A good article was published in the Spectator’s Coffee House blog this morning by Ian Williams, a former foreign correspondent for Channel 4 News and author of The Fire of the Dragon: China’s New Cold War. He argues that President Xi’s authoritarian ‘Zero Covid’ policy is the contemporary equivalent of the one child policy – a form of totalitarian control that quickly became an end in itself and had disastrous unintended consequences. Here are the opening few paragraphs:
It has been a remarkable few days for China’s increasingly absurd and at times chilling zero-Covid campaign. There was outrage on social media after the death of a three-year-old boy from carbon monoxide poisoning, which his father blamed on delays obtaining treatment because of a lockdown. Angry residents who took to the streets were confronted by riot police. While videos from the world’s largest iPhone factory in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, where 350,000 are employed, showed workers scaling barricades in what amounted to a mass break-out following attempts to lock them in their dormitories after a Covid outbreak.
A surge in cases across the country has seen restrictions imposed in 28 cities, home to more than 200 million people. They range from Xining and Lhasa in the west, to Beijing, Guangzhou, and even Wuhan – where the virus was first detected almost three years ago. There have been the now familiar appeals for food and medical supplies from those locked in their homes or in the vast quarantine facilities sprouting across China.
Yet stock markets in Shanghai and Hong Kong bounced last week on rumours that Beijing might ease its zero-Covid policy, that it had finally seen sense in the face of growing anger and frustration. It seemed like wishful thinking on the part of investors who have been heading for the exits almost as rapidly as the hapless iPhone workers. And that is how it proved on Saturday when a spokesperson for the National Health Commission told a much-anticipated press conference in Beijing that there would be no wavering. China will “unswervingly adhere” to the zero-Covid policy, which is “completely correct”, she said.