Xi Surprisingly Lifted His ‘Zero COVID’ Policy. Now What’s Happening in China?

Part One of a Two Part Series

By Chenyuan Snider Published on January 4, 2023

For the past three years, Xi has implemented his draconian zero-COVID policy and refused to accept the widely adopted understanding that men and COVID can, and to some extent, must co-exist. 

In China, people were not allowed to leave their apartments unless they had a proof of a negative COVID test within the last 48 hours. Testing centers spread all over China like stars in the sky. Those who tested positive — along with their neighbors, sometimes even all the residents in the apartment complex — were forced to move to one of the mobile quarantine centers.

Xi, like his predecessor Mao, believes that man is capable of conquering nature, and was determined to defeat COVID using his singular method so as to prove that communism as a system is more advantageous than the political structure in a free society. In other words, upholding his zero-COVID policy, he set out to demonstrate that totalitarianism is superior to self-government, and merits admiration and aspiration.

However, the outcome did not turn out as Xi had anticipated. After three years of rigorous lockdowns at the expense of huge economic loss and human suffering, COVID refuses to leave China.

The People Rise Up, Xi Reacts

On Nov 26, in reaction to the tragic Wulumuqi fire precipitated by Xi’s stringent policy, the “White Paper Movement” started and quickly spread in many cities. I wrote a piece for The Stream explaining the background surrounding the movement. It had been the first nationwide protest since Tiananmen Square in 1989, a direct confrontation to CCP’s tyrannical rule. 

The world was anxiously waiting to see Xi’s countermove. Will he crush the movement? Will he double down? Will he relinquish? Judging from the history of Marxist regimes, I knew that concession would be the least likely prospect.

Yet, to everyone’s astonishment, on Dec. 7, Xi abruptly ended his zero-COVID policy, making an uncharacteristic U-turn. For many like me, it looked and felt remarkably suspicious, especially considering that, during the Communist Party Congress in October — a few short months ago — Xi reemphasized his zero-COVID approach with the resolution that there could be no deviating from it despite catastrophic economic consequences.

Oddly, immediately after the lockdown was lifted, inexplicable phenomena took place one after another. Even though quarantine centers were removed, shops opened, and public transportation was back and running without requiring scanning of health codes, there were very few people on the street. Cities in China over night became ghost towns. As if after three years of being tossed around, the real lockdown had just started.

Many speculated that the austere treatment by the government during the last three years had cast a Stockholm Syndrome spell over the entire Chinese population. For three years, Chinese officials had drilled the message into their minds that COVID was a vicious killer. Yet, unexpectedly the official message changed capriciously, saying that COVID was just like a cold and urging people to get back to normal. Obviously, under such circumstances, Chinese could not mentally accept this long-waited liberation but preferred going back to the old obsequious lifestyle.

COVID Cases Skyrocket

However, this hypothesis soon proved to be mistaken after more shocking information surfaced. Within days, the COVID caseload shot up exponentially. An unprecedented COVID pandemic was sweeping through China like a tsunami with unparalleled speed and force, turning every city into Wuhan in 2020. 

As always, the CCP refuses to cooperate with the outside world and spares no effort in preventing the world from getting the real information. We can only glean facts through social media, which has shown an unsurpassed number of COVID cases and deaths in China. In every city, hospitals and funeral homes are near collapse, struggling to meet the demand.

As of a week ago, the number of daily cremations in Beijing is five times the normal count. The number now could be much higher. Even so, the dead have to wait one to two weeks to be cremated. There were online reports that ovens at many crematoriums quit working because the extended burning hours has exhausted the system. Now, instead of building mobile quarantine centers, many cities are constructing makeshift crematoriums. Many photos are circulating online showing numerous dead bodies left on the floors of morgues.

This crisis has created opportunities for some to make big money out of the dead. A person who has the right connection is able to serve as a middle person getting enormous amounts of money to help the relatives of the deceased jump to the front of the queue. However, most Chinese do not have the financial means to cut to the front of the line. Some had to burn their loved one themselves after all attempts failed. 

This turns out to be the real reason why once noisy cities have been reduced to ghost towns. For the first time in three years, an entire population voluntarily choose to stay home. Many are sick and those who haven’t been also have their hearts in their mouths, fearing getting it. One person depicted the situation strikingly, “Those tested positive have physical problems. Those tested negative have psychological problems, 70% fear + 30% anticipation = 100% mental illness.” 

However, the government maintains that the current outbreak is still the Omicron variant with a negligible death rate of 2-3 persons per day nationwide. Such a shameless lie contradicts what people witness on a daily basis. 

This is Not Omicron

In reality, the infection rate and death rate from the current variant significantly surpass that of Omicron. One Chinese commented online that in her company every person among the 400 employees became positive, and other companies she knew had a similar situation. Within two weeks, several districts in Beijing reached 100% positive. In a remote village that had not been affected much by COVID, 90% of villagers became positive within two weeks of restrictions being lifting.

Some shared statistics on social media to demonstrate that what has been happening in China is clearly not Omicron. For example, in America, when Omicron first emerged at the end of 2021, within 20 days (Dec. 27, 2021 – Jan. 17, 2022), there were 11,300,000 people infected. In China, from Dec. 1 – Dec. 20, 2022, there were 248,000,000 people infected. After taking into consideration the population density, the current infection rate in China is 5.5 times the Omicron rate in America. 

In India, the peak day of Omicron infection occurred on Jan 25, 2022. On that day there were 330,000 people infected. On Dec. 20, 2022, there were 37,000,000 Chinese infected. After allowing for different deductions, the Chinese daily infection number is 90 times higher than that of India. Little wonder many insist that the current variant in China is not Omicron.

Spreading Differently

In addition, the course of transmission of the existing variant in China does not reflect the usual channel of how the disease is spread. It did not occur from a center and then disperse to other places. Rather, it simultaneously appeared all over China. One couple escaped to a remote mountain village hoping to elude the virus, only to find themselves caught by it nonetheless. One Chinese shared online that his relatives at different locations farther apart became positive on the same day.

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Besides an abnormally high infection rate and bizarre transmission pattern, the symptoms also cause grave concern. Several brave medical professionals revealed that they had found manifestations in the current variant corresponding to the original Wuhan variant. Among them, the most alarming symptom is the so-called “white lung” which refers to the white image in lung x-rays indicating an advanced infection level of the lung. Usually, Omicron does not invade the lung. Thus, the image in x-rays suggests a more lethal variant than Omicron. This attack on the lung explains why, aside from seniors, many young and middle-aged people also have perished.

Unanswered questions surrounding this outbreak remain. Why did Xi choose the worst time, the winter season, to loosen the restrictions? And why did he execute the new order so abruptly?

Further, after realizing that the domestically produced vaccines were not effective, Xi began negotiating the price with the U.S. for purchasing their mRNA vaccines. However, when the U.S. offered China the vaccines free of charge after learning of the new crisis in China, Xi refused. Regardless of whether the U.S. vaccines are effective or not, if Xi had shown interest in getting them when China had a less severe plight, why did he turn down the best offer when the country was experiencing an unprecedented pandemic catastrophe?

In Part II I will attempt to explore Xi’s real motive for abandoning his firmly held policy and how this might affect our life here in the U.S.


Chenyuan Snider was raised in Communist China and majored in Chinese language and literature in college. After immigrating to the U.S. and having studied at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and Duke Divinity School, she became a professor and taught at Christian colleges and seminary. After March of this year, she sensed God was leading her to use her unique voice to provide a warning about various kinds of Marxist influences in our society. She lives in northern California with her husband and has two grown children.

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