The Party believes it has successfully prevented a U.S.-instigated “color revolution” in China. It is also replacing the word “COVID-19” with “coronavirus cold.”
by Massimo Introvigne
What did exactly happen in China in the last few weeks? The Urumqi fire, where (at least) 44 Uyghurs died because of the Zero COVID measures that had locked the residents inside their building, added fuel to the fire of an already existing protest. Tens of thousands of Chinese took to the streets waving sheets of white paper—white, to emphasize that comments and slogans were prohibited. As a result of the massive protests, the CCP took the unprecedented decision of giving up. The Zero COVID policy, once proclaimed a non-negotiable ideological dogma—untouchable because it was based on Marxist analysis rather than epidemiological science—was revised almost overnight.
The official explanation was that the Zero COVID policy had not really changed. COVID did. Top China respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan was mobilized to explain that the new COVID variant, Omicron, was now not more dangerous than “ordinary seasonal influence.” In fact, the CCP ordered, COVID-19 should now be renamed “coronavirus cold” (新冠感冒).
However, everything is ideological in China. The CCP should also supply an explanation of protests that this time were just too widespread to be ignored. Party media are circulating a Chinese translation of the edited transcript, published in French by the Chinese Embassy in France on December 14, of the exchanges between the PRC Ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, and the media during a dinner of December 7 at Paris’ Association of Diplomatic Press. Lu is regarded as a key figure in Chinese diplomacy and one of the “wolf warrior diplomats.”
Lu reiterated that the Zero COVID policy was a success, and that in the end the Party did not change its policy but noticed that it had succeeded in changing the virus. He also insisted on the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was born in America and the U.S. military brought it to Wuhan when they participated in the 2019 Military World Games there. He offered as evidence that the U.S., a sport superpower, did not obtain good results in the event, which he explained with the fact that the American athletes were already sick with COVID-19.
The most important part of the exchange was Lu’s interpretation of the protests. He admitted that, in the beginning, the protests were real. Since the Party and Xi Jinping do not make mistakes, Lu said that local authorities misinterpreted the directions they received from Beijing, which generated unnecessary suffering for the population and incidents (the Urumqi fire was not explicitly mentioned but it was thus implicitly blamed on local bureaucrats too).
However, Lu said, “anti-Chinese forces outside the country immediately seized the opportunity to politicize the event. One can clearly see that this has hints of the color revolutions that have frequently taken place… in recent years. I say this with evidence, because there are Chinese who are bribed by outside forces. For example, the demonstration with a white sheet is the color revolution even if it is white. White is also a color.”
On March 31, 2022, the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the CCP, which oversees all public security and law enforcement in China, issued a document on current security threats. It focused on a key point in Xi Jinping’s discourse, the fear that China can be hit by a “color revolution” similar to those that once erupted in Ukraine (the “orange revolution” of 2004) and other post-Soviet republics. In fact, in the language of Xi Jinping, any popular uprising threatening the interests of Russia or China is a “color revolution” instigated by the United States.
Lu’s comment shows how the CCP interpreted the November 2022 protests. They started somewhat spontaneously as a consequence of mistakes by local authorities who misunderstood the Central Committee’s instructions, but in 24 hours they were hijacked by the United States, which tried to use them to provoke the dreaded “color revolution.”
“Initially, Lu said, the people were simply expressing their dissatisfaction with the approaches of some local governments that did not fully and accurately implement the measures of the central government. But right away, this demonstration was used by outside forces. I think that only for one day it was simple demonstrations of the population. The next day, there was interference from outside. These demonstrations, even if they were not originally instigated or started by the anti-Chinese forces, were used by the outside forces. Because these forces always try to steer the movement towards politics” and try to “overthrow the Chinese Communist Party.”
This will likely become the official narrative of the events. The CCP, as it did in Tiananmen Square in 1989, has defeated yet another American attempt to organize a “color revolution” in the country. But, since the Americans in this narrative never give up, the 2022 events will be used to justify even more surveillance and repression.