Shanghai is China’s most populous city, a place marked by an expansive worldview and keen sense of its own identity. But now, it is chafing at Beijing’s rigid containment methods designed in accordance with the national zero-COVID policy.
Since a wave of infections struck the metropolis of some 25 million people last month, Shanghai officials have imposed a temporary lockdown since March 28.
The Aftermath of the anti-Covid policy
Riots have broken out in Shanghai as starving residents begin to revolt against the CCP’s draconian “Zero Covid” lockdown more than three weeks in. Numerous disturbing videos emerging on social media show desperate scenes in China’s largest city, placed under increasingly harsh restrictions as Omicron cases continue to break daily records.
Crowds of residents were seen looting food parcels in videos, while other clips showed furious mobs clashing with PPE-clad Covid prevention workers as they tried to break through barriers erected across the city. People were witnessed screaming from their apartment balconies as they ran out of food and basic essentials. Other videos show residents scuffling with hazmat-clad officials and bursting through a barricade onto a street, yelling, “we want to eat cheap vegetables!”
The situation is so grim that people want to be arrested by the police, hoping that at least when they are locked up, they will have more food to eat! Even the police are struggling to feed themselves.
Protests are rare in China. Under the communist party’s regime, the cost of protesting is high. So when people in Shanghai, China’s financial hub, protest because they say they don’t have enough food to eat, it isn’t hyperbole.
More than 23,600 new infections were recorded recently, despite Shanghai residents now suffering under the harshest Covid-19 restrictions anywhere in the world since the start of the pandemic, straining the regime’s policy of total elimination of the virus. This is a clumsy and chaotic approach to mitigate the issue.
Multiple elderly patients have died in a series at the Shanghai Donghai Elderly Care hospital, underscoring the dangerous consequences of China’s stubborn pursuit of a zero-COVID approach.
The CCP’s ‘Zero-COVID’ approach to pandemic control by imposing stringent citywide lockdowns has resulted in the systematic denial of the medical needs of people with serious but non-COVID related illnesses.
The zero-COVID policy imposed by the state is a utopian idea. The world has accepted that it is next to impossible to eradicate the COVID-19 virus completely in the near future as the new variants and the mutations are continuously witnessing a change in its structure at a fast pace. Hence, it is high time to adopt a lifestyle accordingly and accept the bitter truth that the virus will stay, and perhaps it may get dormant. The world is moving on, and so should China!
Whereas China is far from reality. It is irrational and impractical to forcefully impose a lockdown and threaten people to stay indoors indefinitely. How long will people remain isolated? This policy is catastrophic. But in all this fiasco, the civilians are the ones who are suffering and enduring.
Defending his country’s stringently implemented zero-COVID policy amid a huge surge of coronavirus cases in Shanghai and other cities, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China’s targeted and effective COVID-19 prevention and control measures ensured the safe and smooth hosting of the Winter Olympics. He asserted that China’s anti-COVID policy has once again withstood the test of time, contributing useful experience for the world to fight against the virus and host major international events.
Under the zero-Covid policy, China has drastically cut international travel by cancelling visas and restricting flights since 2020. “As some foreign athletes have said, if there was a gold medal for responding to the pandemic, then China deserves it,” Xi said. A little change here, if there was a gold medal for violating human rights, then China deserves it!
The rosy picture that Xi Jinping put forth is grossly undermining the voices of its own citizens and desperately attempting to suppress the inner debacles of China. People in Shanghai are frustrated and anxious about their lives.
The Australian Financial Review wrote, “Reports of millions struggling to feed themselves, elderly unable to access medicine, videos of small riots breaking out circulating on social media. Many households rely on inadequate government food deliveries. All this to contain a virus the Chinese government claims hasn’t killed anyone in the city yet.”
Mass daily testing is mandatory, and anyone who tests positive is taken to a quarantine centre — a policy that even saw children removed from their parents into overcrowded facilities. Shanghai officials were forced to respond to the public outrage by allowing parents to accompany their Covid-positive children to quarantine. Medical facilities are also not accessible easily. Shanghai’s epidemic-prevention policy is in absolute disorder.
Shanghai residents who test positive can’t isolate in their homes even if their conditions are mild or asymptomatic. They have to go to mandatory quarantine facilities, which critics say have become crowded and have sub-par conditions.
Another pertinent question is why there is a food shortage? Strict rules mean most people have to order food and water and wait for government drop-offs of vegetables, meat and eggs. But the lockdown extension has overwhelmed delivery services, grocery shop websites and even the distribution of government supplies.
Many delivery personnel are also in locked-down areas, leading to an overall decrease in delivery capacity. Locals in some areas of the city say they’ve been completely cut off. Residents have also raised other concerns about price gouging and how elderly or less tech-savvy residents are surviving.
As one of the economic powerhouses of China, Shanghai’s shutdown is also fuelling concerns about the impact on China and the world’s economy.
Shanghai’s economy in a slump
The economic backbone of Shanghai is in peril. Researchers have claimed that this lockdown could turn out to be particularly costly for the world’s second-largest economy. As well as being a major focus of the financial industry, Shanghai is a hub for semiconductor, electronics and car manufacturing. It is also the world’s busiest shipping port.
Experts claim that there will also be ripple effects elsewhere because of the interconnectedness between Shanghai and other regions of China, especially the manufacturing hub of the Yangtze River Delta. Lost business at retailers, hotels, and restaurants could directly cost Shanghai 3.7% of its annual GDP.
The Chinese government has set a target for the country’s GDP to grow by 5.5% this year. But some analysts have said it will struggle to meet that goal. Recently, data pointed to a slowdown in March for China’s manufacturing and services sectors.
There’s a concern that if lockdowns become prolonged and disruptions to the transportation to the supply chain persist, businesses will be unable to source supplies.
China is one of the last remaining nations still committed to eradicating Covid (rather obsessed), even though its full vaccination rate is approaching 90% Reports have claimed that other parts of China have been subjected to similar restrictions in the past month, including Shenzhen, Changchun, Xuzhou, Tangshan and Jilin. At one point in March, almost 40 million Chinese residents were under various levels of lockdown.
Why Xi Jinping continues to back this zero-COVID strategy despite the discontent, it is leading to is puzzling. After all, most regimes’ primary goal is stability, especially authoritarian ones. There are many possibilities, incompetence and dogmatism being a few of them. Some claim that it might be that there is a significant segment of the population in China doesn’t mind that the ‘uppity’ people of Shanghai are suffering. Another reason could be that zero-Covid is not just a Party policy but also Xi’s policy.