China on edge as Shanghai closes businesses, quarantines close contacts

China on edge as Shanghai closes businesses, quarantines close contacts

Shanghai has imposed a new round of business closures and close-contact coronavirus quarantines as China reels from unprecedented protests against Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policies and censorship.

Confusion over the future of pandemic controls in the world’s most populous country has deepened after protesters took to the streets in at least 18 cities.

Police and security forces appeared to have stifled weekend protests as people sought a signal for a change in policy at a meeting of the State Council, China’s cabinet, on Tuesday.

In the markets, traders pushed stocks higher on Tuesday on hopes that authorities would change their response to the pandemic, following a sell-off earlier in the week that sent global markets lower.

The CSI 300 index of large and liquid stocks listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen rose 2.8%, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises index gained 4.8% as both gauges more than reversed losses from the day before.

Chinese state media had not reported on the recent protests, instead reiterating the benefits of Beijing’s zero-Covid policy. The People’s Daily, the country’s main state-sponsored newspaper, published a rallying editorial celebrating the Communist Party.

Online censors also worked overtime, deleting images and videos of the protests. Students on campuses across China held up blank sheets of paper during weekend protests, a symbol of their failure to voice their displeasure with government policies.

Chinese TV stations have limited close-ups of football fans without masks during World Cup broadcasts in Qatar. It followed an online backlash from domestic viewers questioning why China was continuing to implement lockdowns while the rest of the world was lifting restrictions.

State broadcaster CCTV zoomed in on players and officials after a goal was scored instead of close-ups of cheering fans.

A Beijing-based football fan surnamed Menzhu first noticed that CCTV cut fan broadcasts during the France vs Denmark match on Sunday.

“The show was very strange. There was no replay after the goals. At first I thought the broadcast technicians made a mistake, but then I realized that the live broadcast had avoided the fan footage.

Ahead of the State Council meeting, China remains frustrated with the zero Covid policy, which has restricted movement, required daily monitoring and sent 1.9 million people to quarantine facilities.

Officials in several cities – including Wuhan, the scene of one of the largest mass protests on Sunday – appeared to ease some local movement restrictions on Monday.

China’s case count remains low by nearly all international comparisons, but areas with at least partial lockdowns and travel restrictions have soared to more than 25% of China’s gross domestic product, analysis shows. of Nomura, the Japanese bank. This exceeds the previous peak of around 21% in April, when Shanghai was locked down.

While officials have resisted announcing citywide shutdowns in response to the record rise in cases, Ting Lu, Nomura’s chief China economist, argued that “shutdowns de facto China could be harsher than de jure shutdowns.” Indeed, local officials believe their performance is determined by avoiding a sharp rise in the number of cases.

“Although Shanghai-style full lockdowns can be avoided, partial lockdowns in a growing number of cities can be more costly than full lockdowns in just a few cities,” he said.

“The rapid increase in public dissatisfaction with the closures over the past weekend could further cloud the road to reopening.”

The severity of the economic damage is also reflected in data on intra-city mobility – a short-term measure of economic dynamics – with subway passenger journeys in 15 major Chinese cities down 41% from the previous year. previous year, rising by 24% over one year. -year drop a week earlier.

The country of 1.4 billion people reported 37,477 new cases of the locally transmitted virus on Tuesday, down slightly from the record high of 38,808 reported the previous day.

The highest concentrations of new cases were in the country’s southwestern city of Chongqing, which reported nearly 9,000 cases, and in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong province, which recorded more than 8,000 new cases. Infections have continued to rise in the capital Beijing, which has recorded more than 4,000 cases.

Additional reporting by William Langley in Hong Kong

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