Can a million people vanish from the planet without the world knowing? It seems impossible in this age of instant digital communications, ubiquitous smartphones, and global social-media platforms that anything of comparable consequence can go unnoticed and unrecorded—no matter how remote the country or how determined its rulers might be to hide the truth.
Yet that’s apparently what has happened in China over the past two and a half months. After the Chinese leader Xi Jinping removed his draconian restrictions to contain COVID-19 in December, the virus rampaged across the nation with explosive speed. According to one of the government’s top scientists, 80 percent of the populace has now been infected. But we don’t know the full impact of this surge. The Chinese government’s secrecy has managed to obscure what really happened during the country’s latest and worst COVID wave.