China’s severe lockdown tactics, such as the zero-COVID approach, are gradually mobilizing people against the government, with analysts predicting that recent excesses will lead to a more permanent alienation of the people. The escalating disruption of daily life brought on by China’s top-down “zero covid” policy risks alienating a population that has come to rely on what some scholars refer to as the Communist Party’s implicit contract with the people: the leadership supports the economy, allows people to get rich, and stays out of everyday affairs in exchange for political silence. “The tacit agreement between us has been broken,” a Shanghai-based Chinese journalist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions told Washington Post. “Originally, you let me live a happy life, I wouldn’t do things against your interests, but that kind of trust no longer exists. I think that could be the most serious issue (caused by lockdown).”
Speculation has swirled about the political ramifications of public anger over lockdowns ahead of a leadership reshuffle in the fall when many of the party’s most senior officials are expected to be replaced. Chinese restrictions meant to contain the coronavirus have also driven up prices of vegetables and other food, according to the latest inflation figures cited by Asia Nikkei, leaving consumers with less money with which to stoke Asia’s biggest economy. Some analysts say the backlash in Shanghai will make it harder for Li, the 62-year-old party boss who is considered a Xi ally, to secure a top position on the Politburo Standing Committee. Aside from tracking possible promotions or demotions, however, most expect Xi’s direct control over decision-making to be increased at the Congress. This could take the form of a new title such as “party chairman” or “people’s leader.” Xi’s personal political ideology may also be elevated in status so it is on par with that of party founder Mao.
While policymakers appear genuinely concerned about a possible “tsunami” of infections and deaths from the coronavirus spreading unchecked, the choice to stick with the current policy was also made because President Xi Jinping believes China reaching zero cases demonstrates the superiority of its governance over Western democracies, particularly the United States, the report said citing Lynette Ong, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Toronto. The Shanghai lockdown escalation was prompted by a meeting last week of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party where Xi doubled down on the policy of total intolerance for coronavirus infections in the general population. The meeting concluded that anyone who doubts or denies the approach should be “struggled” against.
Acts of violence by police and low-level officials enforcing the restrictions in Shanghai have led to online comparisons with the chaos and trauma of the Mao era’s later years. In a video posted to the microblog Weibo on Monday, a homeowner wanders through his apartment noting everything that went missing during disinfection, including food from the fridge, bedsheets, curtains and clothes. The most-liked comment beneath the video read “Ah, I’ve seen this in history books, its search and confiscation,” a reference to a common practice during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s when radical “red guards” would raid homes in search of banned items.
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