With mutations making it more infectious, but less deadly, with effective vaccines, better health management and selective measures (like mask mandates in public transport or care homes), fewer people are dying from Covid now.

But China is still practicing its "zero-Covid" policy, which restricts the economic development of China and severely limits personal freedom of thousands to millions of people during each lockdown period. Not to speak of the immense costs of constant PCR testing. This policy is being protested against by many people in China itself currently.

Instead, China could use Western effective vaccines or use less severe, more selective measures to keep its economy on a growth path and keep its people from protesting.

Are there any reasonable political reasons for why China is persevering in this? Stopping Covid entirely seems like huge amounts of pain for very little actual gain.

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    It is a push question, but not necessarily so much about China primarily as about covid management in general. The original version had an image that said "if we used 100% of our brain we'd see covid restrictions kill". Or something to that effect. Nov 29, 2022 at 19:52
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    Good question. I'm asking that myself. Nov 29, 2022 at 21:53
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    @Trilarion the question has a massive -7 baggage. It's just going to get more pile-on. And, much as I don't think much of the original formulation, this is essentially hijacking the Q from the OP and twisting their intent. Rebuilding a Q from scratch is not something we should do lightly. I'd say let bygones be bygones. You should ask a separate Q - no one is gonna claim this to be a dupe (I think). Nov 29, 2022 at 23:34
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    if we used 100% of our brain, we'd realize that if China is willing to lose billions of dollars to fight COVID, maybe they know something about COVID that we do not. Nov 30, 2022 at 13:56
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    @user253751 You mean nobody ever made really stupid mistakes in the whole history of mankind and never lost billions of dollars or caused otherwise huge havoc? Well, then yes, your idea is the only possible explanation. Nov 30, 2022 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


Zero-COVID is a key policy of Xi Jinping. He is using it as a signature of his administration. Xi's prestige is strongly tied to the success of the policy. It had to be enforced until after the All Party Congress. Now that it is confirmed as policy, any sudden reversal would be seen as Xi admitting he was wrong. Chances are good he would be out of office quite rapidly.

Further, it is quite obvious that the political authorities enjoy having the power that goes with the policy. For example, nearly all Chinese citizens, particularly in large cities, have QR codes on their phones. The local authorities can turn those codes red with a click of a button. When your QR code is red you are required to stay home until it turns green. You can't shop for food, get on the subway, enter most office buildings, etc., without a green QR code. The same app maps the location of the phone 24/7, thus making it possible to know who was at any given location at any given time. Persons involved in activity the authorities don't like get their QR codes turned red.

Things like complaining about being locked down for 100 days. Or complaining that the fire doors on an apartment building being welded shut. Or complaining about the lockdown being much more harshly enforced on Shanghai, an area where Xi Jinping's political rivals have their strongest support.

Power corrupts. The power over QR code corrupts digitally.

At this point, lockdowns are manifestly not helping with COVID. The Omicron variant is nearly as contagious as measles. An infected person walks through a room. Then, 10 minutes later, somebody else walks through, and gets infected. No measure that could be performed by the public will stop the spread.

Another aspect of the current situation is momentum of cooperation. Local authorities want to be ostentatiously seen to be helpful to the regime. This is a pattern at least as old as the Cultural Revolution. (Though, to be fair, it is present in stories of various emperors, for many centuries, both in and outside China. And, to be fair on that, yes it does compare Xi Jinping to the excesses of historical tyrants.) Thus, they are zealous in their own support and following of the lockdown, and in recruiting assistance. And in taking actions that support the policy and push compliance, with little or no thought to whether they actually achieve anything with regard to slowing COVID.

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