The CCP’s three-year “zero-COVID” policy recently changed dramatically, with French media reporting that it may be related to Xi Jinping’s recent foreign visit.

On December 12, a Le Monde reporter in Beijing, Frédéric Lemaître, pointed out that since January 2020, China’s fight against the pandemic has followed a three-step process: testing, tracing, and quarantine. Currently, almost no PCR testing is required and PCR test results are no longer required to use public transportation or enter public places. Tracing of traffic flows has also been aborted. Currently, only quarantine locations are being maintained but the centralized quarantine at field hospitals will eventually be removed. Infected patients should quarantine at home. Officials said that people are responsible for their own health.

Lemaître described Beijing as a ghost town over the weekend. According to various estimates, about 10% of Beijing’s 22 million residents have been infected with COVID- 19. The Solidarité COVID website, run by French experts abroad, says the infection rate is “nearly 13%.” Except for those who are infected, everyone else who has been in close contact should take care and stay at home. At the same time, businesses have begun to work remotely, and schools are also holding online classes. 

Information on the internet shows that the number of COVID-19 cases has spiked in many parts of the country, hospitals are overwhelmed, and fever-reducing drugs have been sold out.

Lemaître said that Beijing authorities remained steadfast in the current direction. They seem to have decided: allow the virus to spread and bet on herd immunity.

When talking about the reason for the CCP’s policy change, Lemaître said that observers are speculating quite a bit. They cite an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Beijing and Guangzhou despite a tightened lockdown, the worsening economic situation, and because people have suffered a lot of humanitarian disasters because of “zero-COVID” policy.

Before the CCP announced the relaxation of the “zero-COVID” policy, the “White Paper Movement” emerged in more than ten Chinese cities. This movement originated from the lockdown that caused more than 40 deaths in a fire in Urumqi. People in many places took to the streets in protest and students from hundreds of universities also gathered to protest, chanting slogans such as “Down with the CCP, Xi Jinping resign.” Protests also spread to many countries overseas. 

When Xi met EU officials visiting China in early December, he also acknowledged that the lockdown had caused great public discontent.

However, Lemaître also pointed out that, some observers believe the reason for the CCP’s change in policy does not exclude Xi, who went to Bali to attend the G-20 summit in the middle of November. He saw the rest of the world living with COVID-19. It is even possible that Xi was infected with COVID-19 from Hong Kong Chief Executive Li Jiachao. After the G-20 summit, Xi attended the APEC summit in Bangkok, Thailand, from November 18 to 19. During this time, he had many close contacts with Li and neither wearing masks. After Li returned to Hong Kong, he was positive for COVID-19.

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