In the West, we have watched what has happened in China since the coronavirus pandemic was declared with great expectation, not only because it is the country of origin but also because, before the virus hit us hard, we were amazed at the measures that at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 they began to establish themselves in the country, convinced that we would not see that around here. In subsequent months, with West closed tightlyIn addition to expectation, it was seen with some envy how a dictatorship had been able to break the virus in a few weeks through a policy based on strict confinement, massive tests, case tracking and border closures.
because, as already we count on Digital Freedomsince it opened wuhan In 2020, the situation in China was paradisiacal thanks to the total closure of the borders, and the population —both local and foreign— mostly supported the government’s zero covid policy. It is true that they could not leave or enter the country unless they complied with strict quarantines and presented antibody tests, but within the country the residents led a practically normal life, while throughout the West we lived through months of nightmares and restrictions, without ever managing to break the contagion curve, chaining small openings followed by new restrictions… while waiting for vaccines and natural immunity to begin to have the expected effect . On the other hand, the virus continued to mutate towards much more contagious but less lethal variants, partly because the natural immunity acquired by the population and the vaccines were gradually doing their job.
Political reasons for zero covid
In short, for two years Xi Jinping could legitimize his authoritarian system of fight against the virus as a model of success against the West and boast of its tracking systems and preventive quarantines that allowed the Asian giant to live in a coronavirus free bubble during 2020 and 2021. His model of fight against the covid was in contrast to the one we maintained in the West, and the Chinese flaunted the superiority of theirs.
With a regime as non-transparent as the Chinese one, analysts speculated on the political motivations, more than health ones —which also existed, such as a very deficient health system— why Xi maintained that zero covid strategy.
Ultimately, it was said Xi Jinping sought a third five-year term in power in the CPC National Congress —which it has already achieved— and the CCP, for its part, uncritically praised this way of fighting the pandemic, which they even considered a virtuous display of self-denialhighlighting the low death toll while accusing the US and other countries of surrender in their fight against the pandemic. Accusations that, by comparison with the supposed Chinese success, were also made from some sectors in the West, which asked not to lower our guard and maintain greater restrictions. It was no longer the policy of zero covid that was requested, but the policy of zero deaths, something that, as has been seen, is unfeasible with a respiratory virus with the characteristics of covid-19.
Year 2022: the transition to influenza
Meanwhile, in year three of the pandemic, the situation in the West had begun to change. After a few months of discussion about if we were going to a flu phasewhich is what has finally happened, in Europe, the US and other countries we have begun to enjoy a life almost without restrictions.
On the other hand, in China the situation has become unsustainable in 2022, since the entry of the highly contagious omicron has returned the country to square one, with a population that has practically not been in contact with the virus and with much lower vaccination rates than in other countries. In addition, the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines seems to be much lower than those we have used in Europe, the US, etc.
In 2022 it has been revealed that omicron has thwarted Xi’s plans and that China does not have a strategy to get out of the pandemic.
The Urumqi fire
Until two days ago China was the only major country in the world still trying to curb the transmission of multiple omicron variants through strict confinement measures and massive tests. But the growing depletion of the population, and the protests and resistance to these measures were increasing along with the covid outbreaks.
A fire last week in a tenement block in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region in northern China, has been the last straw for the patience of the Chinese. The impotence of the neighbors when they see that the firemen could not access because of the fences that guaranteed the confinement of the building, hindering the control of the fire, has been the spark that has ignited the protests throughout the country. The building, in which ten people burned to death, had been subjected to strict confinement for almost three months, with the residents locked up without being able to go out into the street at all, as had previously happened in other chinese cities.
China acknowledges its failure
With record numbers of daily cases of around 40,000 on average in the last week —something not seen so far in this country—, what would have been expected would have been that the Chinese tyranny would have tightened its measures to combat the virus. However, just the opposite is happening: during the last hours the Chinese authorities they have continued to relax the restrictions in the main cities of the country.
For example, in the capital, beijing, you no longer have to present permits to access public transport, where all shopping centers will reopen their doors this Saturday, although they will not serve meals yet and will continue to require a negative test to enter shops. In other cities, like Chengdu or Guangzhoudo not require a negative coronavirus test to enter most public places.
Earlier, unusually violent protests broke out in a country like China, where it’s not common for workers to rise up against their bosses, as happened at Apple’s biggest factory.
But more interesting is what is happening with the official news agency xinhua, which has broken with the editorial line maintained up to now. Last Friday he published an editorial in which called for the immediate lifting of the remaining measures after warning of the great impact that the zero covid policy declared by the authorities has had on the population. A explicit recognition of the failure of Xi’s strategy.
How different from what happened on March 30, when an editorial from the same official news agency stated that Xi had led the fight against the virus and personally crafted the zero covid strategy. In the same editorial, moreover, the possibility of accepting suggestions that the country should learn to live with the virus was ruled out. In fact, the experts who insinuated this were harshly criticized and even censored.
The accusations that just a few months ago the Chinese authorities made to the US of surrendering in their fight against the pandemic have turned against Xi and his regime, which has no choice but to seek an exit strategy after almost three years of pandemic once the failure of the authoritarian model that the country has followed during these three years has been verified. The risk of spreading the protests against the economic and social collapse and the fatigue of the population It is growing.