Widespread protests against the Chinese government’s “zero-Covid” restrictions may have rocked the country over the weekend, but data shows anger has been building for months.
A deadly fire in the western region of Xinjiang sparked the latest protests, a tragedy that protesters say was made worse by the restrictions. Data from Freedom House, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that tracks political freedom, shows that nearly two-thirds of The 34 regions of China they have had at least one zero-Covid demonstration this year.
Protests also broke out in June, just after Shanghai’s financial hub completed a grueling two-month lockdown, and in September and October.
China’s zero covid strategy aims to isolate individual cases and cut chains of transmission through a combination of quarantine, contact tracing, mass testing and strict lockdowns. This strategy makes it an outlier among the world’s major economies. According to a Oxford University Government Response TrackerChina’s lockdowns have been maintained at initial pandemic levels, while the US and the remaining G7 nations have relaxed their measures.
The Chinese government says its tough anti-Covid measures have saved lives, noting an official death toll of 5,233 as of November 28, compared with more than 1 million in the United States. China’s population-adjusted death rate is much lower than that of the G-7 nations.
The lockdowns are having a huge impact on the Chinese economy, the second largest in the world after the United States. Data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics shows that retail sales fell sharply in April and May after the Shanghai lockdown and decreased again in October.