It is difficult to downplay the significance of Beijing’s sudden decision to reverse its once prized zero COVID policy, which Chinese President Xi Jinping had claimed as a national and personal victory. He also defended his zero-Covid policy, after crippling the economy and sparking nationwide protests — saying it had been “the right choice”.
However, in light of the recent protests and the upheaval caused by China’s U-turn on the Zero-COVID policy, the CPC’s assessment of the domestic political climate is bleak.
Why is there a sudden spike in Covid cases in China?
For 1.4 billion Chinese citizens that had the government dictate their movements since the pandemic began, the past six weeks have forced them to suddenly figure out how to survive on their own.
The easing of curbs presents a chance for many Chinese to travel abroad after a long hiatus, especially ahead of the Lunar New Year which is observed on 22 January 2023 and is a time for family reunions.
No PCR tests or checks are required and certainly no social distancing. In China itself, millions of migrants will be on the move going to their hometowns and this raises the terrifying spectre of the spread of the contagion into the rural hinterland.
There is an ongoing, intentional obfuscation of how severe China’s post-zero COVID outbreak has been. Because the central government stopped tracking cases and narrowed the criteria for COVID-19-related deaths to further limit the count, it can maintain plausible deniability.
China reported a large jump in COVID-19 hospitalisations in the week through to January 15 to the highest since the pandemic began. The number of people hospitalized with the disease in China rose by 70% versus the previous week, according to a weekly report published by the World Health Organization.
Nearly 60,000 people with Covid had died in hospitals as of January 12, roughly a month after China abruptly dismantled its zero-COVID policy, according to government data. The WHO said it awaited “detailed provincial data disaggregated by the week of reporting” and did not include them in the tally.
Some experts said that figure probably vastly undercounts the full impact, as it excludes those who die at home, and because many doctors have said they are discouraged from citing COVID as a cause of death. It is a common technique employed by China’s authorities to release only aggregated data – central instead of local and annual instead of monthly, leaving room for ambiguity.
Some have reported that data released on January 17 shows that in 2022, China’s deaths outnumbered births for the first time in 60 years. Despite this announcement, the National Bureau of Statistics still refused at a press conference to disclose how many deaths occurred in December.
The number of deaths at China’s crematoriums and funeral homes accounts for a significant portion of global deaths from coronavirus. Although Chinese authorities have censored most videos of mourners and long queues of crematoriums from social media, recent satellite images are substantial proof of the surge in deaths due to Covid.
Concrete evidence has come up which shows that traffic flows at one funeral home in Guangzhou and another in Shenyang have been more crowded over the last month than they have been in the past five to 10 years. The extraordinarily high demand at morgues was corroborated by staff interviews showing that the workload has doubled or tripled.
However, the possibility of a big Covid-19 rebound in China over the next two or three months is remote as 80% of people have been infected, a prominent government scientist.
Shanghai endured one of China’s most gruelling lockdowns, with residents confined to their homes for more than two months. China’s current wave of infections has been fueled by a lack of immunity in the population, most of which was not exposed to the coronavirus for years because of the country’s strict controls. In addition, many older adults never received a full course of vaccines or booster shots.
On the other hand, reports from rural areas indicate that these regions have suffered significant losses under the crush of the covid wave.
Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has said he is “concerned” about the virus situation in the Chinese countryside, state media reported, as millions of people head to rural hometowns ahead of upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations.
How much worse will the rural wave get? Government health officials have said the worst of the surge is behind the country. However, the numbers are narrating a completely bleak picture of the countryside situation.
Several first-hand accounts have suggested that there is a lack of important medicines in rural areas and there is no help coming from the government’s side. The overcrowded conditions of the hospitals experienced by the vulnerable rural society of China are juxtaposed to the government’s claim that the situation is improving.
Amidst such chaotic, gloomy circumstances and a rise in the death toll due to Covid-19, China has introduced a controversial Ice Burial technique, alleged Inconvenient Truths by Jennifer Zeng.
She also said, “This type of funeral has been run in Wuhan City on a trial basis. Corpses can be instantly frozen in liquid nitrogen at minus 196 degrees, and then turn into powder form. Much faster than cremation.”
When the allegations were confronted by a Twitter user that the article related to IceBurial technology was published in March 2022, Inconvenient Truths by Jennifer Zeng said that the video was made in Sep 2020.”Maybe this started in the first round of outbreaks already.”
The above incidents are just a handful of incidents which tell the grim reality of the total collapse of the top authority’s mandate. The sudden abandonment of the policy – along with the only data collecting method – and lack of preparedness have, however, caused significant public health consequences and public panic.
There is a severe paucity of bottom-up trust between the citizens and the state. This will undermine Xi’s political legitimacy in the long run. China has not learnt any lessons from the 2020 horror.
The government of China has shed their responsibilities and shown its incompetence by leaving people on their own, thus citizens are left only with disorder and utter mess created by the Chinese government.