fredag 20. januar 2023

Xi’s authority dented by sudden Covid U-turn but iron grip on power is undimmed

Just a few months ago, the thought of questioning the strength of Xi Jinping’s leadership was inconceivable. He had just secured his third term, conducted a brutal purge of factional rivals and ensured he and his beliefs were inextricably and existentially tied with the Chinese Communist party. The zero-Covid policy – despite some societal grumblings – had been enshrined as the best and only way out of the pandemic.

But zero Covid was already growing unpopular in China in the latter half of 2022. It was playing havoc with people’s lives with increasing lockdowns and quarantines, and a string of tragedies had been linked to the policy’s enforcement. Then in early December, after protests in major Chinese cities and rising cases of Omicron, the government suddenly ended the policy. Travel restrictions, quarantines, mandatory tests and other restrictions were drastically scaled back or dropped altogether.