After the ongoing protests in the country, China has apparently changed its opinion on its own corona policy overnight. This shows not only how successful protest can be, but also that Xi Jinping’s authority is not as secure as thought.

According to the country’s top virologist, Wu Zunyou, China is in the first of three winter waves of the corona pandemic. After violent protests against China’s ruler Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy two weeks ago, the authoritarian leadership has lifted many of the months-long measures that people perceived as unreasonable patronage. Nevertheless, the streets of large metropolises were swept empty at the weekend as people try to avoid infection by self-isolating at home.

The Communist Party and the propaganda organs at its disposal changed their stance on the pandemic due to the overnight demonstrations. Factually correct, they are now communicating that the total isolation of the population, as enforced by Xi Jinping, does not help against the omicron variant of the corona virus.

Publicly available data suggests that the move away from zero-Covid was not so much due to a change of heart triggered by the protesters as to an exponential increase in the spread of the omicron variant, which the authorities have already identified.

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 at Oxford University 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.

One consequence of moving away from zero-Covid is that millions and millions of Chinese are no longer tested every day, and therefore there are no real figures on the spread of the disease. While it’s true that the Omicron variant can be less lethal, only if the population is vaccinated and boosted. This is not the case in the People’s Republic.

Since the government did not communicate clearly in favor of vaccination at the beginning of the pandemic, older people in particular did not have themselves sufficiently immunized. Beijing has now announced that it wants to catch up quickly and has announced a vaccination program for older people until the end of January. However, it remains questionable whether the expected deaths can be stopped by then if omicron continues to spread among people.

And even if risk groups such as older people should now be vaccinated, their protection is still not guaranteed because the People’s Republic does not have any effective vaccines in stock. One of Xi Jinping’s ultra-nationalist rhetoric and policies is to reject vaccines from abroad. According to the propaganda, the world needs masks and medical equipment from China, but the People’s Republic does not need foreign countries.

Xi’s declared goal is to make countries all over the world politically and economically dependent on the People’s Republic and docile. The magazine “Foreign Affairs” cites a new study according to which China has tried to force countries to their knees economically and to accept political beliefs from Beijing in 123 cases since 2010.

In the last few days, Chinese who could afford it have been immunized with an mRNA vaccine on the island of Macao, which belongs to China. As long as the leadership in Beijing does not use such vaccines across the board, it will not get the pandemic under control. And that will also mean that the protests will return. The leadership is still trying to find and punish those who took part in the demonstrations.

At the same time, the renunciation of Xi’s zero-Covid policy is a clear sign that Xi’s authority is under attack. Among other things, the demonstrators called for the resignation of the leader, who just approved a third term in October. This seizure of power was intended to demonstrate internally and externally that Xi can now rule for life if he so chooses.

The fact that there was a radical change of course within the leadership circles of the CP may be due to the fact that it was clear to many in the party that Xi’s ideology-driven policies would not work.

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

Local governments should both stimulate the economy and at the same time stop the spread of the virus, a squaring of the circle that was and is impossible to achieve. Xi Jinping himself is currently keeping a low profile. He has not yet commented on the end of the zero-Covid policy, which he has closely linked to his political skills as a “paramount leader”.

For the demonstrators in China, the 180-degree turnaround is a success. For the future, people know that if they take to the streets, their protest will lead to success, a certainty that ruler Xi would have liked to continue to withhold from them. In any case, Xi’s political future is no longer as certain as was assumed in October.