The Mandate of Heaven and Why China is Lying about the Coronavirus

"Novel Coronavirus Particles - MERS-CoV" by AJC1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a lot of news about the outbreak of a new contagious coronavirus out of China. The Western media is obediently parroting the propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), even as there is no reason to believe them and every reason to believe that they are lying about what is happening, as they usually do.

The outbreak of coronavirus was documented by Chinese doctors a solid month before the CCP showed any official recognition of it. The initial reaction of the CCP was to contain the information of the outbreak, threatening doctors with punishment and arrest if they shared information about it publicly. The CCP would eventually blame its Wuhan city government for failure to act. However, the Wuhan mayor was acting only in accordance with normal CCP policy, which has been followed in response to every recorded modern epidemic that has broken out in China: SARS, the bird flu, and African swine fever (which is decimating China’s pig populations). And doctors were systematically suppressed in multiple cities and are still being threatened throughout China, with China now taking a number of steps to purge the leak of information by any means necessary.

Since the CCP was forced to acknowledge the existence of the coronavirus, the deceptions continue. China is reporting very low numbers of infection and absurdly low death counts even as it quarantines 50 million people, going so far as to board up some people inside their apartments where infection has been identified. At the same time, in areas of China where there are no officially reported cases yet, recent videos are showing people literally falling over and dying in the streets. Near Wuhan, the source of the outbreak, China is scrambling to build multiple hospitals which will hold 1000 patients each in a matter of days–which hardly seems necessary if the 830 official cases are anywhere near accurate. Of course, these figures aren’t accurate. There are far more people sick and far more people dying of coronavirus than China will admit. Instead, the government news (because it’s all government news in China) is pushing fake news of various ineffective cure and preventative measures, projecting the image that everything is already under control and being managed with all speed, efficiency, and respectability.

Given that China’s policy of concealment and propaganda kills people and (more importantly, in the mind of the CCP) disrupts the economy, why does the CCP adopt it so aggressively? Why are they still lying about what’s happening and how well it’s being handled?

To understand this, you must understand traditional Chinese religion. Officially, of course, China is an atheist state, as all Communist countries are. (In reality, Marxism is a bloody and intolerant religion that required the extermination of all competing belief systems, but that’s an issue for another time.) The CCP managed to suppress many of the outward shows of Chinese religion during the early years of Communism, but it did not change the Chinese religious worldview. However, it did adopt some of the aspects of traditional Chinese religion that was most beneficial to the Party.

One of the most fundamental beliefs of the Chinese view of authority is that Heaven in reflected by what is happening on earth, and vice versa. When society is in good order on earth, then Heaven is pleased with society, and blessings come to people in every level. When society is in disorder, or when the government has become corrupt, Heaven becomes displeased with society, and the government is overthrown. This displeasure is considered to be marked most significantly by major natural disasters, famine, flood, and pandemics being the most frequent and important, but also fire and earthquakes being potential triggers.

When a society and its government is acting according to the harmony laid down by Heaven, the rulers posses something called the Mandate of Heaven. When they don’t, they lose the Mandate.

It is impossible to successfully supplant a government that still possesses the Mandate of Heaven. If assassinate the ruler, for instance, and take his place, Heaven will not see your rule as legitimate, and you are sure to be taken down quite quickly. But if a government loses the Mandate of Heaven, then he will be overthrown, and the new government will prove its possession of the Mandate by its very success.

The concept of the Mandate of Heaven is one of the most ancient parts of Chinese religious belief. The first dynasty in Chinese history was the Shang, who ruled from 1046 to 256 BC. They were overthrown by King Wu of Zhou, establishing the Zhou dynasty. The Zhou’s power was still extremely precarious when King Wu died, leaving behind a child as his heir and leaving the regency in the hands of his brother, the Duke of Zhou. The expected course of events would be that the king’s brother would usurp his nephew and place himself on the throne, securing it for his own children. This would have introduced a time of chaos and panic into an era of regime change that was already insecure, and the Duke of Zhou’s descendants would have been in constant danger. Instead, the Duke of Zhou formulated the first expression of the Mandate of Heaven to legitimize his nephew’s rule, and he behaved honorably as the regent and stepped aside when his nephew reached his majority. The Shang fell because they had angered Heaven through their corruption, and so Heaven had removed its blessings, causing their overthrow, and moved it to King Wu of Zhou and his heirs. The young son of the king, therefore, possessed the Mandate of Heaven, and any attempt to usurp the throne while he had it was not only illegitimate but was doomed to failure.

This concept of earthly rule reflecting (or at least being intended to reflect) heavenly order is not unique to China–in fact, it is an idea that is practically universal among all state societies. While the specific expression of the Mandate of Heaven is unique to China, it’s an idea that would find ready acceptance in some form across the world over periods of thousands of years.

The idea of the Mandate of Heaven was enlarged by Confucius during the Warring States Period at the end of the Zhou dynasty. The Zhou king had been a puppet for centuries, and by that point, many of the dukes had stopped paying even nominal tribute to him, setting themselves up as separate kings. The doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven seemed woefully inadequate to deal with the present chaos, because who among the different kings could possibly be said to possess it? Confucius proposed that the idea of heavenly harmony must be reflected not only in the government but at all levels of society.

This should start with each person using the correct titles for themselves–if they were a duke, they should not call themselves a king, and so on. It then extended to all relationships, both social and political (though the distinction between the two is a modern innovation that would not have been considered valid in ancient times). Each man must treat his own lord correctly. Each wife must treat her husband correctly. Each son must treat his father correctly. Each sister must treat her brother correctly. Each younger son must even treat his older brothers with exactly the deference that their finely gradated positions required. Youth must always yield to the aged, to the point that a mother starving her baby to feed her mother-in-law with her own breastmilk was held up as one of the Twenty-Four Exemplars of Filial Piety (compiled much later in the AD 1300s, but exemplifying Confucian values). There were, of course, reverse duties of the more powerful to the less powerful, but as the example of the mother starving her child shows, the obligations are very slight, and there is no idea of sacrificial love or generosity in the concept of correct behavior of the powerful toward the weak, which is the norm for all pagan societies.

When all of these relationships are correctly established and observed, the result is social harmony on every level. The Mandate of Heaven will clearly rest on the proper government, the people will flourish, and there will be no unusual level of natural disasters.

How do you know that social harmony exists? Because the people believe it does. Because of these ideas embedded in the Chinese worldview, the CCP values social harmony above everything else, and it fears disharmony and disaster above all. Social harmony is so important that it is the basis of the so-called “gossip law” in China, which forbids spreading any information that could harm social harmony. The truth of the matter is irrelevant–anything that stirs a certain level of consternation is enough to cause government action, including arrests and permanent disappearances. Social harmony feeds into the highly collectivist and shame-driven Chinese culture, both of which are also standard pagan values.

For the same reason, the CCP fabricates it health numbers, it economic numbers, its educational numbers, and its crime numbers, all to keep the appearance (and therefore the reality) of social harmony intact. China has a severe knife-attack mass murder problem, but less than a fraction of the events make the news. China left tens of thousands to die after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 rather than mobilize the level of recuse needed to save them and ordered the media coverage to be highly sanitized to keep people from realizing the severity of the situation. Swift action could have entirely halted the spread of the African swine flu among Chinese livestock, but again, that would require acknowledging that there was a serious problem, and now it is estimated that China will lose at least half of its stock of pigs. SARS was covered up entirely in China–Hong Kong broke the news. China has half-heartedly forbidden the same of live poultry for consumption in Chinese wet markets, but it has reacted slowly and in half-measures to every outbreak, allowing the disease to become endemic among Chinese poultry, with frequent human outbreaks as a result.

The coronavirus is no different. The CCP is reacting to the emergency based on the ancient Chinese worldview and the very minimal responsibility that superiors have toward inferiors. While it may seem outrageous to Westerners, it is not necessarily illegitimate in the Chinese view for the Chinese government to allow many thousands of individuals to die for the sake of collective social harmony. It is not necessarily illegitimate for the CCP to lie to and trick people for the sake of social harmony. It is certainly not illegitimate for the CCP to lie and trick people for the sake of keeping shame from falling of China, as the collectivist mentality equates criticism of the government and the government’s loss of face with a harm done against the “glass hearts” of the Chinese people.

And, predictably, the Western media, ever oblivious to different value-systems, eagerly plays the CCP’s tune, singing their praises and thereby reinforcing the CCP’s outrageous behavior. If the international community wants this to stop–either because it disdains Chinese policies that kill many thousands of its own people or out of simple self-preservation–the only proper reaction is to portray this event as exactly what it really is: an embarrassment, a bungling, a failure, a disgrace, and a shame on the face of the CCP and a disgusting abuse of the Chinese people.

But of course, that will never happen.

Author: Marya Harb