China’s zero Covid-19 policy is becoming a heavy burden for some local governments
- Local authorities are using every tool available to them to meet Beijing’s zero Covid-19 targets
- But it is becoming increasingly clear some smaller jurisdictions are struggling to keep up
It is a tense moment for local government officials in China, especially those in border areas.
Their political future is at the mercy of a virus that can travel swiftly through different jurisdictions and may be impossible to eradicate.
As a result, local authorities have a duty to “defend the land” and prevent any outbreaks from spreading beyond their area of control.
Chinese mainland reports 23 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases
Under such heavy pressure from the top, local governments have been forced to maximise every tool available to them to restrict people as soon as a case is reported. In certain regions, sometimes this has led to novel or harsh approaches.
Yanshan county, in Jiangxi province, ordered all its traffic lights turned red so vehicles could not move around. It only relaxed the rule after the directive went viral on the Chinese internet.
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For sure, these are only tiny spots on China’s economic landscape. Taking a national view, the inconveniences imposed on areas with Covid-19 outbreaks may be worth it, as they buy time and space for other parts of the country to remain open.
However, Shanghai and Shenzhen are exceptions in China, as most of the population live in smaller cities.
Though these latest outbreaks will eventually be suppressed like the ones that have gone before, it is also increasingly clear the costs of maintaining a zero tolerance approach to Covid-19 is being felt more keenly at local levels.