China’s ruling communist party (CCP) recently announced it is doubling down on its “Zero Covid” strategy, wherein it is forcibly locking down and oppressing millions of Chinese citizens with the ostensible goal of completely stamping out the respiratory virus.
A little over a week ago, members of the CCP’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee held a meeting in which party leadership reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining the government’s current lockdown policies in major cities like Shanghai. According to a report from the China Media Project, a Chinese news watchdog, a readout of the meeting published in the state-run People’s Daily “is dominated by words like ‘persistence’ and ‘unshakeable’” to describe the party’s devotion to preventing new Covid cases in the nation.
“The resolve to ‘persist’ in the dynamic zero approach comes also with the message that dissent over the policy will not be tolerated,” the China Media Project report added. “The readout notes that the Party must ‘resolutely struggle against all distortions, doubts and denials of our epidemic prevention policy.’”
Since the CCP reinitiated its “Zero Covid” policy several months ago, millions of Chinese civilians have endured immense suffering. As noted by Federalist senior contributor Helen Raleigh, “[R]esidents have been locked inside their apartments like animals, and some even have metal barriers and fences outside their homes,” with “[o]ne foreigner in Shanghai [telling] the BBC, ‘No one can get out, and I feel helpless.’”
While speaking with The Federalist, President of the Population Research Institute Steven Mosher noted that the CCP’s brutal tactics are beginning to generate pockets of resistance among Chinese citizens, with “food riots breaking out in different cities … in response to the continued lockdowns.”
“Also, and far more worrisome to the CCP leadership, there have been worker riots in a number of factories,” he said. “This is in response to the party’s decision to reopen the factories, but confine the workers to its premises, meaning that they work 12-hour shifts, then are forced to eat and sleep on the factory premises in primitive conditions.”
While such rebellious acts may seem promising, Mosher added that the current pushback among Chinese citizens has not reached a level that threatens “the continued rule of the CCP.”
Dr. Elizabeth Larus, an academic scholar on Chinese affairs and the president of E. Larus Consulting LLC, expressed similar sentiments. While speaking with The Federalist, Larus said that “the Chinese people are limited in their ability to push back” against the government, with the state stifling “criticism of the ‘Zero Covid’ policy with censorship, threats, and arrests.”
“Many Chinese will not speak out because they do not want to damage their Social Credit Scores or be forced into quarantine or detention,” she said. “There is zero chance that there will be public demonstrations against the central government. If discontent escalates further, the central government will throw local government officials under the bus. The central government will blame local government officials for being overly zealous. This strategy protects the CCP leadership.”
Larus went on to predict that dictator Xi Jinping will not drop the government’s “Zero Covid” policies before the CCP’s upcoming National Party Congress this October, noting how Xi “has staked his reputation and his legacy on keeping Covid fatalities to a minimum.”
“Xi must keep Covid deaths low to demonstrate that China’s centralized system of government is superior to Western democracy,” she said. “There is no way that he will jeopardize that legacy by relaxing the ‘Zero Covid’ strategy.”
Xi is expected to secure a third term as leader of the CCP at the Party Congress this fall, marking an extremely rare occurrence in the party’s decades-long history.
Shawn Fleetwood is an intern at The Federalist and a graduate of the University of Mary Washington. He also serves as a state content writer for Convention of States Action and his work has been featured in numerous outlets, including RealClearPolitics, RealClearHealth, and Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnFleetwood