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Covid Protests Spread in China | Quick Take | GZERO Media

COVID protests spread in China

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: My goodness, speaking of kicking off your week, all across China, demonstrations of the sort that we have certainly not seen under Xi Jinping rule about COVID, about zero COVID, and the loss of liberties that Chinese citizens have faced, but also increasingly moving towards demands for free speech and open media, and even Xi Jinping's removal, certainly unprecedented in this country in the last decade. Xi now, of course, on his third term, having removed term limits, consolidated extraordinary power, but some people really aren't happy about it.

What's going on here? Well, first of all, the proximate cause, the spark that set this all off was an apartment building fire in Xinjiang, where the firefighters were not able to adequately respond because of COVID quarantine measures. So, they couldn't get hoses to actually fight the fire because they weren't allowed in, they didn't have the keys, it was locked down. And as a consequence, a lot of Chinese citizens died. That led to demonstrations all over the country, ostensibly in solidarity with this incredibly poor mistake on the part of local Chinese leaders in Xinjiang, but also really increasingly frustrated with the fact that zero COVID in China has been an incredible disruption to daily life for hundreds of millions of Chinese.

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People gather for a vigil and hold white sheets of paper to protest COVID restrictions in Beijing, China.

REUTERS/Thomas Peter

What We're Watching: China losing on zero-COVID, "winning" in Taiwan

Chinese people vs. zero-COVID

Unprecedented protests against Xi Jinping and his controversial zero-COVID policy have hit the streets and college campuses across China. On Saturday, demonstrators in the financial hub of Shanghai, the country’s largest city, waved blank sheets of paper to show defiance and demanded the unthinkable: that the all-powerful Xi step down. Similar scenes were seen from Beijing to Nanjing.

Such widespread protests are extremely rare in tightly controlled China, especially against Xi. But zero-COVID, despite recent tweaks, has not only affected everyday life and the economy — it may also have been the cause of a recent fire that killed 10 people in Urumqi, the capital of the northwestern Xinjiang region. While the tragedy may have sparked the latest round of protests, for months snap lockdowns have been triggering clashes between residents and officials in other cities. China’s low vaccination rate, ineffective homegrown vaccines, and the high elderly population support Beijing’s insistence on zero-COVID. However, the policy isn’t working anymore, with case numbers now hitting record highs. Xi just got a third term as Communist Party boss, putting him on the path to likely rule as long as he wants. Will the recent protests — which so far have been met with strong police action — force him to rethink the policy, or double down on it?

On Monday, some big cities responded to the unrest by (slightly) relaxing COVID curbs. However, Beijing and Shanghai stepped up security in protest areas and national state media clarified that zero-COVID is here to stay.

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Brazil's outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro votes during the election runoff in Rio de Janeiro.

Bruna Prado/Pool via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Bolsonaro’s next move, China’s forever zero-COVID, Iran’s public trials

What’s Bolsonaro gonna do?

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro will speak publicly on Tuesday for the first time about the presidential election, which he officially lost on Sunday to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by just under two points. Unlike in some other countries — ahem — Brazil’s unified electronic system counts all the votes at once, on the day of the election, and that’s that. But the right-wing Bolsonaro has spent months casting doubt on the credibility of that system itself, repeatedly hinting that he might not accept the result if he loses. Meanwhile, his supporters have cried foul at heavy-handed efforts by courts and electoral authorities to police fake news in the run-up to the vote. Truckers who support him have already blocked roads in 20 of Brazil’s 26 states. Some analysts fear a January 6 insurrection or worse, given Bolsonaro’s cozy ties to the military. Does he really think he can overturn the result? Probably not. Is he crazy enough to try a coup? Doubtful (really). But can he create an awful lot of chaos as a way of bolstering his political capital ahead of his upcoming role as leader of a powerful opposition that now controls congress? Surely. The results are in, but the streets are waiting: your move, Jair.

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US President Joe Biden

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Hard Numbers: Biden’s pardon powers, Beijing learns from Shanghai, Japan unveils relief package, Russia’s “anti-gay” machoism

3: Using his executive clemency powers for the first time, President Joe Biden on Tuesday pardoned three people and shortened scores of other sentences. The most high-profile person to get clemency was Abraham W. Bolden, the first Black Secret Service agent to serve in a presidential detail. He was found guilty of bribery charges but has maintained his innocence. The other two pardonees were incarcerated for drug-related offenses.

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Annie Gugliotta & Jess Frampton

Hard Numbers: Fenced-off Shanghai, Tigrayan soldiers seek asylum, Saudi royals sell assets, overtaxed Argentine farmers

6: After partly relaxing its COVID-19 lockdown last week, Shanghai is now erecting metal barriers to keep people indoors in high-risk districts. Frustration among residents is mounting, as seen in a six-minute video about the lockdown’s impact that's gone viral on Chinese social media despite censors' attempts to block it.

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Volunteers in protective suits prepare to disinfect a residential compound in Shanghai.

REUTERS

That April night, they died in Shanghai

Since Shanghai's 26 million residents started a grueling lockdown on March 28, I have been checking social media more often. On April 13, I opened Weibo, aka China’s Twitter, and browsed to see what was happening in Shanghai, and I came across a piece of news that was going viral.

A Chinese health official named Wenxiong Qian had killed himself in his office.

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China's Unanticipated COVID Problem | GZERO World

China's big problem isn’t Ukraine — it’s COVID

Everyone's talking a lot about China these days, mostly related to China's problematic position on Russia's war in Ukraine.

But China's big problem is at home with COVID, according to Melinda Liu, Beijing bureau chief for Newsweek.

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China Isn't Budging on Zero-COVID | Quick Take | GZERO Media

China isn't budging on zero-COVID

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody, Ian Bremmer here. And yes, we are seven weeks into the war, but we also have real problems in containing COVID in China.

In the United States and the rest of the developed world, everyone's saying, "We're done with COVID. We don't want to wear masks anymore. We want to get our lives back." But in China, the zero-COVID policy means that they've got still major lockdowns. In particular, in Shanghai, the largest city in China, which is now entering a second week of lockdown. And record numbers of cases in Shanghai, nothing close to the numbers of cases you were seeing in the United States or in Europe, but in China -- where very few people have gotten COVID, and so there's no natural immunity, vaccines don't work very well and the hospitals would get overwhelmed very quickly if they were just going to let COVID rip -- understandable that they are extremely nervous about these small numbers and as a consequence, they're locking down the entire city.

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