The abrupt end of the zero-Covid policy overwhelms China: patients are piling up in hospitals, desperate people are besieging painkiller manufacturers. The absconded ruler Xi Jinping is coming under increasing pressure.

The Chinese healthcare system is on the verge of collapse. Just two weeks after the communist leadership lifted the ineffective zero-Covid rules, videos and photos from China show the catastrophic conditions in hospitals: people are lying side by side in the hospital rooms and are being ventilated. The older population in the People’s Republic in particular is not adequately protected. According to a recent study by the University of Hong Kong, the current wave could claim one million lives.

According to witness reports and the evaluation of air data, the crematoria in Beijing are in continuous operation. Other videos show a multitude of body bags in the corridors of hospitals. The state media, however, are silent on the disaster and announced on Monday that two people had died of Covid-19. Other sources speak of 2,700 deaths on Monday in Beijing alone. The Bloomberg portal reports that the police regulate the operation of the crematoria and control access to the buildings. And Forbes magazine calculates that 70,000 people with Covid could soon be admitted to hospitals every day.

Alexander Görlach is Honorary Professor of Ethics at Leuphana University in Lüneburg and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York. After stints in Taiwan and Hong Kong, he has focused on the rise of China and what it means for East Asian democracies in particular. From 2009 to 2015, Alexander Görlach was also the publisher and editor-in-chief of the debate magazine The European, which he founded. Today he is a columnist and author for various media. He lives in New York and Berlin.

Ruler Xi Jinping takes no responsibility and has disappeared from the scene. He had combined his political skill with his zero-Covid policy. However, that meant less immunization than locking up the population. 100 days in lockdown were not uncommon. In particular, the lockdown in the 26-million metropolis of Shanghai in the spring made headlines around the world.

A fire in the city of Uruqmi in the province of Xinjiang, in which ten people died on November 24 because the fire brigade was unable to enter the residential complex that was closed due to Corona, was the last straw: people rose up everywhere in the People’s Republic the streets, demanding the end of CCP rule and the resignation of Xi Jinping. They were the largest pro-democracy demonstrations in China since the summer of 1989. At that time, ruler Deng Xiao-ping massacred thousands of peaceful demonstrators on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

The reversal of the zero-Covid measures is a victory for the protesters and a defeat for Xi Jinping. In fact, the omicron variant of the virus currently sweeping China is less controllable than the communist leadership would have us believe. But as things are going in China at the moment, Beijing’s new approach is more reminiscent of the contagion approach that the Swedish and British governments envisaged during the pandemic. The New York Times sums it up like this: After almost three years of micromanagement, Xi Jinping is now leaving the populace to their own art of improvisation.

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People help each other as best they can: While a Covid infection was still considered a stigma until recently, people are now sharing their test results and infection status online. The streets of the big cities were deserted last weekend. Those who could afford it flew to Macau to be immunized with an mRNA vaccine. However, this vaccine, which also protects against omicron, is not available in the People’s Republic – not yet:

China will now buy vaccine from the hated free world to protect its own people, reports the New York Times. It is questionable whether they can be convinced of the change of course so quickly. In fact, lemons are currently scarce in the Middle Kingdom because people believe they can protect themselves from Covid by eating them. A while ago, such magical powers were attributed to peaches.

Those who believe in the effectiveness of drugs resort to drastic measures. A video shows a factory in the city of Zhuhai that produces ibuprofen, among other things. Since the painkiller is no longer available in stores, people besiege the building to get painkillers.

The global supply chains, which have already been severely affected in the past three years, are facing a new crucial test. Should the People’s Republic no longer be able to produce or export medicines due to the Covid tsunami, the rest of the world will feel the pain very quickly. In the past, magnesium, among other things, became scarce, which, among other things, the German heavy industry needed for metal production.

The country’s gross domestic product is expected to grow by just three percent this year, the worst figure in 50 years. The tourism industry, which has prepared for the opening of China, can write off a good, new 2023 financial year for the time being. The US State Department spokesman said the record breaking outbreak in the People’s Republic will impact the entire world.

And that doesn’t just mean the economy: Due to the insufficient vaccination protection in the Chinese population, the virus could mutate in the People’s Republic and, as in 2020, reach the whole world via travelers from China. The Chinese government has announced that it will vaccinate or boost at least the very old by the end of January in order to keep the number of deaths as low as possible. The virologists are arguing about whether this can still succeed.

However, people can clearly attribute the whole tragedy in China to one man: Xi Jinping. He had himself proclaimed president a third time in October and wanted to open the door to lifelong rule. It is currently more questionable than ever whether he will be able to hold out for the next five years as a “Paramount Leader” in view of the deaths for which his policy is responsible.