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China: Security Tightened Amid Widespread COVID Protests

    China: Security Tightened Amid Widespread COVID Protests
    Updated Nov 28, 2022
    Image credit: BBC News

    Facts

    • Police on Monday were out in force across China in an attempt to quell protests against COVID restrictions that rocked the nation over the weekend, in what is being characterized as one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in decades.[1]
    • This comes as, on Saturday, China reported a record high of 39,791 new COVID infections. Despite the spike in infections, protests erupted against the country's "zero-COVID" policy — which includes prolonged lockdowns and quarantines.[2]
    • Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Sunday suggests that China's economy may be shrinking due to the COVID response. 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.[3]
    • 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.[3]
    • 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!"[4]
    • The unprecedented protests — which follow violent demonstrations at an iPhone factory in Zhengzhou last week — began after a prolonged COVID lockdown was blamed for hampering rescue efforts when an apartment in the western city of Urumqi caught fire, resulting in ten deaths. A vigil for the victims was held Monday night.[5]

    Spin

    Anti-China narrative

    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

    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.

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