Fears of deadly infection surge as China abandons zero-Covid policy

The portable PCR testing booth dangled in the air over a dark Beijing street, captured on camera as it was winched away by a crane in the middle of the night. The image spread rapidly across Chinese social media, the perfect symbol of the bewilderingly rapid end of a draconian era. In the face of the most widespread national protests since the bloody crackdown on Tiananmen Square demonstrators in 1989, the Chinese government has abruptly abandoned its flagship zero-Covid policy. In Beijing, people prepared to go into shopping malls or…

China’s Xi Jinping ‘unwilling’ to accept western Covid vaccines says US intelligence chief

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is unwilling to accept western vaccines despite the challenges China is facing with Covid-19, and while recent protests there are not a threat to Communist party rule, they could affect his personal standing, US director of national intelligence Avril Haines said. Although China’s daily Covid cases are near all-time highs, some cities are taking steps to loosen testing and quarantine rules after Xi’s zero-Covid policy triggered a sharp economic slowdown and public unrest opposing Covid-19 lockdowns. Haines, speaking at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in…

Zero-Covid policy is costing China its role as the world’s workshop

The anti-lockdown unrest gripping China has forced the authorities in Beijing to respond by easing some restrictions in big manufacturing centres, as they map out a “new stage and mission” in the country’s deeply unpopular zero-Covid policy. There are concerns that more freedom of movement could allow the virus to rip through a population where immunity is lower than in the west. Those health risks mean the “world’s workshop” is heading for a difficult winter, casting a shadow over the prospects for international trade. Western companies have learned lessons from…

China’s easing of Covid curbs does not solve Xi Jinping’s dilemma

At the end of October, Xi Jinping had secured his position as China’s most powerful leader in decades, his grip on the country cemented by a norm-breaking third term in office. At the end of November, he faced the most widespread protests China had seen in decades, mostly focused on Covid restrictions but also featuring unprecedented calls for Xi to step down. It was an extraordinary juxtaposition of political authority and vulnerability within the space of a month, and one that no one inside or outside the country had foreseen.…

China continues lifting Covid restrictions despite near-record case numbers

Covid-19 testing booths were removed in Beijing on Friday, while Shenzhen followed other cities in announcing it would no longer require commuters to present their test results to travel, as an easing of Covid restrictions in China gathered pace. As daily cases hovered near all-time highs, some cities took steps to loosen coronavirus testing requirements and quarantine rules as China looks to make its zero-Covid policy more targeted amid an economic slowdown and public frustration that has boiled over into unrest. Cities including Guangzhou and Beijing have taken the lead…

Vaccines are key to China’s zero-Covid exit but scepticism poses challenge

China’s government looks to be starting to roll back its zero-Covid policy. But after three years of saying the resource-intensive, economically damaging elimination strategy is the only way to go, experts say it will be a medical and political challenge to end it. Much of China’s exit strategy is riding on vaccinations, but this is where Beijing has great challenges. China’s elderly population is disproportionately unvaccinated, leaving tens of millions of vulnerable people at far greater risk from the ravages of Covid-19. About 90% of China’s population is vaccinated, but…

China brings in ‘emergency’ level censorship over zero-Covid protests

Chinese authorities have initiated the highest “emergency response” level of censorship, according to leaked directives, including a crackdown on VPNs and other methods of bypassing online censorship after unprecedented protests demonstrated widespread public frustration with the zero-Covid policy. The crackdown, including the tracking and questioning of protesters, comes alongside easing of pandemic restrictions, in an apparent carrot and stick approach to an outpouring of public grievances. During an extraordinary week in China, protests against zero-Covid restrictions included criticism of the authoritarian rule of Xi Jinping – which was further highlighted…

China’s vice-premier signals shift in Covid stance as some lockdowns eased

One of China’s most senior pandemic response officials has said the country is entering a “new stage and mission” in the latest indication of the government’s changing approach after mass protests against its zero-Covid policy. Sun Chunlan, China’s vice-premier, made the comments to national health officials on Wednesday, according to state media outlet Xinhua. It came as several regions including Shanghai began to lift lockdowns despite continuing high case numbers. Vic “With the decreasing pathogenicity of the Omicron variant, the increasing vaccination rate and the accumulating experience of outbreak control…

Zero-Covid: five charts that show how restrictions are throttling the Chinese economy

Protests against pandemic restrictions in China could unleash a new wave of volatility into a global economy already racked by inflation, energy shocks and the war in Ukraine. The government’s continued reliance on lockdowns, quarantine orders and mass testing to limit the spread of the virus has provoked the biggest protest movement in decades. But there’s little evidence that authorities are willing to diverge from the path they have taken. As well as prompting social unrest inside China, there are signs that the zero-Covid strategy is throttling the world’s second…

The Guardian view on the future of China’s unrest: more complex than it seems | Editorial

Among the Communist rhetoric cleverly repurposed by China’s anti-zero-Covid protesters is a phrase that Mao Zedong employed: a single spark can start a prairie fire. When a political system is so rigid, observers can easily fall prey to one of two conflicting tendencies. The first is to seize upon any significant unrest as the first crack in the edifice, which could bring the whole system down – as when the death of Mohamed Bouazizi precipitated the Arab spring. Since such collapses are usually astonishing at the time, even if explicable…