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Massive China lockdowns: Shanghai's relapse - and why the capital Beijing is doing better


Massive China lockdowns: Shanghai's relapse - and why the capital Beijing is doing better Created: 06/17/2022, 05:35 From: China.Table Shanghai: After lockdown is before lockdown. A week after opening, millions are again isolated at home. © HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP China's upside-down world: While Beijing, which is usually stricter, is already easing again, the lockdown in the actually more liberal

Massive China lockdowns: Shanghai's relapse - and why the capital Beijing is doing better

Created: 06/17/2022, 05:35

From: China.Table

Shanghai: After lockdown is before lockdown.

A week after opening, millions are again isolated at home.


China's upside-down world: While Beijing, which is usually stricter, is already easing again, the lockdown in the actually more liberal Shanghai never really seems to end.

An on-site report.

  • The normally stricter Beijing is doing a relaxed semi-lockdown, while the restrictions in Shanghai are continuing.

  • After a brief opening, two million people are being locked down again in Shanghai.

    Despite everything, people in Beijing are enjoying the early summer.

    Who knows what's next?

  • This article is 

    available to IPPEN.MEDIA

     as part of a cooperation with the 

    China.Table Professional Briefing -


     first published it 

     on June 13, 2022.

Beijing – Shanghai is suffering from a relapse: a good ten percent of the population of 25 million people are again in lockdown, the entire Minhang District.

At the same time, 15 million people were tested again over the weekend.

More test rounds will follow in the course of the coming week.

After the long-awaited opening was only a week ago, the resurgence of Covid-19 now comes as a small shock.

Shanghai's endless terror begs the question,

why the lockdowns in Beijing and Shanghai were so different.

Some suspected that this was Beijing's revenge for overly liberal Shanghai.

A way to expel even the last foreigners, others thought.

Others believed that Xi Jinping wanted a new cultural revolution.

Some even presumed that a war situation would be tested before an attack on Taiwan.

The most likely explanation is simpler.

Shanghai was still getting most of the flights from that infested omicron world out there.

At the same time, the Shanghai authorities were to remain silent at the behest of Beijing.

The Olympic Games and the National People's Congress took place in quick succession in the capital itself.

The management didn’t need bad news about the increasing number of infections.

At the same time, the city of Beijing itself meticulously observed compliance with the various systems and bubbles that prevented introduction.

The standstill course veiled the reality in Shanghai: Already in the second week of January there were the first Omikron carriers from abroad who traveled to Shanghai.

Some only became positive after more than 21 days and the end of their quarantine.

But the political motto was: keep the ball flat.

There was nothing more than small lockdowns.

After all: On January 18, the entry quarantine was extended from 14 to 21 days.

China: Too proud of zero-Covid policy

Otherwise, all of China should appear calm and stable ahead of the major Chinese New Year holidays in February and especially the Olympic Games, which actually went almost smoothly.

But weeks of politically ordered inactivity passed.

Only after March 11, the end of the National People's Congress, were measures taken in Shanghai because of the rising incidences.

The big lockdown came on March 17th - too late for Omikron.

Now local cadres in Shanghai overreacted to the other extreme, using methods reminiscent of the days of the Cultural Revolution.

A spiral of hardship: tens of thousands of people who tested positive but showed no symptoms were locked in exhibition halls, mothers were separated from their children, animals were killed.

Parts of the population did not have enough to eat at times.

Despite the draconian measures, it took two and a half months for Shanghai to reopen in early June.

An important reason for the late reaction in Shanghai: China was altogether too proud of its zero-Covid policy.

The leadership felt too safe.

Because in the previous two years, this strategy had enabled around 90 percent of the 1.4 billion Chinese to lead a normal life while the world was upside down.

The Zero Covid policy was originally born out of necessity.

China's healthcare system is still underdeveloped.

While there are around three intensive care beds for every 100,000 inhabitants in China, there are over 30 in Germany, for example. However, the zero-Covid policy was so successful that vaccination was not taken too seriously.

In particular, the elderly, who are skeptical about vaccinations, were left alone.

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Omicron too contagious for Shanghai's loose strategy

However, the leadership reckoned without Omicron.

The zero-Covid strategy does not apply to the highly contagious variant.

The Omikron development in Hong Kong revealed a new risk situation for the first time.

Since it became almost impossible to prevent infections, it was now a matter of preventing severe courses, especially in the elderly.

Here, however, the government was politically blank, with around 100 million old people who were insufficiently or not at all vaccinated to date.

And that just a few months before the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party, at which Xi Jinping is to be appointed head of state and party for the third time.

Shanghai's chaotic lockdown: closed road in former French concession on June 8, 2022 © HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP

In Shanghai, trust in politics has suffered from the chaotic lockdown.

For opponents of President Xi, this development is a glimmer of hope.

They never tire of pointing out the cracks and, if possible, enlarging them.

The dispute in the party is visible as rarely.

This has put Xi in a bind.

He cannot now admit that his zero-Covid policy is outdated.

That would look as if he would be forced to give in to his political opponents.

China's zero-Covid: the city of Beijing relies on the Shenzhen method

Xi at least had to prove that Shanghai is not the rule of his policy but an exception.

In Beijing, he therefore had the virus fought using the Shenzhen method, as in most cities in China.

It works if you react early, unlike in Shanghai: daily intensive testing in semi-lockdown to find the infection routes, and isolating individual blocks of flats or streets – in the case of people who have tested positive.

For most people in Beijing, this has meant in recent weeks:

One could move freely in the city, but not assemble.

Sports facilities and large parks were closed.

Work was done in the home office.

To the office - no problem.

The schools have switched to online.

The shopping malls were closed.

You could order anything in the restaurants, but you couldn't eat there.

Everywhere you had to plug in with your Covid app.

And every day for testing, although the queues were seldom as long as in Shanghai, with waiting times of four hours.

The Beijing rule was between two and 20 minutes.

The people of Beijing made the best of it.

People met for picnics on the outskirts of town, rode bicycles in the empty streets in clear air and glorious weather, went for a lot of walks and jogging.

Many stand-up boards have appeared on Beijing's rivers - almost a detox for the restless city dwellers.

The mood was queasy and relaxed, enjoying every day outside as if it were the last.

Is tomorrow Shanghai?

Only once was there panic buying for a few hours due to false rumors on social media.

Otherwise, the shops were normally filled and always open.

China: Back to economic normality

New business ideas have emerged, such as beer trucks that sell draft beer on-the-go or food that you can eat on the go.

Because you shouldn't gather.

Not even play soccer.

Some soccer fields have been fenced off with barbed wire.

But as soon as it was dark, the young people cut holes in the fence and played until they were chased away by the local public order office.

The boys, meanwhile, celebrated impromptu parties in small groups under echoing motorway bridges, with large boxes on grandma's old shopping trolley, which they pulled behind their e-scooter until the police drove them away.

On to the next bridge, further away from the center.

3rd ring road.

4th circle.

5th circle.

However, a changing minority also had bad luck in Beijing: a case in the neighborhood meant house arrest for a week.

There was already trouble there, and here too there was exaggeration and harassment.

Overall, however, the Beijing lockdown was balanced.

And the people of Beijing said: Shanghai, look at us!

This is how lockdown works.

Now the motto is: back to economic normality.

China can still turn the corner for the year as a whole.

The export figures from May give hope: 16.9 percent growth.

After just 3.9 percent in April.

These are the largest cities in China

View photo gallery

Meanwhile, the province of Jiangsu, which borders Shanghai, shortened the entry quarantine at the weekend: three days of hotel quarantine after landing in Shanghai, four days of hotel quarantine in Jiangsu, and seven days of quarantine at home.

Only two weeks – you can live with that.

But it was also a weekend of setbacks.

In both cities, the number of cases has recently increased again slightly.

After all, practically all cases in Beijing can be traced back to a single bar at the workers' stadium and are already in isolation.

Nevertheless, bars and clubs have been closed again in at least two districts, including the Chaoyang expatriate district.

Restaurants remain open.

But contrary to plan, the schools did not open their doors again on Monday.

By Frank Sieren

The China specialist and bestselling author 

Frank Sieren

 has lived in Beijing since 1994.

He has already worked as a correspondent for Wirtschaftswoche and Handelsblatt.

He has been writing for the 

China.Table Professional Briefing

since 2021 .

This article appeared on June 13, 2022 in the China.Table Professional Briefing newsletter - as part of a cooperation, it is now also available to the readers of the IPPEN.MEDIA portals.

China.Table Logo © China.Table Professional Briefing

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2022-06-17

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