CORRESPONDENT IN BEIJING
The Covid-zero policy that keeps China subjected to the virus and isolated from the rest of the world could already have a first estimated duration: five more years. It was revealed this morning by Cai Qi, secretary of the communist party in Beijing, reporting on the preventive measures put in place in the capital. His announcement has gone viral and censorship has immediately gone into action, removing the reference from all official media.
Cai’s intervention, on the occasion of the opening of the XIII Municipal Congress of the Communist Party, began with the following assertion. «Over the next five years, Beijing will make unremitting efforts to normalize epidemic prevention and control.».
The first four sinograms, “weilai wunian”, which established the period of five years have disappeared without a trace of all the available versions. Not so the long list of initiatives detailed below.
This political event is part of the administrative preparation for the 20th Party Congress, held every five years and which will take place in the coming months, so its working documents use this time perspective on a recurring basis. Many sections follow a unitary structure from the same initial sentence, so it is possible that what happened responds to a mistake. Also to an accidental revelation. Be that as it may, the authorities have not yet offered any clarification, which has caused great concern among the country’s population.
Cai’s statements come to indicate that China will not adopt a model of coexistence with the virusunlike the rest of the world. Based on this premise, recovering pre-pandemic normality seems more than distant, impossible. His words, however, refer to prevention measures at the local level. Some of them could remain in force, such as the periodic and massive testing of citizenswithout the isolation from the outside being almost absolute as it has been up to now.
But, above all, the secretary does not hold a high position in the hierarchical order of the Party; his job is to provide municipal protocols always subject to the dictates of the leadership of the apparatus. In the short term, a change of course seems unlikely. The regime has turned its pandemic management as a source of legitimacy for its political model, as opposed to Western democracies.
His bet, however, becomes more costly with each outbreak in the face of the emergence of new, more contagious variants and begins to attack prosperity, a nuclear element of the Chinese social contract. Administrative lapse or not, China is in a critical moment that recalls some of the darkest episodes of its modern history. The pursuit of a new utopia, before any other issue, will mark the future of a country that has already become a global power and, therefore, that of the world as well.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism