From almost the very beginning of the COVID-19/coronavirus crisis in January and early February, it’s often been asked whether it might be the “Chinese Chernobyl.” Could the crisis expose the weakness of the mix of oppression, information control, and social disgust that underpin the Chinese Communist regime and trigger its collapse? Others have suggested that it might instead be “president Xi Jinping’s Tiananmen,” meaning he will use all the tools at his disposal to tighten down and prevent, well . . . a Chinese Chernobyl.
It is too soon to know what may happen. But it’s not too soon for attempts to whitewash the timeline and Chinese-government actions in the earliest moments of the crisis. Indeed, even now, the level of public anxiety about both the virus and what the Chinese government is doing and saying about it remain high.