Monday, March 20

Beijing’s decision to reverse course on the zero-COVID strategy has not been publicly justified.

china covid strategy
Image Source: Reuters

Li Qiang, who was just promoted to No. 2 on the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, grabbed the opportunity as massive demonstrations against China’s zero-COVID policy intensified in November.


To dismantle President Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID strategy and gradually reopen the nation towards the end of 2022, with a goal of declaring a return to normalcy in March, top Chinese officials and medical experts had been quietly formulating plans over the weeks prior, four people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Li, who will be named the nation’s new premier this month, adopted a more pressing perspective.

According to the four sources and another person with knowledge of the situation, he made the decision to trigger the reopening plans earlier than planned in an effort to stem the financial damage caused by the zero-COVID campaign and protests that had alarmed the leadership. China abruptly lifted lockdowns, mass testing, and other restrictions, which led to a chaotic reopening in December.

Image Source: Center for American Progress

China reversed course on the zero-COVID strategy, but has not publicly disclosed the reasoning for this move. Reuters sent inquiries to the State Council Information Office (SCIO) about the discussions over the reopening of the country, but neither Xi nor Li, nor the Chinese cabinet, the State Council, responded.

Reuters compiled this account of China’s path to reopening after speaking with more than a dozen people who were privy to the conversations. The previously undisclosed information provides an uncommon glimpse into discussions among leading Chinese leaders and healthcare professionals, including disagreements between Li and Xi on the timing of the reopening. Because the topic was sensitive or they weren’t authorised to speak to the media, the sources talked on the condition of anonymity.

According to two of the sources, the protests in November marked a turning point in Xi’s management of COVID because he began to take a less direct approach and gave Li, his longtime buddy, the reins.

According to two of the insiders, top authorities ultimately decided on a hasty reopening to appease the youthful demonstrators because they believed it would be more politically hazardous to allow the virus to grow unchecked than to appease the threat the dissidents would pose to the regime’s stability.

China In Setting Up Scenarios

In mid-October, at the Communist Party meeting where he was elected to a record-breaking third term and introduced his new leadership group, Xi praised his zero-COVID policy and claimed it was having a beneficial impact. Yet, before the month was out, government representatives gathered in Beijing to discuss how to relax that stringent policy.

Three of the sources claim that in late October, Wang Huning, a deputy head of the party’s central COVID taskforce since early 2020 and a member of the illustrious seven-person Politburo Standing Committee, met in private with top medical authorities and senior officials, including members of the propaganda apparatus.

Image Source: Reuters

According to two of the attendees, Wang pressured them to work on several reopening roadmaps with varied paces and continuously questioned them about how many deaths, in the worst-case scenario, the removal of COVID controls would result in. An inquiry regarding Wang’s participation in the negotiations via the SCIO was not answered by Wang.

The key, according to two of the individuals, is increasing the senior immunisation rate. The National Health Commission (NHC) officials proposed benchmarks for complete reopening.

The zero-COVID policy was being put into practise, but some local party members and healthcare professionals were finding it more difficult.

A local leader of a sub-district in Beijing with more than 100,000 residents told Reuters that by the second part of last year, funds were exhausted for paying testing businesses and security firms to implement regulations.


Leave A Reply