Chinese leader Xi Jinping told his country in his New Year’s address on Saturday that it stands on the “right side of history”, but experts say the president’s start to 2023 will be a huge blow to his fight against Covid. It warns that it will be compromised by the confused U-turn strategy of
He may deflect responsibility for the human and economic costs of the Zero Covid failure and struggle to control the national narrative, even as public signs of dissent are squashed.
Officially, China has recorded just over 5,200 deaths from Covid, but that’s reflected in photos, usually presented by an efficient communist propaganda machine, and social media posts and anecdotes across China. There is a big gap between reality and reality.
Hospital emergency wards are overflowing with desperate patients. Medicines are in short supply, with pharmacies selling out of everything from antivirals to basic pain relievers. Police patrolled a crematorium in Beijing last week, where Reuters reported a long queue of hearses.
In his first official comments to the Chinese public on the novel coronavirus since the government changed course three weeks ago, President Xi Jinping said in a speech Saturday that the government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) should “put the people first.” I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve been thinking about life first.” .
To many people in China, the term sounds hollow. Especially for those fighting for medical care for newly ill loved ones.
The question of why the country has stuck to zero Covid for so long, paid such a high price, and made so little preparation to open up, even behind a wall of secretive Even if the damage to his authority is invisible, it is likely to undermine President Xi.Leadership compound.
Orville Schell, director of the Center for U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York, said: “The fact that the Chinese Communist Party’s stance on the pandemic has completely reversed after the mass uprising is an air of infallibility that Xi Jinping has carefully cultivated. It just hurts,” he said. .
“President Xi rarely voices his criticism publicly inside China,” he added. “But all my Chinese friends are shaking their heads in disbelief at the inconsistency of Xi Jinping’s policies.”
Foreign analysts have scoured the internet and official statements for clues, estimating that there are already thousands of deaths per day and more to come.
A first wave in urban areas is expected to peak in January, but a larger second wave hits rural areas (where health systems are more vulnerable) in February, according to UK health analytics firm Airfinity. and is expected to peak in early March.
Giving Covid freedom can come at a financial cost as well. Some analysts say they expect a small exodus of the elite, along with renewed efforts to move funds out of the country. That could put further pressure on the rapidly slowing economy.
Xi has previously linked his prestige to a strict zero-coronavirus policy, cemented his personal authority, and adhered to tough restrictions as he claimed a third term in office at a key Communist Party summit in October. vowed to
But by November, the country was embroiled in mass demonstrations against the regulation. Thousands of people have taken part in the most widespread protests China has seen in decades, ignoring harsh penalties for political activity in the surveillance state.
Beijing then suddenly changed course and relinquished control almost overnight. Since then, the surge in deaths has raised alarms beyond China, especially over concerns that the sheer numbers of new cases could create the conditions for the emergence of dangerous new subspecies.
The World Health Organization has demanded more data on gene sequencing, hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and deaths, as well as vaccinations and vaccination status, and called on Beijing to increase transparency.
The UK joined other countries including the US, Japan and Italy last week to require negative Covid tests for passengers flying into the country from China.
Authorities have cited a lack of reliable data from China, but many experts have criticized the regulation as a twisted response aimed at softening public opinion rather than protecting public health. .
Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said: “It is now the political mandate of the Communist Party, and therefore the Chinese government, to effectively abandon the zero-Covid policy without preparation.” In this case, the statistics need to be ‘patriotic’ and support official policy.”
The official position can be met with as much skepticism at home as it is abroad. But the chances of a challenge to Xi are slim as he eliminated potential challengers and stuffed allies into the party leadership at the October meeting.
“There are dissenting voices within the government about things like the best timing to open up and the best preparations the government could have done. But they are effectively silent,” said the Washington-based think tank. said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center.
In a sign that his powers remain absolute even as his government struggles to contain the pandemic, Xi said last week that all Politburo officials have been in line with their own over the past year. I presided over a two-day conference where I was encouraged to publicly self-examine the deficiencies of
Xi also looks to a time-honored tradition within China’s leadership, pre-Communist rule, of blaming problems on local government implementation failures rather than central government policies.
Wen-Ti Sung, a senior lecturer at the China Center for the World at the Australian National University, called President Xi Jinping’s call for more central leadership “lazy and generally disobeying the Chinese government’s instructions.” It seems that they are blaming the local government.”
For years, the government has defended the cost of the zero Covid policy on the grounds that it has saved the lives of Chinese people. They point to the terrible suffering in countries like Britain where the pandemic has gotten out of hand, and convincingly argue that Beijing is doing a better job than most other governments. can.
This helped calm people’s anger in the early days of the pandemic, when Wuhan was overwhelmed, many died, and China began a global experiment in lockdowns.
“People want to believe the propaganda narrative, but when they see what’s really going on around them, especially with their relatives and family members, they lose faith in the Chinese government,” said Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the National University. let’s,” he said. Singapore.
“People can see their families dying in agony, so the government cannot use propaganda to divert attention.”