Li Hua, 50, worked for months at a Covid testing kiosk in Shanghai. But since the end of the “zero Covid” policy, announced by Beijing on December 7, she found herself unemployed overnight. The company that ran these stands where thousands of Chinese came to be tested daily decided to fire most of its employees. “Worse, testified Li Hua to the Bloomberg agency, we have not been paid since last November, we are desperate! »
Li and his colleagues are like millions of Chinese across the country who have zealously enforced this policy — sometimes resorting to physical violence — and found themselves jobless and penniless. Including those men and women in full suits nicknamed the “tall whites” in charge of surveillance, tracking and confinement of positive cases. This abrupt shift in policy direction bankrupted hundreds of companies that had profited from the boom in demand for state-contracted testing.
In a factory in the big city of Chongqing (southwest) which manufactured tests, equipment and antigenic kits, workers demonstrated violently last week to protest against the massive layoffs of which they were victims. Footage circulating on social media showed angry mobs destroying machinery and hurling projectiles at police. Like the violent demonstrations by workers in the iPhone factories of the Taiwanese company Foxconn in Henan province last November. If large firms are strong enough to change their productions, hundreds of other, smaller ones have already gone out of business.
This anger illustrates the unpreparedness of this exit from the zero Covid policy by the regime led by Xi Jinping. “The Communist Party is a victim of its own purely ideological logic”, assures an official from the rich province of Zhejiang who was infected three weeks ago and who wishes to remain anonymous. “However, I do not think that Xi’s power is threatened, he adds, even if a large part of public opinion is in shock. »
There is no structured political opposition and “the old leaders likely to challenge Xi are either dead (Jiang Zemin, in November 2022, editor’s note) or sick (Hu Jintao, editor’s note). He therefore has nothing to fear for the moment. However, demonstrations by workers or employees are increasing all over the country. Youth unemployment is very high and small businesses have suffered enormously. For this well-placed official, “if the economy does not recover very quickly in 2023, mistrust and protests will come from below. It could be very violent.” And the weapon of containment used to suppress revolts can no longer be used.
Leave a Reply