By Nectar Gan, CNN
China’s top leader Xi Jinping has issued the starkest warning yet against anyone questioning the country’s zero Covid policyas strict and frequent shutdowns fuel public discontent and deal a devastating blow to China’s economy.
In a meeting chaired by Xi on Thursday, the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Supreme Standing Committee pledged to “unrelentingly adhere to the general policy of ‘dynamic zero-Covid’ and resolutely fight against all words and acts that distort, doubt or deny the life of our country”. epidemic prevention policies.
It is the first time that Xi, who according to state media gave a “significant speech” at the meeting, has made public remarks on China’s battle against Covid since public furor erupted over the severe lockdown in Shanghai.
“Our prevention and control strategy is determined by the nature and mission of the party, our policies can stand the test of history, our measures are scientific and effective,” the seven-member committee said, according to the report. government news agency Xinhua.
“We have won the battle to defend Wuhan, and we will definitely be able to win the battle to defend Shanghai,” he said.
The Standing Committee also demanded that cadres have a “deep, comprehensive and comprehensive understanding” of the policies set by the party’s central leadership.
“We must resolutely overcome the problems of inadequate awareness, inadequate preparation and insufficient work, and resolutely overcome contempt, indifference and complacency in our thinking,” he said.
For analysts who have long watched Chinese politics, the stark warning is a sign that there has been an internal pushback against Xi’s zero-Covid policy from within the party.
“This language should be read as direct criticism of unspecified local CCP leaders who have questioned policies at the center, or who have failed sufficiently to enforce them,” wrote David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project.
“And it’s hard not to hear in that sentence the condemnation of the ‘self-righteousness’ of the Shanghai leadership in particular,” Bandurski added.
Over the past five weeks, many Shanghai residents have caught on social media to call for help and express their anger at severe food shortages and lack of access to medical care. Some protested from their windowsbanging pans and screaming in frustration, others even clashed with police and health workers in the streets – a rare scene in a country where dissent is routinely suppressed.
The severe economic fallout has also raised concerns among economists and business executives, especially given Shanghai’s role as the country’s main financial center and a major manufacturing and shipping hub. In April, China’s service sector, which accounts for more than half of the country’s GDP and more than 40% of its jobs, contracted at the second fastest rate record high, while the manufacturing sector also contracted.
And as Omicron spreads to other parts of China, more local governments are imposing rapid shutdowns in response to just a handful of cases. In Beijing, where more than 500 cases have been reported since April 20, many fear of a Shanghai-style lockdown as authorities deploy more and more restrictions.
But the latest statement from the country’s top leaders made it clear that the Chinese government is doubling down on its approach of relying on rapid lockdowns, mass testing and quarantine to crush the highly transmissible variant of Omicron for the foreseeable future.
Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing, has said since April that the question of how the government should deal with the country’s worst outbreak since Wuhan has turned into a “path fight” within the party.
“Firstly, it’s a struggle over whether to choose ‘dynamic zero-Covid’ or a more flexible approach to tackling Covid; and secondly, it’s also a struggle over whether to do Covid control or economic growth the priority,” Wu said.
And with the latest statement, it’s clear that Xi has chosen the first of the two “struggles”, according to Wu.
Xi has put his personal stamp on China’s zero Covid strategy, with state media often reporting that he “personally commanded and arranged” for the country’s fight against the pandemic.
“In this sense, zero-Covid has become an indisputable and indisputable policy that is closely linked to its political authority – and therefore there will be no flexibility in its implementation,” Wu said.
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