The world is seeing something it rarely sees from a communist country – hoards of private citizens protesting in the streets, tearing down barriers, and calling for the resignation of China’s president, Xi Jingping.
It’s all as a result of China’s Zero-COVID strategy, which is based on the assumption that COVID can be completely eliminated through strict societal adherence to rules and policies meted out with a heavy hand by a communist government. These rules include the following, according to bbc.com:
- Local authorities must impose strict lockdowns – even if only a handful of Covid cases are found.
- Mass testing is carried out in places where cases have been reported.
- People with Covid are isolated at home or placed under quarantine at government facilities.
- Businesses and schools are closed in lockdown areas.
- Shops must also close – except for those selling food.
- Lockdowns last until no new infections are reported.
Since COVID arrived in 2020, Chinese citizens have lived under these strict guidelines with no choice or option to avoid forced testing, quarantining of families, or lost work for weeks on end. Unlike in the U.S. where COVID patients may return to work and resume normal activities after a few days, Chinese people expected of COVID are tracked down in their homes, forced to test, and isolated. Their families – even with no signs of the virus – are also quarantined, and only the government decides when they may all return to their normal routines.
As a result, protestors are clearly at the end of what they can take. Thousands have taken to the streets chanting for freedom from government oppression. They call for the end of lockdowns and the demise of mandatory testing that has crippled East Asia, financially, socially, and mentally.
Recently, a deadly fire took hours to extinguish since so much of the workforce is in lockdown. Yet the Internet shows no sign of unrest, as the communist government filters and blocks any sign of protest. Throughout it all, Chinese leadership has been silent, refusing to acknowledge the rising divisiveness.
Ironically, the country so visibly concerned about COVID has done nothing to step up vaccine availability for its residents. Currently, only about half of Chinese people over 80 years old have been fully vaccinated, and only 60% in their 60’s have received just one vaccination. China is seeing an increase in cases of about 1,000 a day, and the vaccinations it currently uses do not protect against Omicron, the most widespread strand.
Despite offers by western countries to provide them with more effective vaccines, China has refused, with no explanation. President Xi Jinping continues to claim that the Zero-COVID strategy is “scientific and effective.”
Interestingly, China’s method has led to much fewer virus deaths than the U.S. has seen – three Covid deaths in every million in China, compared with 3,000 per million in the US and 2,400 per million in the UK. But at what cost?
“Stir crazy” doesn’t begin to describe the psychological state of Chinese citizens. Videos shared over the last year have shown people holed up in their small apartments, calling out the windows to one another, wailing with grief and desperation. Many have waited desperately for food to be delivered, have been blocked from seeing anyone for weeks, and have been forced to miss work and subsequent paychecks.
China’s once great economy has plummeted, their dreams of taking over as the world’s greatest power dashed. And while their citizens might not be dying from COVID, they are going untreated for major medical conditions that have led to untold fatalities.
Health commissioners speaking anonymously shared that the virus has become highly politicized and is more about government control that what is truly best for Chinese citizens. And those citizens seem to understand that. Protests are growing, but the communist government shows no sign of relenting.