Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 571, 1 December 2022

China: Sudden rise in COVID-19 cases leads to sporadic protests
Avishka Ashok

In the news

On 24 November, Apple’s Taiwanese supplier Foxconn apologized for a technical error in the hiring process that caused industrial unrest in the Zhengzhou plant. The workers complained of overdue pay, forced cohabitation with COVID-19-positive colleagues, inadequate quality of meals, and other frustrations caused by the COVID-19 lockdown.

On 25 November, Chinese citizens in Urumqi protested against the COVID-19 lockdown which had continued for more than 100 days. It followed the death of 10 residents in an apartment fire in the city. The protests spread across cities in China in a span of one week. Protestors in Shanghai held a vigil for the residents who lost their lives in Urumqi.

On 29 November, the protests in Guangzhou escalated as the people clashed with the riot police, opposed the government’s zero-COVID policy, and demanded President Xi Jinping step down.

Overseas Chinese nationals in Sydney, Toronto, Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York, and Massachusetts also protested against the lockdowns in China, calling for an end to the censorship in the country. Protestors within and outside China are using blank white placards as a symbol of dissent, expressing their inability to communicate their discontent.

On 29 November, the US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns remarked that the protests should not be suppressed as the people held the right to protest peacefully. The US Freedom House’s China Dissent Monitor estimated 27 protests while Australian think-tank ASPI calculated 43 protests across 22 cities in China this past week.

The Strait Times reported that the state had begun using force to quell the protests; videos of the police escorting handcuffed protestors to an unknown location and using tear gas to disperse the crowds were circulated on Chinese social media. The police also used surveillance tools, facial recognition, location tracking, and QR code scans to track protestors and confront them about their participation.

The incessant and rising unrest also led the government to ease the COVID-19 regulations. On 29 November, authorities in Guangzhou and Chongqing agreed to allow the first contacts of COVID-19 patients to quarantine at home. In Zhengzhou, the authorities announced the slow and cautious reopening of businesses, supermarkets, gyms, and restaurants. Most cities have now discontinued the requirement of PCR reports to access public spaces. On 30 November, Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, in charge of the COVID-19 policies, attended the National Health Commission meeting with health experts and hinted at easing the pandemic regulations. Her statements mark the first public acknowledgement by a Chinese official that the virus is no longer as severe. The meeting also stressed increasing the number of the vaccinated older adult population in China to 90 per cent . However, despite Sun’s comments, the CPC’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission promised to crack down on “the infiltration and sabotage activities of hostile forces” and explained the country’s intolerance towards “illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order.”

Issues at large

First, China’s zero-COVID policy. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, China was one of the few countries to have quickly controlled the increasing numbers of cases within the mainland. In August 2021, while cases were rising uncontrollably in Italy, the US, Spain, India, and other countries across the world, China fared comparatively better because of its strict policies and lockdown measures. Although authoritarian in nature, the officials in China successfully restricted the spread of infections and ensuant deaths. China depended on high-tech tools such as facial recognition, location tracking, surveillance measures, COVID-19 apps, and payment apps to track and prevent the movement of people. With the introduction of the zero-COVID policy, the Chinese government further fortified its control over the daily lives of the common man in China; preventing people from commuting to work, reopening businesses, restricting movement by blocking their travel cards and passes, and more.

Second, economic losses and slowdown. The zero-COVID policy resulted in financial losses, not just to the individual, but also to the state. Even though the Chinese economy marked growth when other countries remained stagnant or dropped lower, the rate of growth was extremely slow and significantly lower than the expectations of the Chinese government. In 2019, the GDP grew by 6.2 per cent, whereas in 2020, the GDP marked a growth of 2.3 per cent. Although the economy fared well in 2021, the growth rate dipped again in 2022 to 3.9 per cent. The government introduced several measures to strengthen the economy such as increasing liquidity, resuming businesses, restaurants, and public spaces, restarting the tourism industry, and boosting industrial output. However, many businesses shut down during the harsh zero-COVID policies. Many foreign companies also moved out as they were unable to keep up the productivity. The regulations also enable the government to blame the pandemic for suppressing protests and dissent within the country.

Third, the growing intensity of the protests in 2022. The recent protests are not the only time Chinese citizens have expressed their discontent against the CPC and President Xi Jinping. Over the past three years, the strict policies and economic issues have strained the people’s trust in the government. The Chinese people have been expressing their dissatisfaction with the government since the beginning of the pandemic. However, the protests in 2022 have been visibly more intense with the authorities being unable to control them. In March 2022, Shanghai residents protested against the long lockdown and food insecurity. In May, students at Peking University in Beijing protested against the restrictions on movement within the campus. In June and July, people protested in Zhengzhou after they were unable to withdraw money from their bank accounts. Protestors accused the authorities of using the health crisis to prevent them from accessing the city’s public transport and spaces. In October, Tibetans protested against the lockdown which had lasted for more than three months. Prior to the 20th Party Congress, protestors sporadically left banners criticizing the CPC’s policies, calling for an end to the lockdown and demanding Xi to step down.

Fourth, the efficacy of the Chinese vaccines. The sudden surge in COVID-19 cases raises questions about the efficiency of the Chinese vaccines and the vaccination drive in the country. On 23 November, the International Monetary Fund reviewed China’s economic policies and recommended boosting the vaccination drive to sustain economic productivity and growth in 2022. Towards the end of 2020, Sinopharm was the only Chinese company to have publicized the research from its phase II and phase III trials. The lack of full transparency further raised questions about the efficacy and safety of the Chinese vaccinations. Another worrying factor is China’s vaccination drive which has left millions of people vulnerable. The older adults in the country are at a higher risk as only 60 per cent have received three doses, and only 40 per cent of those over 80 years have received a minimum of three doses.

Fifth, comparisons with the Tiananmen protests. Analysts from Western countries have been connecting the events of the past weeks to the patterns observed before the Tiananmen crackdown of protests in China in 1989. Before the government violently suppressed the protests in 1989, a similar series of social upheavals shook China. The unrest was caused by poor economic conditions, increased corruption in Chinese politics, and the lack of transparency. The death of former Party Secretary Hu Yaobang in 1989 further pushed the people to gather and demonstrate against the government. Political analysts have been connecting former President Jiang Zemin’s death to the sudden explosion of protests across China.

In perspective

For the first time in three years, the protests have continued for more than two days. The authorities have been unable to control the crowds demonstrating against the policies of the government. The Chinese government, however, is extremely capable of suppressing the protests using force. Given the short span of social movements in China, the week-long protests have been a surprising turn of events.

The reach of the social movement is unclear as most sources only mention the names of major cities such as Beijing, Nanjing, Zhengzhou, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Urumqi. It is unknown if the anti-government, anti-Xi Jinping, and anti-zero-COVID policy protests are spread across the country. There is a possibility that the uprisings are limited to cities with large populations that have been subjected to strict lockdown guidelines for a long period of time.

Nonetheless, it is unlikely for the CPC to tolerate a defying population at a time when it struggles to maintain economic growth and deal with the consequences of a volatile property sector. The growing number of COVID-19 cases in the country is a cause of concern for the economy and the government is, therefore, likely to undertake all necessary steps to bring down the cases. Even if the country decides to temporarily pacify the people by easing the restrictions, the complete removal of the zero-COIVD policy seems unlikely in the immediate future.

May 2024 | Conflict Alert # 631
Australia: Protests against gender violence
April 2024 | Conflict Alert # 625
Sudan: One Year of Civil War
April 2024 | Conflict Alert # 624
The Middle East: Steady Escalation 

April 2024 | Conflict Alert # 621
30 years after the Rwandan Genocide
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 620
Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K): A profile

March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 619
Russia: ISIS terror attack in Moscow
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 618
Gaza: Finally, a UN Security Council Resolution
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 617
Haiti: Continuing political instability 
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 614
Continuing Kidnappings in Nigeria
March 2024 | Conflict Alert # 613
The War in Gaza: The Elusive Search for a Ceasefire
February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 606
Ukraine: The Battle for Avdiivka
February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 605
War expands to Rafah, the border town
February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 604
Senegal: Protests amidst the postponement of elections

February 2024 | Conflict Alert # 601
UNRWA relief fund shutdown exacerbates crises
January 2024 | Conflict Alert # 600
Haiti: Continuing Violence and Kidnappings 

January 2024 | Conflict Alert # 599
The Red Sea Crisis: Attacks and Counter Attacks
January 2024 | Conflict Alert # 597
Middle East: Blinken's Fourth Visit
March 2023 | Conflict Alert # 595
Israel-Palestine: Return of violence
March 2023 | Conflict Alert # 594
Ukraine: Battle for Bakhmut
February 2023 | Conflict Alert # 591
France: Continued protests against pension reform
February 2023 | Conflict Alert # 588
US: Air Force shoots down Chinese balloon

January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 586
Israel: Protests against proposed judicial reforms
January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 585
Sweden: Anti-Islamic protests
January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 583
Peru: Fresh protests and continuing political crisis
January 2023 | Conflict Alert # 577
Ukraine: A new military push, worsening the situation
December 2022 | Conflict Alert # 576
The EU: The new gas price capping regulation

December 2022 | Conflict Alert # 573
Russia: Drone attacks escalate the Ukraine war
December 2022 | Conflict Alert # 572
Pakistan: TTP ends ceasefire with the government

November 2022 | Conflict Alert # 568
Ukraine: The Russian withdrawal from Kherson
November 2022 | Conflict Alert # 567
Pakistan: The assassination attempt on Imran Khan

October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 563
Global Hunger Index: Four Takeaways

October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 561
Haiti: Gang violence and beyond
October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 560
Reducing Inequality Index 2022: Three Takeaways
October 2022 | Conflict Alert # 559
China: UNHRC proceeding on Xinjiang

September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 556
Iran: Protests spark against hijab rules
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 555
EU's food waste 2022: Three takeaways

September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 553
Global Estimates of Modern Slavery 2021: Six takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 551
Ukraine: Counteroffensive in Kharkiv and Kherson

September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 550
The UN report on Xinjiang: Four Takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 549
Drought in Europe, August 2022: Four Takeaways
September 2022 | Conflict Alert # 547
Iraq: Al-Sadr Withdraws, Protests Intensify

August 2022 | Conflict Alert # 546
Europe: Heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts
August 2022 | Conflict Alert # 539
Iraq: The escalating political crisis

July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 536
The US: Wildfires in California, again
July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 531
Sudan: Military steps down, following protests

July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 530
Sri Lanka: Continuing economic crisis
July 2022 | Conflict Alert # 527
Libya: The continuing political stalemate

May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 516
The US: Another school attack kills 19 children
May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 512
Ukraine: 75 days of the war
May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 511
Ethiopia: Rising communal tensions

May 2022 | Conflict Alert # 510
Sri Lanka: Political crisis intensifies
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 507
Afghanistan: The rise of sectarian violence

April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 506
Mexico: Protests over continuing femicides
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 501
Israel: Al-Aqsa Mosque raids
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 500
Ukraine: The battle for Donbas
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 499
Russia: The strategic shift from Kyiv to the Donbas

April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 498
Nigeria: Over 100 killed in another gunmen attack
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 497
Ukraine: Russia's battle for Mariupol
April 2022 | Conflict Alert # 496
Yemen: Finally, a ceasefire
March 2022 | Conflict Alert # 491
The worsening economic crisis in Sri Lanka

March 2022 | Conflict Alert # 488
Russia’s Ukraine Invasion: One Week Later
February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 486
Russia’s Ukraine salami slicing
February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 485
Libya: With two Prime Ministers, a new political crisis
February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 481
Canada: Freedom convoys and a new wave of protests
February 2022 | Conflict Alert # 478
Myanmar: One year after the coup
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 477
Syria: The ISIS attack on a prison
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 476
Yemen: The warzone expands in the Houthi-UAE face-off
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 475
Burkina Faso: Another coup in Africa

January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 474
France: New round of protests over COVID-19 passes
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 472
Ukraine: Threat of Russian invasion
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 470
Iran: Two years after Qasem Soleimani
January 2022 | Conflict Alert # 468
Kazakhstan: Bloody unrest and a brutal crackdown
December 2021 | Conflict Alert # 466
COVID-19: Omicron rapidly spreads across countries
December 2021 | Conflict Alert # 464
Ukraine: The West warns Russia over Ukrainian aggression
December 2021 | Conflict Alert # 463
China: 12 million missing children

November 2021 | Conflict Alert # 459
Europe: Restrictions lead to Widespread Protests

November 2021 | Conflict Alert # 457
Cuba: Between bouts of demonstrations
November 2021 | Conflict Alert # 454
Pakistan: A month-long ceasefire with the TTP

October 2021 | Conflict Alert # 447
The US: Protests against the Texas anti-abortion law
October 2021 | Conflict Alert # 444
Brazil: Anti-Bolsonaro protests across the country
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 441
Yemen: Houthis continue to capture territories
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 439
Europe: Pride Marches in Serbia and Ukraine
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 437
Brazil: Protestors call for the impeachment of Bolsonaro
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 435
Guinea: Another coup in Africa
September 2021 | Conflict Alert # 431
Climate Change: Hurricane Ida destructs the US Gulf Coast
August 2021 | Conflict Alert # 422
Europe: Measures to curb pandemic trigger protests

August 2021 | Conflict Alert # 418
Peru: Protests a sign of challenges facing Castillo

July 2021 | Conflict Alert # 411
Wildfires: Siberia to the US
July 2021 | Conflict Alert # 409
Bosnia: 26 years after the Srebrenica Massacre
July 2021 | Conflict Alert # 405
Colombia: Two months of protests
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 399
Myanmar: New UNGA resolution
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 397
Myanmar: The Aung San Suu Kyi trial begins
June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 390
Burkina Faso: Another massacre in Africa

June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 386
Nigeria: Another mass abduction grips Niger state

June 2021 | Conflict Alert # 385
Colombia: The protests continue
May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 382
Israel-Hamas ceasefire: The long road to peace

May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 380
Colombia: Three weeks of protests
May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 378
Israel-Palestine: Who wants what?

May 2021 | Conflict Alert # 374
Yemen: The Battle for Marib rages on

April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 371
Pakistan: Meetings with Afghan leaders
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 369
Israel-Syria: Continuing Missile Strikes
April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 358
India: Another Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh

April 2021 | Conflict Alert # 356
Global Gender Gap Report 2021: Main Takeaways
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 353
Niger: 137 massacred in the latest attack by gunmen
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 351
Yemen: Saudi Arabia announces ceasefire

March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 347
Australia: Women fight against sexual violence 

March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 345
The US: The George Floyd trial begins
March 2021 | Conflict Alert # 340
Syria: UN report calls for a complete ceasefire
February 2021 | Conflict Alert # 333
South Korea: The 'Comfort Women' issue returns to haunt
January 2021 | Conflict Alert # 222
Russia: Pro-Navalny protests turn anti-government 
January 2021 | Conflict Alert # 220
COVID-19: The Vaccine Wars
December 2020 | Conflict Alert # 200
India: Farmers' protests intensify as deadlock persists
November 2020 | Conflict Alert # 191
Pakistan: Anti-French protests called off

October 2020 | Conflict Alert # 174
Bangladesh: Protests intensify against sexual violence
October 2020 | Conflict Alert # 167
India crosses 6 million-mark in COVID-19 cases

September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 166
Pakistan: The persisting polio problem
September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 156
Pakistan: Targeted Violence continues in Waziristan
September 2020 | Conflict Alert # 154
The anti-Racist Protests in the US: Between
August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 148
Israel and UAE normalize relations
August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 146
Bolivia: Protests against the Election postponement
August 2020 | Conflict Alert # 138
In Iraq, the protestors return to the streets 

July 2020 | Conflict Alert # 118
J&K: Geelani's Exit and Continuing Violence

June 2020 | Conflict Alert # 105
Black Lives Matter brings the US to its knees
May 2020 | Conflict Alert # 86
Libya: Khalifa Haftar announces ceasefire 

May 2020 | Conflict Alert # 81
India: The surge in violence in J&K
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 71
Afghanistan: 300 Taliban prisoners released
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 67
Syria: New UN Report on Idlib
April 2020 | Conflict Alert # 64
A lethal impact on the Refugee/Migrant Camps 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 51
Coronavirus & China: Fall in numbers 
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 47
Coronavirus & Nepal: In the second stage, cancels
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 44
Two Presidents in Afghanistan
March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 42
'Aurat March': A New beginning across Pakistan 

March 2020 | Conflict Alert # 38
Sri Lanka withdraws from 30/1 Geneva Resolution

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 35
A ceasefire between Israel, Islamic Jihad in Gaza
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 34
Libya: rivals withdraw from Geneva peace talks

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 33
India: Violence in Delhi
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 32
Afghanistan: Seven Days of Peace
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 31
Climate Change Fallouts: Impacts the Bird population
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 28
Pakistan: Court convicts LeT founder Hafiz Saeed
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 27
Pakistan: Suicide terrorism returns to haunt Quetta
February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 26
Afghanistan: The US-Taliban Seven Day Deal

February 2020 | Conflict Alert # 24
Israel: Violence in post  Trump-deal
January 2020 | Conflict Alert # 20
Kenya: Al Shabab and a week of killings
December 2019 | Conflict Alert # 19
Citizenship Amendment Bill:2019
November 2019 | Conflict Alert # 18
Lebanon: PM Hariri quits, but protests continue 

October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 16
Bolivian unrest
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 15
Hundreds protest in Haiti
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 14
Protests rock Chile

October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 13
Hong Kong Violence: A divide within
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 12
Spain: The trouble in Catalonia
October 2019 | Conflict Alert # 11
Turkey's Offensive in Syria
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 9
Africa to be Polio Free
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 7
Myanmar: Teenage girls traded as brides to China
August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 6
Moscow Protests: Thousands rally in Moscow

August 2019 | Conflict Alert # 3
Jordan Restores diplomatic ties with Qatar