Do COVID Protests in China Pose a Threat to Xi Jinping?


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Anger over China’s “Zero-COVID” policy erupted in protests this week. It’s a startling and nearly unheard-of challenge to President Xi’s power, a short time after he secured a third term in office. The anger over Zero COVID is unique, the staff writer Jiayang Fan tells the host Tyler Foggatt, because it has united disparate groups across China that transcend class and geography. But Fan cautions about concluding this moment is the start of a revolution: “These political wobbles are something that the Communist Party is accustomed to, to a certain degree, despite trying to prevent it at all costs.” A clampdown seems to be already under way.

The protests also arrive at a delicate moment in U.S.-China relations. Tensions over trade and Taiwan have flared. The Biden Administration has even criticized China’s Zero-COVID restrictions and lockdowns. “I can see Beijing using Biden’s words as a piece of evidence that the protests in China are not organic but somehow seeded by hostile foreign agents,” Fan says. “Even though clearly not many foreigners are getting into China these days.”

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