Shanghai Reports First Covid Deaths Driving A Wedge Between Xi And His Supposed ‘Successor’

The news of first deaths caused due to the Omicron surge in Shanghai have surfaced which will be a cause of concern for Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which is yet to abandon its zero-Covid policy.

While countries have moved to living with Covid, China places its citizens under draconian rules through lockdowns causing suffering and chaos in global financial hub Shanghai. On Monday, Shanghai local authorities said that three elderly people with underlying conditions have died due to Covid. China being an autocracy where media and self-censorship reign supreme it will be hard to verify if those are the real numbers but it shows that Xi’s zero-Covid policy is stressed and so are the Chinese.

The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Monday also warned of ‘significant challenges’ to economic growth. China’s gross domestic product growth, according to the NBS, was 4.8% on-year in the first quarter but it did not take into account the crippling effects of the Shanghai lockdowns. It is also noteworthy that Xian – which in early February got out of a two-month long-lockdown – and Suzhou along with Zhengzhou also could go into lockdowns further exacerbating the pains of Chinese citizens while impacting its economic growth. The impact of the lockdown will appear in the April-June quarter.

The impact of Covid-19 outbreak in Shanghai is widespread and videos and pictures of China’s mismanagement have broken the great Chinese firewall onto people’s mobile screens globally. It is understandable that Xi is unhappy and Shanghai’s Chinese Communist Party secretary and top official Li Qiang is getting the cold shoulder.

Japanese financial news outlet Nikkei Asia in a report titled ‘Xi gives thumbs-down to Shanghai, distancing closest aide’ outlines that Qiang – even touted to be next in-line after Xi – is being cast aside and vice premier Sun Chunlan, China’s sole female Politburo member who oversees China’s anti-coronavirus measures, is now calling the shots to address the Shanghai situation.

The Nikkei Asia report also pointed to a picture where Sun is seen conveying Xi’s orders and Li Qiang is seen listening humbly and attentively. Qiang and Sun are equal in terms of political stature but the photo shows that he is now the scapegoat for Xi and the CCP who remain staunchly opposed to shifting away from zero-Covid.

Meanwhile, Shanghai residents have come together to pave a way out of this mess, according to posts in China’s state-controlled Twitter-like Weibo. Doctors, delivery workers, residents and people from all walks of life are cooperating to ensure that people have food to eat as risks of death due to hunger and starvation grows in the global financial hub.

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