|A view from Xi’an, China,
the beginning of the Silk Road
China has been in my prayers daily for a long time. It’s a land I love and respect with marvelous people, strong family values, great diversity, and many people of faith, including local and foreign members of the Church. It’s a land of beautiful culture and traditions. And contrary to what you have probably heard, it’s a land of creativity and innovation, in spite of a recent history of rampant intellectual property theft,. China actually has some of the best intellectual property laws and systems on the planet, having made incredible progress in the past few years. The IP laws and systems of China actively promote and reward invention and innovation. Yes, China is a land of many contradictions and endless enigma. Sadly, it’s also a land with less religious freedom especially religious freedom, than it had when I was there. There are many problems, but also much that is praiseworthy. I pray that we might have peace with China and that the many poor of China and the many suffering in various ways might have their burdens lifted, not made worse.
China is finding that its zero-tolerance policy for COVID has resulted in precious little natural immunity across the nation, leaving it, in my unschooled opinion, inadequately prepared for the realities of COVID. As nations all over the world are finding, the vaccines don’t really stop the spread of the disease. Now as Omicron and its variants spread, China is resorting to the only tools that authoritarians anywhere can imagine: compulsion and force, locking citizens into their compounds in aggravating lockdowns or forcing individuals into government quarters for quarantine, and even separating parents from children in their fearful zeal. This headline from yesterday, for example, is much more than just sensationalistic fake news: “China Sends Military into Shanghai, Separates Children from Parents over Coronavirus.” Friends of mine in Shanghai are struggling as they are often unable to travel and visit family, unable to take critical tests needed for their career, unable to get to their job at all, unable to go shopping, unable to take their pets out of the apartment (with many practical problems as a result), unable to get medical treatment they may need, etc. Some recently watched their companies be crushed due to sudden new regulations. But the threat of having government take children away from parents is an ultimate nightmare for some of us, especially a young child. It’s a time to pray for China.
Shanghai’s 25 million people under lockdown indefinitely. Chinese social media shows some breaking out of lockdown to protest, chanting: “we want freedom”; “why are you starving us?”
Much of the dissent is censored. Most of videos in our story were erased from the internet @cnn pic.twitter.com/QUHrfqEhiG
— Selina Wang (@selinawangtv) April 6, 2022
In one protest, citizens in Shanghai at one apartment complex argued with police, asking “Why don’t you just lock us up in prison?” Be careful what you ask for. We had a maid in China who spent six months in jail after she tried to stop a fight at a mahjong parlor (avoid those places!), just waiting for the judge to rule that there was no evidence against her. It took a heavy toll on her. But she was lucky, perhaps in part due to the help of a good lawyer, for others involved who didn’t have a lawyer to help received received sentences of three years or more. Being in jail can be vastly more difficult than being confined to your apartment, though both are forms of imprisonment and in both, it’s possible to go hungry or suffer many other hardships when one is at the mercy of others for all services, including periodic delivery of food rations.
Two of my American friends, Jacob Harlan and Alyssa Petersen, are in jail in China. I pray that China will be merciful and say that nearly three years in jail, still waiting for a verdict from the trial, is enough. Just boot those foreigners, please, and let them return to America, never to come back to China. I do not endorse any violation of Chinese laws, urge all foreigners and nationals to respect China’s laws, and understand that China views this as an internal matter based on their regulations regarding visa requirements for foreigners performing work in China. But the message has been clear and these foreigners won’t repeat any mistakes
again in the business model for their educational business. Can they please come home now? They have been in my prayers every day, I think, for about two and a half years.
Here’s an excerpt from the story cited above:
China used massive
transport planes to fly hundreds of military personnel into Shanghai on
Sunday to assist with a three-day mass coronavirus testing program for
the city’s 26 million imprisoned residents.
Fear and discontent are growing as
the Shanghai lockdown becomes more severe, with residents complaining
they have been locked in their homes without access to food or medicine.
The Shanghai lockdown was originally pitched as a carefully-implemented multi-stage refinement of China’s “dynamic zero-Covid” strategy, with due allowances made for the size and economic importance of the immense city.
Most of that special deference to
Shanghai’s unique status dissolved over the weekend, as coronavirus case
numbers kept rising, reaching a record high of 13,146 reported cases on Sunday.
As always, coronavirus figures
provided by the Chinese Communist government should not be taken at face
value, but whatever the true number of infections and deaths might be,
local and national officials were clearly willing to admit the situation
is getting worse, and they tightened the Shanghai quarantine in
The Financial Times (FT) on Monday found Chinese state censors struggling to delete “cries for help” from Shanghai residents online:
Residents on social media
said online grocery stores had run out of food while others complained
that they could not buy their regular medication. “Who can tell me how
to get medicine? I am so hopeless. I want to leave Shanghai,” said one
Some Shanghainese, who have been
unable to leave their homes for more than two weeks owing to
restrictions that predated the lockdown because of positive cases in
their buildings, have relied on government grocery deliveries.
It was the discovery of the benefits of economic freedom that led to China’s great economic revolution, a revolution that we may need to bring to the West someday soon. See my story on the Xiagang revolution in “Desperate Heroism and the Thunder of a Quiet Revolution: The Rise of China’s Economy and IP System” at IPWatchdog. There are lessons from China’s success that we must not forget, or must begin to recall. Now I pray that China can rediscover the blessings of more freedom for its people. The virus will do what it wants and all our mandates and lockdowns and seizing of ore power over the lives of others won’t stop it. By relaxing the reigns of power and letting people shop, travel, and live their lives again, there will be spikes in cases, just as there will be with lockdowns, but in the end China and its people will be stronger, more successful, and happier. I’m praying for elevated happiness for China and its peoples, as well as its guests.
There are also people in this land who aspire to the kind of power over other people’s lives that the Party has in China. There can be all sorts of noble justifications for taking such power, and some good men and women strive sincerely to make the world a better place once they have the reins of power. But usually the result is unsatisfactory, especially when that power is expanded to the point of being absolute. There are good reasons for the inspired counsel of Alma the Elder to his people in: “Trust no man to be king over you” (Mosiah 23:13).
As we pray for peace and not war in Ukraine, let’s also pray that many afflicted nations might also have peace. We may wish to pray for peace in Yemen, for peace in Africa where violence remains a critical danger in many nations, for peace and not war with Russia, and for peace and relief in China where desperation is mounting in some regions.
Last night we have a group of young men from Africa in our home practicing the song, “There is Peace in Christ.” All of our guests came to the US a refugees because of war and violence in Eastern Africa (DRC Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda). It was great to see their faith and to hear them learning a beautiful hymn of peace and hope. The words and music touched me long after our event was over. May the peace of Christ be brought to more and more of God’s children across this troubled globe. China is one of many places that needs more of that hope. I will continue to pray for China.