October 26, 2022 10:11 am
Many Chinese were hoping that on the occasion of the twentieth congress of the Communist Party, the leader Xi Jinping would announce a relaxation of the rules for the fight against covid-19. But it was not so. On the contrary, the pandemic was liquidated in a single sentence in the introductory report of the secretary general, and this despite the fact that the lives of tens of millions of Chinese have been turned upside down by the often inhumane pursuit of the “zero covid” goal.
In full congress, the topic broke into social networks with the case of a 16-year-old girl who died in a quarantine center in Henan province. The family was connected on video and had to witness the young woman’s breathing difficulties and convulsions.
The girl had tried in vain to contact the quarantine center and also the mayor of the city to communicate her status: no one came to help her, until she died. The family released the video with heartbreaking images of this lonely ordeal, with a comment calling for “justice”. According to The Guardian newspaper, the video was shared hundreds of thousands of times despite censorship.
The Chinese government has clung to a strategy that has worked in the past, but which has been defeated by the omicron variant. The result is that in the province of Henan, where 100 million people live, a few dozen cases have resulted in the isolation of entire cities.
The lockdown to which the 25 million inhabitants of Shanghai were subjected in the spring had sparked the anger of the population: some did not have enough food and the obsessive and sometimes brutal application of the rules had exceeded the limit. On the eve of the 20th congress, a lone protester planted a flag on a busy bridge in Beijing with a slogan calling for an end to isolation. The man was arrested, but his exceptional gesture caused a sensation. Nonetheless, Xi Jinping remained unyielding. In his report, the leader spoke of “positive and important results”.
The reason for this choice is linked to the weakness of Chinese vaccines compared to omicron and Beijing’s refusal to accept US ones.
Asian countries have one after another abandoned the zero-covid policy and opened their borders, like South Korea or Taiwan. But not China, which remains blocked and imposes isolation on millions of people at the slightest case of positivity.
The reason for this choice is linked to the weakness of Chinese vaccines compared to omicron and Beijing’s refusal to accept US ones. According to the information in our possession, some Chinese companies have even started negotiations with US pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines in China, but they have met with a veto imposed by their government. American vaccines are not talked about.
This is because covid-19 has become a political issue: Donald Trump spoke of a “Chinese virus” at the beginning of the pandemic, while later Beijing boasted of its achievements where more than a million people have died in the United States. Staying on course has become a goal for Xi, who absolutely does not want to risk a deadly surge in infections.
The zero covid strategy is also one of the causes of the economic slowdown recorded this year by China, but Xi was unable to disavow his line in front of the party congress, the same that crowned him for the third time. The girl who died in Henan province is a collateral victim of a system that was pragmatic in the past, but which has succumbed to the dictates of ideology.
(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)