Blend order vs freedom

Two curiosities

Oli Steadman
2 min readJan 4, 2021


Xmas with Xi

When BJ cancelled Christmas, it didn’t come as a huge surprise; the UK had cultivated one of the worst covid performance records internationally. In a sense we were protecting things from getting wors, in another sense we just downright deserved it. You can’t have your covid cake (go to the pub without a mask) and eat it.

I found myself wondering whether other countries would be punishing/rewarding themselves by cancelling/celebrating. Surely China with its jawdroppingly successful stamping-out of the virus, within just a few weeks in early summer, had surely earned the right to lord it over us with some bonny carols sung in the streets, and horizons filled with festive fireworks:

But no. Googling for “Christmas in China” leads you not to photos of cheery winter markets but to a reminder that religious holidays are banned there. On balance I’d rather take health and swimming pools (even at the cost of Christmas being outlawed) than freedom to have a Christmas you can’t actually enjoy because of a fumbled national health policy.

Mary Harrington phrases it well:

[China has] reduced poverty from 88% in 1981 to less than 1% by 2015. This approach has cemented a Chinese social contract that’s broadly accepted heavy social repression in exchange for rocketing living standards.

UnHerd January 4th 2021

Absent Ant

As judges made their dramatic entry to the studio under usual lights, cameras, makeup, music, one person appeared in the place of another: Lucy Peng had turned up instead of Jack Ma. Mysterious and yet not so surprising. Mr Ma:

  • had criticised China’s regulators & state-owned banks
  • had as a result been dressed down by officials in Beijing
  • had as a result had the $37bn IPO of his company Ant Group suspended
  • had not been seen in public since (and by time of publishing, still has not)

Ominously the swap/disappearance was put down to a “schedule conflict”. Reading about this swap, was the first time I’d heard of Africa’s Business Heroes, a TV gameshow with one of the most patronising titles I’ve ever heard. I’ll be looking it up and reporting back as to what actually happens on there…



Oli Steadman