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China Slowly Backing Away from Harsh COVID-19 Rules

After weeks of COVID-19 lockdowns, residents of the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou returned to work. Within the region, some residents were no longer required to take regular COVID tests. More recently, a senior health official played down the severity of current variants, an unusual move for the Chinese government.

Moreover, these latest developments suggest that the ruling government may be slowly backing down on popular COVID restrictions amid ongoing protests that have become a challenge to Beijing.

China Protests

Protesters started rioting in multiple cities over the weekend, sparked by the country’s strict lockdowns. Beijing responded with security measures including rounding up protesters and deterring others from taking part in these protests.

The party now seems to be willing to address the cause of the public anger: severe pandemic controls that have hindered economic growth and left millions trapped in their homes for long periods of time and sparked violent clashes.

The Communist Party have yet to acknowledge the demonstrations against the lockdowns, but they have warned that authorities would crack down on actions that would disrupt social order.

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COVID-19 Policy Reversal Could Undermine Xi Jinping’s Authority

China has begun lifting COVID-19 restrictions, allowing people to return to work.

It’s unclear if any of these changes are being led by China’s leader Xi Jinping, who has been the enforcer of the country’s “zero COVID” policy.

Xi has staked the party’s legitimacy on handling the virus better than other countries, especially those in the West, and any possible reversal of policy could undermine his authority. Sun Chunlan is the vice premier overseeing China’s pandemic efforts and has acknowledged this week the dangers the variants posed were easing.

Moreover, Sun was at the National Health Commission symposium saying the country entered a new phase in its campaign against COVID and that the public’s sense of health has increased. Some residents returned to work for the first time in a month, while others took in the simple pleasure of dining in a restaurant.

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