China has been experiencing hours of escalating social unrest as a result of popular discontent after nearly three years of restrictions due to the zero-contamination policy that the Xi Jinping-led regime has championed from the very beginning. This unrest has escalated since a fire broke out in an apartment in Urumqi (Xinjiang) last Thursday, killing ten people and injuring nine. Relatives and neighbors, before and after large segments of the population, added to this tragic balance that the affected area was exposed and made it difficult for firefighters to reach the scene of the accident and therefore, the rescue operation. There are countless neighborhoods in China where something similar could happen.
This incident sparked a wave of protests that within days spread to major cities in China, including Shanghai and Beijing. Clashes broke out between the protesters and the police. Protesters do this by displaying blank pages that do not contain any assertive messages implying censorship by the regime. However, that didn’t stop the arrests from being recorded yesterday. All this happens when infections are increasing rapidly (over 40,000 a day) in a country where vaccination among the elderly has not kept pace with Europe, the nationally produced vaccine is not very effective, and there is a shortage of doctors and conditional intensive care units. .
Protests over effects of zero contagion policy leave leader in dilemma
The fatigue caused by the Covid-related restrictions is already huge in China. It has been almost three years since the World Health Organization approved the pandemic size of the virus. During this period, the Chinese were subjected to strict containment measures, several weeks of PCR testing, electronic controls, and movement restrictions. “We want freedom!”, “Open China!” or “We don’t want PCR testing anymore!” At this point, they are expressing the mood of a population that believes they are already subject to many restrictions, has seen covid happening in other countries, and is unaware of the date when their authorities will decide to ease the pressure. What’s more, the zero contagion policy has unintended economic effects. Of course, as for the country’s growth, which was advancing at 6 percent per year before the pandemic, now it does not reach 1 percent. But it also exists in local economies and small and medium-sized businesses that have consistently experienced shutdowns and declines in activity since the first quarter of 2020. Currently, youth unemployment in China is around 20%. And the immediate prospects for improvement are not happy.
Thus, covid is acting against the regime led by Xi Jinping. Direct accusations against Xi have been heard at the protests these days, almost unprecedented in a country subject to tight police control and where the bloody suppression of the Tiananmen student riot of 1989 is still remembered.
The development of these protests, the extent they have reached or the extent to which they will be suppressed are hard to predict. However, it is possible to guess that Xi will not change his policies much. Yet you are in a dilemma. If these are not changed, the line of attack against covid, which worked well in the first phase of the pandemic, may now become inoperative, causing an exponential increase in the number of deaths hidden to date, according to official sources. If it changes, one of the axes of its policy, the zero-contamination strategy, will be discredited, something unthinkable after Xi’s criteria were deemed infallible at the last congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
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