spree of PPE to get it off the shelves of other countries, particularly Western countries. They then lied about the disease’s nature, efficacy, and origins. And then sought to capitalize on the pandemic by selling cheap, low quality PPE of their own making. They even threatened to strangle the out-flow of pharmaceuticals to the rest of the world. A cynic could be forgiven if they were to consider this to have been an act biological/economic warfare.

    And now we see a suggestion that we rush in to give China everything we can to save them from themselves? I’m sorry, but rewarding bad behaviour only encourages more of the same.

  16. Anna Phylaxis

    December 12, 2022 at 9:24 am

    So clearly, the draconian measures the CCP employed with mass lockdowns were a raging success. Everyone taking notes?

  17. Al

    December 12, 2022 at 10:21 am

    Check out the YouTube channels SerpentZA, Laowhy86, Lei’s Real Talk, and China Uncensored.

  18. Longin4reagan

    December 12, 2022 at 12:50 pm

    Remember when the hopelessly corrupt NYT lavishly praised the CCP over a year ago how the marvelous commies defeated COVID and America should emulate them? I do.

  19. Scott

    December 12, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    Chairman Pooh Bear did everything wrong in response to the China virus.

  20. Tex2650

    December 12, 2022 at 10:21 pm

    This means their vaccine is worse than ours?

  21. Law2001

    December 13, 2022 at 1:06 am

    What if the China vaccine is causing or leading to more cases of COVID like other vaccines? They might never get out of COVID. … Somehow I doubt communist China, the CCP, has anything to worry about. Reports of their imminent demise are likely greatly exaggerated and may be propaganda. Kind of like when Hitler said tell the world Germany has no resources while they built a massive war machine.

  22. TrustbutVerify

    December 13, 2022 at 4:02 am

    The danger isn’t the virus, it is the instability. A lot of major wars, including WWI, followed on such pandemics in a destabilized environment. What will Xi do to save the CCP and himself?

  23. tired

    December 13, 2022 at 6:39 am

    Better Vaccines? Superior technology? By what measure? That is simply an unfounded and completely false statement. Those vaxxes have been out almost two years now, and the data just gets worse as time goes on. You’re merely repeating big pharma and corrupt gov propaganda. The mRNA vaccines could not have been more disastrous. Not only were they incredibly oversold and massively ineffective, they’ve been killing people and annihilating the healthy birth rate, and we still have no idea what all the long term effects are.

  24. Hunter Biteme

    December 13, 2022 at 7:00 pm

    What will the Biden Administration do? At the Request of Biden’s Chinese paymaster, the Manchurian Candidate, Josef Robinette Stalin-Biden, ( his mother had a passion for rough authoritarian sexual activity; prove me wrong!!!) will no doubt do everything possible to sell the Communist Chinese Party the remaining amount of our Strategic Petroleum Supply. The CCP has already been the major benefactor of The Biden Strategic Selloff, offering to double Biden’s payout! NO, I am not exaggerating! Biden is pulling in millions from investments (all political, you can count on it) in companies owned and managed by the CCP.

  25. TheDon

    December 13, 2022 at 9:02 pm

    If I remember, I thought the Chinese took the MRNA vaccine by Sinovax.
    The vaccine provides your body a fast antibody response by identifying cv virus.
    You can still get it, but your body can immediately build antibodies vs having to figure it out while the virus multiplies. So you get sick like the flu but dont die.

    So if the chinese sinovax doesnt work its a problem.

    The “honorable” chinese are using this as an excuse to sanction west in support of Russia.

    I think the latter is true and the world is moving factories out.

    Russia China will become dependent on each other and china will replace Russian products with low cost Chinese products and expect low cost Russian fuel. So Russia loses big, the rest of the world freely trades, Russia goes bankrupt, Chinese revolt again. World watches them destroy two nations.

    Save this.
    Russians Generals should overthrow Putin now.

  26. TheDon

    December 14, 2022 at 7:24 am

    Coronavirus is an excuse to support the Russian invasion that was to be quick.
    China has aleady provided sinovax vaccine to many of their population.
    I believe our manufacturing shortages and euope fuel shortages were both planned.
    Unfortunately its not going to plan.
    Ukraines stuggle is winning not just their freedom but strengthening the world.
    Europe is going elsewhere for fuel and w the US is moving production sources.

    The Russians future will not be bright isolated except for China and Iran.

    I hope all nations realize now its important not to single source goods or fuel.

    The war is dragging on.
    How long will china support the shitshow before they realize their economy is now tied to the west.
    Import taxes etc make it even toughet.

  27. Quartermaster

    December 28, 2022 at 4:53 pm

    China was already facing a demographic disaster. With covid going through the country like a rocket sled on rails, that collapse will be sooner than later. The protests that forced Xi to reopen the country were a very bad sign for the regime as well. Calling for the resignation of the regime is unheard of, and the fact there has been little crackdown is an indication of the weakening grip of the regime.

  28. jbspry

    January 7, 2023 at 1:29 pm

    This will help China with its low birth rate problem – with tens of millions of worthless old people snuffed by the Chicoof, fewer young slaves will be needed to support the counterrevolutionary running dog seniors who selfishly refuse to die.
    Well played, Mr Xi. Well played!


  29. Alec Rawls

    January 7, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    Saline nasal rinses when first coming down with Covid (when the FauciCCP19 is doing its initial replication in the nasal cavity and throat) reduces the already very low mortality by 90%. China has salt doesn’t it.

    As the worlds largest manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, it would be very strange if they don’t also have sufficient Ivermectin, zinc, and vitamins C and D, which also reduce mortality by 90%.

    So long as I don’t get stupid and take any mRNA vaccines they should be fine.

  30. Esau

    January 7, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    “During the winter, the forecast is one million Covid deaths. Some estimate the toll could reach 2.1 million.”

    Hah. For the Chi-Coms that’s not any tragedy. It’s a rounding error.

  31. B. Seymore

    January 8, 2023 at 10:02 pm

    I read the first dozen comments. An individual identified as Wait and See dounbts the veracity of this report. As a working nurse in long term care and closely following the reporting on Covid-19 these last 3 years, I can confidently state that you should take Mr. Gordan Chang’s reporting work seriously. It is fairly accurate!

  32. Robert Teacher

    April 22, 2023 at 5:10 pm

    Written April 22, 2023: Why would anyone have any confidence in the writings of Gordon Chang? Remember what he wrote in 2009-2011?

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