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Passengers at a Shanghai railway station during the travel rush ahead of Lunar New Year, January 16, 2023. Aly Song/Reuters

When I was a little boy in rural China, one of my happiest moments was seeing my dad getting off the ship from Shanghai, carrying the load of goods he had purchased for the Lunar New Year – also known as the Spring Festival.

At that time, my dad worked for a tailor factory in suburban Shanghai, and only returned home when the Lunar New Year was around the corner.

This, after all, is the most important festival in China, with roughly 4,000 years of history.

For hundreds of millions of migrant workers across China, the 2023 Lunar New Year – happening on January 22 – will be a particularly special celebration.…  Seguir leyendo »

People at a Covid-19 testing booth in Shanghai, China, 20 December 2022. Photograph: Alex Plavevski/EPA

Over the past weeks, Beijing has become the first city to go through the infection peak, and life and work are returning to normal in the capital. The Covid-19 situation in China is generally stable and controllable, and people are making plans to work, study and travel.

That’s why the Chinese government has announced that, starting from 8 January, Covid-19 will be managed with measures against Class B instead of the more serious Class A infectious diseases in accordance with the law. There will also be new cross-border travel rules. For visitors to China, no Covid test will be mandatory upon arrival and no centralised quarantine will be required if someone tests positive while in the country.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Shanghai, Wondering What It Was All For

For nearly three years, leaving my apartment involved a routine not unlike an aircraft pilot’s before takeoff. Mask: check. Anti-viral hand sanitizer: Check. Green code on my smartphone reflecting latest negative Covid test: Check. Courage to actually go outside and risk getting ensnared in an abrupt lockdown somewhere: Check.

And then, suddenly, China’s cumbersome “zero Covid” system and alarmist propaganda was gone. Almost overnight, a government that had only recently pledged to “unwaveringly stick” to its no-tolerance approach has swung to the other extreme, spinning the roulette wheel of public health and letting the virus rage among an anxious and utterly confused population.…  Seguir leyendo »

Xi Jinping’s Covid Crisis Is Really an Opportunity

The public discontent vented in bold demonstrations last month against China’s Covid containment policies represents the greatest domestic crisis President Xi Jinping has faced in his decade in power. His government quickly smothered the protests. It would be tempting to view things now as a slow-burn stalemate between a restless population and an unyielding authoritarian government. But the Communist Party’s relationship with the Chinese people is more complex than that.

As abruptly as it cracked down on the demonstrators, Mr. Xi’s government essentially yielded to their main demand, pivoting away from its unpopular “zero Covid” strategy in a striking display of responsiveness.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the weeks since Chinese authorities suppressed the anti-lockdown protests that began on November 25th, the “zero-covid” policy has been turned on its head. Under the pretext of following the democratic will, Chinese authorities have lurched from excessive caution to a hands-off approach.

Beijing is already experiencing a major outbreak. The rest of China is probably close behind and will face a massive wave in January. But because the government reversed its longstanding policy without a roadmap to reopening, undervaccinated elderly citizens have not been given enough time to get a booster shot. The result is likely to be more than a million deaths over the next few months– hundreds of thousands of them preventable.…  Seguir leyendo »

Xi Jinping cede un poco. Pero no lo suficiente

Xi Jinping puede ser el autócrata más poderoso del mundo, pero esta semana tuvo que hacer maniobras para satisfacer las demandas de los chinos de a pie, hartos de su fallida estrategia de “cero covid”.

Una multitud de gente común —“los viejos cien apellidos”, como se dice en la jerga china—, salieron a las calles para expresar su frustración con los confinamientos represivos por la covid y, de manera implícita, con la represión general en el país. Muchos manifestantes alzaron hojas de papel en blanco, que significa que no podían decir lo que querían decir.

Xi, sin embargo, interpretó esas hojas en blanco.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un trabajador sanitario en un barrio de Shanghái en confinamiento. The New York Times

Los líderes de China están ante un dilema peligroso. Su obsesión por eliminar el coronavirus ha evitado que el país tenga las tasas pandémicas de mortalidad sufridas por otros países grandes, pero a un costo muy alto: el grave daño social y económico que condujo el pasado fin de semana a las protestas más grandes contra el gobierno en varias décadas.

La severa política de tolerancia cero contra la covid impulsada por el presidente Xi Jinping ya no es sostenible, y este se enfrenta a la difícil disyuntiva entre suavizar las restricciones, lo que podría provocar muertes en masa, y mantener un enfoque impopular que está llevando a la sociedad China al límite.…  Seguir leyendo »

¿Por qué tantos niños están o estarán enfermos este invierno?

Antes de la pandemia de COVID-19, además de las vacunas, se hacía muy poco para combatir las infecciones respiratorias virales estacionales que circulan entre la población en general en un año cualquiera, como los virus de la influenza, los coronavirus y los rinovirus, entre otros.

Durante los primeros dos años de la pandemia, la mayoría de las personas tuvieron un descanso de otros virus como la influenza y el virus sincitial respiratorio, también conocido como VSR. Muchas personas pasaron dos años sin enfermarse, tal vez por primera vez en su vida y algo bastante inusual en el caso de los niños.…  Seguir leyendo »

A quarantine worker in a neighborhood in Shanghai under lockdown. The New York Times

China’s leaders are in a dangerous dilemma. Their obsession with eliminating the coronavirus has spared the country the pandemic death rates suffered by other major countries, but at a steep cost: severe social and economic pain that led last weekend to China’s biggest anti-government protests in decades.

The harsh zero-tolerance Covid policy championed by President Xi Jinping is no longer sustainable, and he faces a difficult choice between easing up on Covid restrictions, which could cause mass deaths, or clinging to an unpopular approach that is pushing Chinese society to a breaking point.

The government, apparently spooked by the rare demonstrations that took place in several cities, may be losing its resolve.…  Seguir leyendo »

The centralisation of political power in China allows the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to tightly control society. In the past week demonstrations over President Xi Jinping’s “zero-covid” policy in cities across the country, involving people from a variety of backgrounds, came as a surprise. That is probably because citizens rarely protest against government measures in this way; simultaneous national resistance to them is less common even than in other autocratic states, such as Russia. The party learned tough lessons in Tiananmen Square in 1989. It has since meticulously designed a system that can pre-empt major protests before they occur.

One part of the system relies on technology.…  Seguir leyendo »

The sudden eruption of anti-lockdown protests across China in the past week caught its leaders—and the world—by surprise. The first demonstrations took place in Xinjiang and Shanghai and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has crushed countless mass protests in the past with ruthless efficiency, scrambled to respond.

Chinese authorities have now adopted a mixed approach to curb the demonstrations. It combines an increased police presence and intimidation of protesters with promises of more refined implementation of the government’s “zero-covid” policy—which remains unchanged. Whatever the immediate outcomes of the protests, which now appear to be over, they will probably influence policy for the remainder of President Xi Jinping’s time in power.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters in Beijing hold up white pieces of paper during a demonstration against China's zero-Covid measures on November 27. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

It transforms the most powerful man in the country into a teddy bear.

It adds to the calendar the imaginary date of May 35 to invoke a people’s uprising that government censors seek to erase from memory.

It mobilizes the public to expose sexual predators with the unlikely affirmation, “Rice Bunny!”

We refer, of course, to a quality as widespread among China’s people as it is absent among its leaders – comic ingenuity.

May 35 stands in for “June 4”, Chinese shorthand for the 1989 massacre commonly known in English as “Tiananmen”, and a phrase the People’s Republic of China censors have tried to scrub from the internet.…  Seguir leyendo »

China Has an Extraordinary Covid-19 Dilemma

More than one-sixth of the people on the planet live in China. That’s 1.4 billion people who have spent the last three years in the world’s most intrusive pandemic surveillance state, designed to limit the spread of Covid-19 at almost any cost.

Americans, particularly on the right, have spent an awful lot of time and political energy complaining about pandemic overreach for the last two years. But our restrictions had nothing on China’s. In the United States, many statewide stay-at-home orders lasted just a few weeks. None exceeded three months, and most were only sporadically enforced. As protests erupted across China last month, one-third of the country was in partial or total lockdown — workers stuck in quarantine facilities, neighborhoods sealed, businesses and schools closed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Xi Broke the Social Contract That Helped China Prosper

The protests in China against the government’s draconian Covid controls have been compared to those in 1989, when students demonstrated for political reforms and democracy. The 1989 pro-democracy movement occurred in the most liberal, tolerant and enlightening period in the history of the People’s Republic of China, and the regime opened fire in Tiananmen Square — after the ouster of the liberal leader, Zhao Ziyang — because it had run out of every other control tool in its possession. This is called the Tocqueville paradox: An autocracy is most vulnerable when it is least autocratic.

But a closer analogy is April 5, 1976.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chinese students protesting the repressive Covid policies. Jerome Favre/EPA, via Shutterstock

The scenes in China in recent days have been electrifying.

Last weekend, in several cities across the country, from cosmopolitan Shanghai to far-western Xinjiang, ordinary people took to the streets to denounce the government’s stifling Covid-19 suppression policy and in some cases call for democracy and freedom of speech.

The sudden release of nearly three years of pent-up frustration over the excessive Covid measures — which have disrupted lives, separated families and crippled the economy — is the largest anti-government outburst since the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square. Again, the odds are against the protesters. The Chinese Communist Party, which completely controls the country, has moved quickly to suppress it.…  Seguir leyendo »

¿Cómo fue que China perdió la guerra contra la covid?

¿Recuerdas cuando la covid iba a instaurar a China como la potencia dominante del mundo? Todavía a mediados de 2021, mi bandeja del correo estaba llena de alusiones a que el aparente éxito de China en contener el coronavirus mostraba la superioridad del sistema chino respecto al de las sociedades occidentales que, como dijo un analista, “no tenían la capacidad de organizar con rapidez a todos los ciudadanos en torno a un objetivo particular”.

En este momento, sin embargo, China se tambalea mientras otros países están regresando, más o menos, a la vida normal. El país continúa con su política de cero covid, imponiendo restricciones draconianas en las actividades cotidianas cada vez que surgen casos nuevos.…  Seguir leyendo »

People line up last week for Covid-19 screening in a market enclosed by a temporary wall in Guangzhou, China. Julien Tan/FeatureChina/AP

In the lead-up to China’s Communist Party Congress last month, watercooler chatter in many offices here focused on a single question: Will the Congress abandon its zero-Covid policy?

It didn’t take long for an answer. In his opening speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed the nation’s commitment to zero-Covid — a stance made all the more inviolable since securing his unprecedented third term.

I can confirm that zero-Covid is alive and well. In the weeks since Xi’s speech, I’ve had dozens of nucleic acid tests, canceled a domestic work trip and seen multiple colleagues hauled off to quarantine hotels or locked down at home.…  Seguir leyendo »

La pandemia solo va a terminar si más personas se ponen el refuerzo

El Buen Samaritano, un ministerio episcopal de Texas, presta sus servicios a la comunidad en el lado este de Austin, el más pobre de la ciudad, dividida por la Interestatal 35. Allí hay menos servicios públicos, y muchos barrios no tienen un centro de salud. La población se compone principalmente de personas de color y la lengua materna de muchas de ellas es el español. Es un tipo de población con bajas tasas de vacunación contra la COVID-19.

Sin embargo, El Buen Samaritano ha podido demostrar que, dentro de lo que cabe en Austin, el problema no es el temor a la vacuna en sí.…  Seguir leyendo »

La próxima pandemia llegará. Y no estamos preparados

Vamos casi por el tercer año de pandemia de COVID-19, una crisis sanitaria tan larga, disruptiva y mortífera que debería haber transformado la preparación de Estados Unidos de cara a la próxima emergencia de salud pública. Lamentablemente, no lo ha hecho.

Decimos esto como miembros del consejo asesor del presidente Joe Biden para la covid durante las semanas que precedieron a su toma de posesión. Desde entonces hemos hecho un seguimiento de la respuesta de la salud pública a la pandemia y también hemos participado en ella. Y estamos profundamente consternados por lo que se ha dejado sin hacer.

Han surgido mejoras, por supuesto.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hay buenas noticias sobre los refuerzos de las vacunas contra la covid

Por primera vez, Estados Unidos está lanzando vacunas contra la COVID-19 actualizadas para las variantes que predominan en este momento, así como para la cepa original. Esta bivalencia no solo permitirá responder mejor a las variantes más amenazadoras que existen hoy, sino probablemente también a las futuras, porque, cuando el sistema inmune se enfrenta a distintas versiones del mismo virus, genera unas protecciones generales más amplias.

Esto es una gran noticia, y aún hay más. No solo las dosis de refuerzo de las nuevas vacunas disminuirán la probabilidad de contagios y enfermedades graves, además de ayudar a mitigar la transmisión del virus: también podría reducir la probabilidad de la covid prolongada.…  Seguir leyendo »