For China’s ruler Xi, the protests currently taking place in some places against his zero-Covid policy are very dangerous. Because he has linked his political skills with it. And he fears nothing so much as a collapse like the one experienced by the Soviet Union.

China’s government strikes back. Not to be repeated are the videos of late-night demonstrations showing people shouting “freedom,” “China doesn’t need an emperor,” and “again with Xi!” Down with the party! chant, go around the world. The police are therefore blocking the streets in Shanghai and Beijing where the demonstrations have taken place in the past few days. But that’s not the only measure the powerful authorities have taken.

The BBC reports that police, probably using facial recognition, were able to identify individual protesters and then made representations to their homes. This form of intimidation is intended to discourage people from further participating in demonstrations.

In addition, the mobile phones of passers-by near the demonstration sites are apparently searched for photos and videos of the protests. Journalists are arrested to prevent them from reporting. Universities in Beijing and Guangdong province are suspending classes and sending students home. This is to prevent vigils and protests calling for the end of the Xi dictatorship and Communist Party rule from continuing. It can be assumed that the young people will face severe penalties if they continue to congregate on university campuses.

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. The PhD linguist and theologian is currently working on a project on “digital cosmopolitanism” at the Internet Institute of the University of Oxford and the Faculty of Philosophy at New York University.

Alexander Görlach was a Fellow and Visiting Scholar at Harvard University in the USA and Cambridge University in England. 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. He has recently published the following titles: “Red Alert: Why China’s Aggressive Foreign Policy in the Western Pacific Is Leading to a Global War” (Hoffmann

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 such as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and the New York Times. He lives in New York and Berlin.

With success: the protests did not take place in Shanghai and Beijing today. A demonstration in Hangzhou was quickly stopped by the police and participants arrested. Politicians around the world are concerned about the actions of the authorities. Federal President Frank Walter Steinmeier called for Beijing to respect freedom of expression. The White House and the US State Department emphasized that the right to demonstrate is a valuable asset anywhere in the world.

At the same time, US President Joe Biden is not the spokesman for all demonstrators around the world. The US is thus trying to walk a tightrope between criticism and a continuation of the cautious rapprochement between the two countries, which was only recently agreed between Xi and President Biden at the G20 summit in Bali.

The ruler Xi cleverly uses appeals from abroad for himself. He claims hostile foreign forces are trying to undermine China, which in turn justifies the authorities’ crackdown. In the meantime, blaming foreigners has become a standard Xi phrase, which the demonstrators also laugh at. The Guardian quotes a person who took part in the protests in Beijing as saying: “We cannot travel abroad, we cannot consume foreign media.

How are we supposed to be instigated from abroad.” Others are more serious: “The fire in Urumqi, that was foreign forces”, “The bus accident in Guizhou, is it caused by foreign forces?”. Ten people died in a fire in Urumqi and 27 people died in Guizhou when a quarantine bus was involved in an accident. The demonstrators complain that people lost their lives due to Covid measures and hold the CCP and Xi personally responsible.

Even if only a few thousand people took part in the protests across the country before the police intervened, the party leadership must be aware that parts of their strategies will no longer work in the future because people saw through them. At the same time, Xi Jinping has linked his political savvy to his “zero Covid” policy. The tough lockdowns, which currently affect around 400 million people, have been in place since February. If an infection is reported in a block of flats, it can mean up to 100 days of isolation, which means that people are not even allowed to leave their homes.

Red Alert: How China’s aggressive foreign policy in the Pacific is leading to a global war

Xi Jinping fears not so much as a repeat of what happened in the Soviet Union in 1989. His pre-pre-predecessor Deng Xiao-ping, who held power in China at the time, felt the same way. On June 4, 1989, he sent tanks and soldiers to Tiananmen Square in Beijing and massacred the peacefully demonstrating people there. Thousands are said to have died. There is no doubt that in 2022 the police will crack down and use violence. In any case, their massive contingent intimidates people, and the plan seems to be working for the time being.

Those who took part in the protests now fear for their health and lives. Xi does not forget and Xi does not forgive. The demonstrators must therefore continue to demonstrate in order to avoid the henchmen sent after them. Otherwise, their perspective is a life of fear. In any case, the demonstrators cannot expect the corona lockdowns to be relaxed. The government has not announced a change of course. The signs in China are currently pointing to violence.