For good people to believe in the innocence of evil people, for true believers to believe in the goodness of evildoers, for extraordinary claims to refute extraordinary evidence of evil, that takes religion—the religion of the Chinese Communist Party.
The party rewrites the gospel in real-time, turning ruins into relief missions and missionaries into martyrs.
In the ruins, beneath the remains of a hotel built in 2018, beneath seven stories of glass and concrete, lie martyrs to the ultimate lie: that China is not only alive but awake, shaking the world with the strength of its economy and the size of its military, when in fact this giant is sick.
The giant sleeps beneath the lies that bind, able to open its eyes but unable to endure what it sees.
What the world sees is the fast undoing of China by the coronavirus.
The virus is both the cause of a currency crisis and a crisis of confidence involving China’s government. Because even if the People’s Bank of China were to confiscate every banknote and convert every denomination to dollars, it would still be powerless to erase the words—three words—that serve as a warning label to the world: Made in China.
By forcing a doctor of science to speak like a minister of propaganda, by deleting his pleas for action and demanding that he plead guilty to lying, by ignoring his prescription and proscribing news about his death, the party reveals its corruption to the world.
Nothing in China is as it seems.
Not in the cities, where terraces contain parapets and towers house battlements, nor in the countryside.
The entire country, from the Korean Peninsula to the Khunjerab Pass, from the Silk Road to the South China Sea, is a mask of uncertainty in a haze of misinformation.
Whether China’s leader shows his face or wears a face mask makes no difference because the coronavirus and what it has exposed is more contagious than a lie.
The truth—the truth about China—travels faster than a lie. It gallops even as other falsehoods fly, getting halfway around the world before another doctor renounces his story.
The truth, once given air, is fatal to the survival and the success of tyranny.
The truth is on every circuit board and sheet of particle board, on every suitcase and garment bag, on every tube of toothpaste and bottle of shampoo.
The truth is a massive recall against China.