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Xi Jinping’s reputation in China and his standing in the world may not survive this Covid disaster | Isabel Hilton

Having forced draconian lockdowns on his people, China’s supreme leader is now expecting them to believe that the virus is no worse than a cold

In the chaos of China’s Covid exit wave, China’s supreme leader, Xi Jinping, has been curiously absent. His last public pronouncement on China’s “dynamic zero”-Covid policy was in his speech to the 20th party congress in October: “We have adhered to the supremacy of the people and the supremacy of life, adhered to dynamic zero-Covid,” he told delegates, “… and achieved major positive results in the overall prevention and control of the epidemic and economic and social development.” It was, he insisted, overwhelming evidence that the policy was correct and that the party cared deeply for the people.

Xi used his New Year Address yesterday to urge more effort and unity as the country enters a “new phase” in its approach to the pandemic. Until his remarks, the defence of his policy U-turn had been left to others. As distressing images of body bags stacked in hospital corridors, patients on intravenous drips by the roadside and hearses queueing outside crematoriums circulated on social media, hapless officials indignantly denied “rumours” of pandemic deaths, repeating claims that China managed the virus better than other countries, demonstrating the superiority of China’s political system, and insisting anyone who says otherwise is either an ill-intentioned foreigner, a traitor to the people or a paid provocateur. They insisted that the reversal was a rational, science-based and well-prepared decision or, as the nationalist mouthpiece Global Times put it last week: “The changing virus variant, accelerated mass vaccination and enhanced medical resources all laid out the foundation for a long planned and orderly Covid response adjustment.”

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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