China's COVID lockdowns are a symptom of deeper problems

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What a difference a year makes. In the spring of 2021, China was reporting only a few dozen COVID cases each day and celebrating a return to steady economic growth. The United States, meanwhile, reeled from its worst death wave of the pandemic. 

Media outlets around the world, from the Chinese Ministry of Propaganda to the New York Times, were quick to declare that China had “won” the pandemic, having decisively defeated the virus and demonstrated the virtues of unbridled autocracy. Xi Jinping was set to use China’s apparent COVID success as a central argument for enshrining himself, at the upcoming Communist Party Congress in October 2022, as emperor-for-life.

Fast-forward to today. While most Americans travel mask-free around their country, several hundred million Chinese citizens are locked down in their apartments, many without reliable access to food or medical care. Reports of people dying at home of easily treatable ailments are proliferating, as are videos of desperate residents screaming for help and clashing with police. 


With one out of every four Chinese citizens under lockdown and 87 of China’s 100 largest cities imposing some form of restriction on movement, supply chains have ground to a halt. Some leading economists think

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