The number of China’s Covid-19 cases has hit a one-month high, sparking a fresh round of lockdowns aimed at controlling the outbreaks ahead of the Party Congress which is slated to start on 16 Oct (‘China’s Covid Cases Hit One-Month High as Holiday Spots Flare‘, 6 Oct 2022).
China reported 1,138 new local infections for Wednesday (5 Oct 2022), the highest since 9 Sep last month. Many cities and counties are under lockdown. Shanghai, no longer under lockdown, is seeing cases resurfacing. On Wednesday, it reported 11 cases.
Chinese state media praises President Xi Jinping
The flare ups are challenging authorities’ efforts to curb Covid’s spread ahead of the Party Congress. President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a precedent-breaking third term in power, after he effected a change in the country’s constitution earlier.
Covid Zero has been a cornerstone of Xi’s leadership. It has been touted by the state media that Covid Zero saves lives, even as social and economic costs are mounting in the country and disregarding how countries around the world have accepted Covid as part of their day to day life.
As the Party Congress meetings approach, Chinese state media and officials have drummed up various praises for Xi ahead of his imminent re-election. The party’s official People’s Daily this week started a new series of columns to boost support for Xi. On Sunday (2 Oct 2022), the newspaper praised “Xi Jinping Thought on diplomacy” as contributing “Chinese wisdom and solutions to solving major global problems”.
“China in the new era adheres to the path of peaceful development. It is determined to embark on a development path with Chinese characteristics, abandoning the traditional Western thinking that powerful countries become hegemon,” it said.
However, Associate Professor Li Mingjiang from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore noted that under Xi’s leadership, there have been “significant setbacks” in China’s foreign relations, particularly the dramatic deterioration in its ties with the US and other Western countries. Beijing’s close ties with Russia and failure to condemn its invasion of Ukraine have also left it in an awkward position.
China defended its position with the Vice-Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu saying at a press conference last week, “We use our actions to tell the world that the era where China is trampled upon by others is long gone – no force can stop China’s development and progress.”
Chinese citizens describe Covid propaganda as “nonsense”
“We have won the great battle against Covid!”“History will remember those who contributed!”“Extinguish every outbreak!”
Thousands of state and social media outlets have echoed Xi’s “Zero Covid” policy and praised the sacrifice of workers trying to control the pandemic. The Chinese government has relied heavily on propaganda to justify its increasingly long lockdowns and burdensome PCR testing requirements. The barrage of messages — online and on television, loudspeakers and social platforms — has become so overbearing that some citizens say it has drowned out their frustrations, downplayed the reality of the country’s tough coronavirus rules and, occasionally, bordered on the absurd.
Ms Kong Lingwanyu, a marketing intern in Shanghai, was upset that officials used the phrase “unless necessary” when describing restrictions around things like leaving the home, dining out or gathering with others.
One time, a local official responsible for carrying out coronavirus policies had told her that she should not “buy unnecessary food”. She got angry and retorted, “Who are you to decide the ‘necessity’ for others? It’s totally absurd and nonsense.”
Another Shanghai resident, Yang Xiao, said, “With the Covid control, propaganda and state power expanded and occupied all aspects of our life… Our life was dictated and disciplined by propaganda and state power.”
When people tried to run away from quarantine buildings during an earthquake in Sichuan Province this year, officials were caught on camera blocking them from seeking safety. Videos of the episode were posted online and quickly deleted by censors, who said people should “at least bring masks before escaping from buildings,” even when an earthquake is “highly destructive.” The message was ridiculed by netizens online.