- Despite food shortages, protests, riots and even a municipal announcement on Monday reportedly easing restrictions in certain districts of Shanghai, on the whole, the city still appears poised to uphold Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy and maintain its extended lockdown which began on April 5.
- The Chinese Communist Party — and potentially even Xi Jinping himself — may suffer political blowback for their handling of the crisis in Shanghai, according to Gordon G. Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” who spoke to the Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday.
- Laszlo Montgomery, founder of Teacup Media and host of “The China History Podcast,” conversely told the DCNF it is likely too soon to know how the ongoing lockdown in Shanghai might impact Xi Jinping’s political prospects.
Shanghai’s ongoing lockdown poses an existential threat to Xi Jinping’s continued tenure, according to at least one leading expert on China who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Because [Xi] is considered to be the author of the zero-COVID policy, he can’t deviate from it, even though it’s not working out,” Gordon G. Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” told the DCNF Tuesday. “If he deviates from [zero-COVID], that’s an admission of a mistake, which his political opponents will use. So, China is locked into an approach which doesn’t work.”
Shanghai’s city-wide lockdown and its subsequent food shortages emerge at a critical moment for Xi, who stands to be re-elected for an unprecedented third term at the 20th Party Congress at an unspecified date later this year.
Xi’s signature zero-COVID approach is now taking flak as the 29 million inhabitants of China’s financial hub have reportedly begun to lose faith in its efficacy and that of the party, according to a report from Bloomberg.
“I now realize we can only rely on ourselves,” said a resident of Shanghai in the report.
“In Shanghai you have a number of problems,” said Chang, noting the workers on lock down. “One of them is you just don’t have people who can distribute food.”
“Everyone is shouting,” the man filming a now viral video says. “Damn.”
Residents in #Shanghai screaming from high rise apartments after 7 straight days of the city lockdown. The narrator worries that there will be major problems. (in Shanghainese dialect—he predicts people can’t hold out much longer—he implies tragedy).pic.twitter.com/jsQt6IdQNh
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) April 10, 2022
Some residents have even resorted to looting.
On one occasion, a mob of residents descended upon an unspecified supermarket in Shanghai and looted food and other supplies, according to an April 10 report from The Sun.
“People in Shanghai are starving,” said Chang. “And it’s not just food, it’s daily necessities, it’s medicine.”
The government’s handling of Shanghai’s lockdown, as well as Xi’s rigid commitment to the zero-COVID policy, has prompted speculation as to whether his political future is in jeopardy.
While it remains unclear if aspiring Chinese politicians might seek to use the crisis in Shanghai to delegitimize Xi, throughout the course of his 9 year rule the dictator has reportedly consolidated power by-means-of relentless purges targeting his perceived political opponents.
Xi’s actions, which are viewed by some as seeking to secure a third presidential term, have effectively arrested the political advancement of the Chinese Communist Party’s so-called 6th Generation Leadership, which roughly refers to those born in the 1960s, the BBC reported.
At the same time, Xi has targeted China’s most wealthy individuals, such as Alibaba’s Jack Ma, who went missing for three months after criticizing China’s financial system, according to the BBC.
“I’d say, way too early to tell right now,” said Laszlo Montgomery, founder of Teacup Media and host of “The China History Podcast,” when asked about whether or not the government’s handling of Shanghai’s outbreak would jeopardize Xi’s future political prospects. “After Putin’s victory or defeat in Ukraine and after the final results are in about the recent handling of COVID in China, only then can anyone say whether Xi Jinping is in hot water politically.”
“Other than China taking a drubbing in the West reputation-wise, I dare not predict where this is all heading, both for Xi Jinping and China,” Montgomery said. “Whatever the outcome, I hope it unexpectedly leads in the direction of better relations with the U.S.”
Yet Chang told the DCNF he thought the crisis in Shanghai would, at the very least, negatively impact the party.
“I think the party is being damaged by this and it’s not going to fail upward,” said Chang. “[Xi] knows that any admission of mistake is something that he will pay for, so he can’t do that. That’s why I believe they’re continuing on with a manifestly unworkable program.”
“The party can survive this unless enough people get out into the streets, because then people have hope,” said Chang. “Desperation, that’s when these types of regimes fail.”
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