Since then, Beijing has adopted a zero-tolerance playbook to quell resurgences of the virus. Harnessing the reach and force of the authoritarian state and its surveillance power, it has imposed snap lockdowns, tracked close contacts, placed thousands into quarantine and tested millions.
Before anywhere else in the world, China's economy roared back to growth and life returned to something approaching normal — all within a bubble created to shield its 1.4 billion people from a raging pandemic that has wreaked havoc and claimed millions of lives across the globe. The ruling Communist Party has seized on that success, touting it as evidence of the supposed superiority of its one-party system over Western democracies, especially the United States. But as the pandemic drags on, local outbreaks have continued to flare up, frustrating the government's mission to eliminate the virus within China's borders.