China’s leader, Xi Jinping, waved at crowds of giddily cheering students. He held meetings with Olympic Games officials, economic policymakers and European leaders. He toured a tropical island.
But there was a revealing gap in Mr. Xi’s busy itinerary last month, exposing the predicament that Covid is creating in a politically crucial year when he hopes to extend his hold on power. He stayed behind the scenes when it came to China’s biggest, most contentious lockdown since the pandemic began.
Throughout April, Mr. Xi gave no public speeches focused on outbreaks in China as its biggest city, Shanghai, shut down to try to stifle infections, and then Beijing went on alert after a burst of cases. Nor did Mr. Xi directly address the 25 million residents of Shanghai who have been ordered to stay at home for weeks, despite their complaints of scarce food, overwhelmed hospitals and confusing zigzags in mass quarantine rules.
“He wants to deliberately keep a certain distance in from Shanghai,” said Deng Yuwen, a former editor of a Communist Party newspaper who now lives in the United States. “No doubt, he’s doing a lot about fighting the pandemic behind the scenes, but of course he does not want to be directly drawn into the mess in Shanghai.”
Just as the Chinese government initially censored doctors who warned of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, allowing the virus to go global, so Beijing now says that criticizing Covid policy "amounts to disloyalty" to Xi Jinping — a recipe for more disaster. https://t.co/nw9evVSZpN
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) May 1, 2022