The coronavirus pandemic has been an indisputable boon for authoritarianism. Individual liberty and personal sovereignty are in retreat around the world.
Tyrannical China is rising as the dominant world power, having paid no price for unleashing the disease, while the United States and its allies are having deep second thoughts about economic freedom, free speech, and other bulwarks against authoritarian control.
Here are five ways the coronavirus pandemic drove the worldwide ascendancy of authoritarianism:
Growing Chinese Power
China emerges from the pandemic with more geopolitical influence than ever. Beijing used “vaccine diplomacy” to buy influence from developing nations by donating millions of doses of its dubious vaccines.
The staggering economic damage inflicted upon other nations by the coronavirus appears to have accelerated China’s timetable for becoming the dominant economic power in the world, although there are analysts who believe Beijing’s reliably false economic reports mask systemic weaknesses that could kneecap its meteoric growth, such as its rickety real-estate system and its faltering power grid.
Grim as the lockdowns might have been in America, they pale in comparison to the virtual police states imposed by ostensibly free nations like Australia and New Zealand, complete with “quarantine camps.”
Huge protests against draconian coronavirus measures erupted across Europe in November, and even high-compliance societies like South Korea are growing uneasy with repeated clampdowns against virus outbreaks.
The pandemic accelerated a trend toward speech control and censorship that was already far too pronounced at the beginning of 2020. Populations across the Western world are now accustomed to censorship diktats against ideas the ruling Party and its corporate allies find objectionable.
Human rights groups noted a surge of speech controls and bans on free assembly justified as coronavirus-fighting measures over the past two years. In some cases, deadly force was employed to suppress speech deemed “threatening to public health.” Authoritarian regimes found the Chinese coronavirus a very handy excuse for shutting down protests and opposition political rallies.
Social media giants declared war on “disinformation” – which they selectively define as they please, according to their political preferences, before opening fire on it with heavy censorship artillery. Somehow the bans, “fact-checks,” and content warnings never seem to hit targets on the Left.
The pandemic years saw a pronounced increase in the use of oppressive tactics against activists and opposition politicians by autocratic regimes.
Coronavirus quarantine protocols quickly morphed into crackdowns on political dissent. Leading democracies were consumed with their own coronavirus battles, so authoritarian regimes felt free to smash their opponents.
Criticizing the coronavirus response of such a regime became one of the fastest routes to prison. Accusing political opponents of violating coronavirus safety rules became a popular pretext for arresting them.
Coronavirus outbreaks caused numerous elections around the world to be canceled or postponed. Sometimes these delays were welcomed as sound health policy, but sometimes they proved very convenient for dictatorial regimes.