Updated: Sep 13
By Leo Paggen
Xi Jinping has reportedly been asked to step down as President of China as harsh COVID measures have taken their toll. After numerous anti-covid protests, authorities have finally relaxed their covid policies. Is this the beginning of a major change? What will happen is still uncertain, only Xi knows.
Xi Jinping Asked to Step Down
In Shanghai, people have asked President Xi Jinping to step down, which is an extremely dangerous thing to do, given that their government censors anything remotely offensive to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In fact, the popular cartoon character Winnie the Pooh has even been censored due to ‘offensive’ behaviour. During the mass demonstrations, the protestors were met with police violence: a BBC China correspondent was detained for several hours and severely beaten in the midst of the anti-covid lockdown protests. This was far from a surprise, considering the nature of previous protests in the country.
Recap of China’s Zero-Covid Policy
While a large part of the world has almost completely stopped using extreme covid measures, China was until very recently still implementing harsh lockdowns. The country’s extreme ‘zero-covid’ policy' meant that any reported infection could lead to a whole area immediately undergoing a lockdown. In addition, people were still required to take covid tests before entering public areas.
The nature of such measures harmed people as they locked up citizens in their residences, ignoring the fact that they may have to work outside their homes. Other measures included forcing infected Chinese into quarantine camps and taking them away from their relatives. This is how the so-called ‘successful’ zero-covid policy worked until Chinese citizens had enough. Several protests in the country’s major cities began, hoping to change the government’s covid-policies.
Chinese People Successful in Relaxing Anti-Covid Policies
Nearly all protests happened between 26 and 29 November in major Chinese cities, where the Chinese went onto the streets to show their displeasure with the regime’s extreme anti-covid measures. Chinese protests typically do not happen for futile reasons, and this time is no exception. These demonstrations are happening because people are mentally, and sometimes even physically, dying locked in buildings due to the covid policies implanted by the government. The measures are so extreme that one reported case is enough to close an entire Chinese city.
The Economist called the protests “unusually large”, and they have had some positive effects on the current situation of the country: Vice Premier Sun Chunlan has announced the easing of anti-covid measures, stating that: “The country is facing a new situation and new tasks in epidemic prevention and control as the pathogenicity of the Omicron virus weakens, more people are vaccinated and experience in containing the virus is accumulated”.
The strict Chinese covid measures are being relaxed, which would imply more productivity in the country, something the world could benefit from. An enormous amount of the Western world’s manufacturing operations has been offshored to China. Economic pressure on the global supply chain might, theoretically, ease because the Chinese would be allowed to work again. The Chinese economy has the potential to grow again.
However, it is not as simple as it seems. A large part of the Chinese elderly has not received a booster jab, which has led to a severely weakened group immunity. The number of people over the age of 60 who have not received more than two jabs is around 52 million. Besides, many Chinese have not been exposed to the virus a lot due to the severity of their lockdowns. Easing the anti-covid measures has led to a considerable spike in Chinese covid cases, which could potentially lead to a severe dismantling of society.
Conclusions and Outlook
The protestors were successful in making the Chinese government drop some of the more extreme anti-COVID measures. While some have reportedly asked Xi Jinping to step down, the reality of the situation is that this is almost certainly not going to happen. Instead, perhaps the CCP will see this as a warning, one that warns them about how its citizens could be ready to start similar protests should future events force them to do so.
Whether the relaxation of the country’s strict anti-COVID policies marks the end of these protests is uncertain, and time only will tell how the situation evolves. Next time, protests will not necessarily be against the severe lockdowns, but rather against the irresponsible and uncontrollable ease of covid measures, which could lead to a sharply increased excess mortality rate.
Written by Leo Paggen
Sources: BBC, The Economist, Reuters