Xi Jinping, the undisputed Chinese leader, determines everything from health to economic to foreign policy, for the good of the nation, of course. Most recently, he cemented his position of power at the 20th CPC National Congress, campaigned for international recognition at the G-20 summit in Indonesia and the APEC summit in Thailand. But then calls for his resignation rang out on the streets of Shanghai.

The trigger: Xi’s strict zero-Covid policy. Millions of people in China have been caged like pets and driven to the brink of insanity for just a single positive Covid case reported.

After three years of pandemic and repeated lockdowns, this policy, which is supposed to protect the population, is just absurd.

China does not need the zero Covid strategy. Since the appearance of the Omicron variant, it is no longer possible at all. However, the country’s propaganda apparatus wants to show the West that its authoritarian system is better able to master the great challenges of the pandemic and covers up everything that goes wrong – at the expense of civil rights.

Xi himself played an inglorious role in this. The people of billions watched on TV how Xi does not wear a mask on his foreign visit.

Meanwhile, millions of football fans in China will not see full stadiums at the World Cup in Qatar as state television retouches the live images. A blatant eyewash.

The first month of Xi’s third term, which broke with the party’s unwritten rules, did not start as planned. The “White Papers” demonstrations are certainly not a harbinger of an end to the Communist Party’s rule. Even with the month-long student protests of 1989, they are not – yet – comparable.

But the predominantly young demonstrators, students, employees and workers, are just getting to know the regime’s uncompromising approach to protests and how to deal with them. They use the VPN tunnel software for free Internet access to the outside world, they arrange spontaneous demonstrations unnoticed via social networks.

A game of cat and mouse with the surveillance state. The clever protesters quoted President Xi as saying at the Korean War commemoration event in October 2020: “The people of China are well organized. They don’t just let themselves be stepped on.”

China’s government has now signaled that it will deviate from the strict zero-Covid strategy. Covid diseases could therefore be classified as a flu infection. The German vaccine manufacturer BioNTech also has prospects of being approved in China after an initial blockade by Beijing.

That would be an exit scenario for Xi from his previous Covid policy. But under no circumstances will he admit to making mistakes. Rather, a move away from the zero-Covid strategy would be sold as the latest example of Xi’s wisdom.

And he will enjoy to the fullest how overzealous the local officials are in demonstrating their loyalty to him. He doesn’t seem to care about the suffering of the people affected.

About the author: Dr. Junhua Zhang, born in Shanghai in 1958, is a German political scientist of Chinese descent. He earned his doctorate in philosophy in Frankfurt am Main. Zhang is currently a visiting professor at the Ecole Universitaire de Management in France.

The text was adapted and shortened from the Chinese.

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The original of this post “Xi’s power is no longer untouchable” comes from Deutsche Welle.