One year ago this week, the Chinese Communist Party was on the verge of its biggest crisis in decades. The coronavirus had brought the city of Wuhan to a halt. In the following days, the government’s efforts to conceal the pandemic would become public, sparking an online backlash of the kind the Chinese internet hadn’t seen in years.
Then, as the blows landed faster than the Chinese propaganda machine seemingly could handle, a number of liberal-minded Chinese began to think the unthinkable. Perhaps this tragedy would impel the Chinese people to push back. After decades of thought control and worsening censorship, perhaps this was the moment that the world’s largest and most powerful propaganda machine would crack.