China’s early Covid-19 success created a perverse feedback loop

Extricating itself from the zero-Covid stance is fraught with peril, and the next few weeks will be critical as cities begin easing tough restrictions

China's approach to stamping out Covid-19 seemed to work at first, but the country had no exit ramp as more contagious variants hit. PHOTO: REUTERS
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China’s leaders are in a dangerous dilemma. Their obsession with eliminating the coronavirus has spared the country the pandemic death rates suffered by other major countries, but at a steep cost: severe social and economic pain that led last weekend to China’s biggest anti-government protests in decades.

The harsh zero-tolerance Covid-19 policy championed by President Xi Jinping is no longer sustainable, and he faces a difficult choice between easing up on Covid-19 restrictions, which could cause mass deaths, or clinging to an unpopular approach that is pushing Chinese society to a breaking point.

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