COVID Lockdown Protests Roil in China Amid Economic Stress

On Saturday, China reported a record high of 39,791 new COVID infections. According to the National Health Commission, the PRC had confirmed 307,802 cases with symptoms as of Nov. 26.

COVID Lockdown Protests Roil in China Amid Economic Stress
Image credit: aljazeera

Facts

  • On Saturday, China reported a record high of 39,791 new COVID infections. According to the National Health Commission, the PRC had confirmed 307,802 cases with symptoms as of Nov. 26.
  • Despite the spike in infections, protests have erupted against the country's "zero-COVID" policy — which includes prolonged lockdowns and quarantines. Demonstrators cited the PRC's new less-restrictive rules designed to reduce economic stress from COVID measures.
  • As a sign of economic challenges, China's industrial profits reportedly fell 3.0%, while profits for manufacturers slid 13.4% in the first ten months of 2022.
  • In another indicator, Nomura [a Japanese financial firm] cut its Gross Domestic Product forecast for China's full-year growth to 2.8% from 2.9% — indicating a slow and turbulent COVID reopening process for the Chinese economy.
  • Official state media pledged it would, "implement measures for a highly efficient pandemic control and economic development," as protests roiled across different locations including Beijing, Shanghai, Urumqi, and Hong Kong. In Shanghai, protestors shouted: "Communist party! Step down! Xi Jinping! Step down!"
  • A catalyzing theme across the highly-unusual public uproar centered on the western city of Urumqi, where a prolonged COVID lockdown was blamed for hampering rescue efforts after an apartment fire killed ten victims.

Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg, Guardian, and BBC News.

Narratives

  • Anti-China narrative, as provided by BBC News. China's fixation with its zero-COVID policy has triggered historic discontent among its residents, who grapple with skyrocketing inflation, employment uncertainties, and rising fears of a global recession. The rise in COVID infections proves the zero-tolerance approach has failed to contain the virus. The PRC must ease restrictions, spend resources on intensive care hospitals, and stop upending its citizens' normal lives. This will help ease dissent and bring the economy back on track.
  • Pro-China narrative, as provided by People's Daily. It's imperative for China to stick to zero-COVID measures to save lives, stabilize the economy in the long term, and achieve a balance between virus control and socioeconomic development. This has been a challenging road for the PRC's citizenry, but solidarity against the virus will help enhance safety and economic security.