Updated: Dec 22, 2022
A wave of demonstrations floods China demanding freedom and an end to Xi Jinping's zero covid policy.
The Asian giant had not seen such a large mobilization since in 1989 the streets were filled with students and workers denouncing the lack of freedom and human rights.
Now it is young people who mostly demonstrate demanding an end to the strict zero covid policies, policies that have caused a growth in general malaise after living almost three years with extreme restrictions. In addition, the protesters have denounced the lack of democracy and transparency of the Communist Party of China (CCP), chaired by Xi Jinping.
What is the “zero covid” policy?
This policy was born with the aim of stopping the initial outbreak of covid in the city where it originated, Wuhan. This means that people who test positive must be isolated, confined or transferred to a hospital depending on the case. This affects not only people with the virus, but also close contacts, who are also forced to self-isolate. The use of a mobile tracking application is also mandatory, so that you can avoid coming across infected people.
If an outbreak is large enough, an entire city can be confined, as happened in the case of Shanghai. We have experienced the same thing in Igualada, Spain, at the beginning of the pandemic that had to be confined until the outbreak was controlled.
What is happening in China?
When the pandemic began in 2019, the Chinese leader called himself responsible for winning the battle against the virus. In this way, it justified the strict measures imposed with the aim of containing the virus and, therefore, protecting the population above all else. During the first months it was possible to observe how the world added numerous deaths, while in China the numbers barely rose. However, three years later, the world has learned to live with the virus in a way that does not limit our lives, but in China the same strict rules of the first day are maintained.
Most protesters decry the government's inability to ease restrictions, especially considering that the rest of the world has done so. What the population asks for is to recover the life they had before the arrival of the pandemic, they want to start living naturally with a virus that over time will become something alien.
The pandemic has wreaked economic havoc around the world, but three years later they have made a comeback. However, as China is still stuck in time as if it were 2019, its economy has been stagnant due to the restrictions; this has represented less production and less export.
As far as politics is concerned, the CCP seems to be more and more opaque, something that the protesters also denounce for not being able to freely express the little knowledge they have of their country's politics. Since Xi took command of the country, any kind of opposition has been deactivated, there is no known counterpower, and international political analysts say that Xi Jinping only wants to surround himself with those who tell him exactly what he wants to hear.
After numerous arrests and an absolute abuse of power by the Chinese police during the protests, which have been recorded and denounced around the world, the restrictions have begun to be relaxed in a large part of the country.
One of the changes that stands out the most is that people who work from home, the elderly or people with reduced mobility will not have to take PCR tests, which until now was mandatory for the entire population to take. Despite these changes, the number of positive covid cases in China continues to rise, reaching 36,000 daily.
What the experts say...
While some experts believe that the West should learn from China and its zero covid policy, most believe that it should not only relax the measures against covid, but also learn to live with the virus and treat it as naturally as any other disease would be treated, without completely relaxing. The pandemic is still a reality, the covid continues to add deaths, and it should not be treated lightly.
It is crucial to remember the importance of continuing with preventive measures, such as the use of a mask, keeping your distance, the use of gel and getting vaccinated with booster doses.