China's Zero COVID Is Becoming A Political Crisis
That China’s Zero COVID has been an abysmal failure at containing even modest outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 infections has been proven time and again.
Now, with yet another wave of COVID cases spreading across the country, Zero COVID is encountering an increasing amount of pushback from an increasingly restive population.
Rare protests broke out in China’s far western Xinjiang region, with crowds shouting at hazmat-suited guards after a deadly fire triggered anger over their prolonged COVID-19 lockdown as nationwide infections set another record.
Crowds chanted “End the lockdown!”, pumping their fists in the air as they walked down a street, according to videos circulated on Chinese social media on Friday night. Reuters verified the footage was published from the Xinjiang capital Urumqi.
What is most worrisome for Beijing and the CCP, however, is that the Urumqi protests are hardly an isolated instance of public discontent.
Zhengzhou: Foxconn Factory Workers Reject Zero COVID.
Zero COVID enforcement devolved into a chaotic farce at Foxconn’s iPhone factory in Zhengzhou—the largest fabricator for the Apple devices.
Not only did Foxconn end up essentially paying some workers to leave the facility, workers engaged in open rebellion against Zero COVID, with social media carrying footage of workers tearing down COVID test stations in and around the plant.
Ultimately, thousands of workers simply walked off the site, many of them chanting “We want to go home, now!”.
It is worth remembering that Zhengzhou was also were a minor protest erupted just a few weeks ago, after a lockdown at the Foxconn factory triggered food riots.
In Zhengzhou, Zero COVID is being received with something approaching zero compliance.
Urumqi Is Joined By Beijing
In the far west province of Xinjiang, draconian lockdowns have been far more the norm than in China’s central and coastal provinces. Urumqi residents have been confined to their homes for upwards of 100 days at a time, even with new daily cases only numbering around 100.
What has turned the tide of public opinion against Zero COVID, however, has been a fire in an Urumqi high rise apartment complex, in which some 10 people died—with many alleging that the fire’s victims could have survived had the apartment complex not been under lockdown.
Certainly, in Urumqi there is a rising backlash against the government over Zero COVID and its draconian lockdowns.
There have been unconfirmed social media posts as well which purport to show doors within the apartment complex barricaded and sealed to prevent entry or exit.
This would flatly contradict the official stance that the people who perished were simply unfamiliar with the complex’ fire saftey measures.
What is surprising about the Urumqi protests, however is that they are being joined by protest demonstrations in Beijing itself.
There is also a social media dispute over the actual death toll from the fire. While the official count of lives lost, as reported in the New York Post, stands at 10, independent journalist Jennifer Zeng asserted on Twitter that some 44 people burned to death in the building.
Zero COVID protocols are also being blamed for a shoddy response by city firefighters, which contributed to the death toll.
Local Officials Have Learned Nothing From Shanghai
During the Shanghai lockdown this past spring, city officials came under a fair amount of heat for their seeming inability to manage the logistics of food distribution during a total citywide lockdown. However, while Shanghai under lockdown acquired a Dante-esque image, the basics of public safety—police and fire brigades—by and large managed to function. Not so in Urumqi; if Jennifer Zeng’s recitation of events is correct, the fire brigade in Urumqi simply failed to respond appropriately.
In both Urumqi and Zhengzhou, local officials have simply failed to manage the most basic of city services with any degree of competency. Public health and public safety are simply falling apart when a city goes into lockdown under Zero COVID protocols.
Whatever lessons there were to be learned from Shanghai, apparently they were not learned in Urumqi or Zhengzhou.
What is being learned from Urumqi and Zhengzhou is that Shanghai was not an isolated, exceptional situation, but was rather what the Chinese people can expect in a city locked down under Zero COVID. The people learning that lesson are the ordinary Chinese citizens in other cities—particularly Beijing.
The message that is spreading alongside the SARS-CoV-2 virus appears to be that Zero COVID is an abysmal failure, that it does not stop the virus but simply makes life literally unlivable. That message is a direct refutation of the rationale proffered by the CCP for perpetuating Zero COVID.
The Chinese people are telling Xi Jinping that Zero COVID is a wrong policy and the government is wrong for persisting in it. Whether Xi Jinping has the political acumen both to hear that message and to find a face-saving way to accomodate that message is as yet an open question.
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