China restrictions, Sisci: “Protests signal that trust in the system is crumbling”

The protests in Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai are the signal that “trust is crumbling” not so much in the country’s President Xi Jinping but more generally in government institutions in China, in the system, explains to Adnkronos sinologist Francesco Sisci specifying that, however limited, the demonstrations are a phenomenon “unprecedented since the time of Tiananmen”.

“The protests, however large, are not huge with thousands of people involved, they are sporadic, nervous, uncoordinated and completely spontaneous. Signs of a boiling pot. The water has not started to come out of the pot yet, but we are arrived at the right temperature. We are still in a transitional situation, on new ground because for 33 years now there hadn’t been such large and widespread protests”, adds Sisci.

The engine of the protest is WeChat, the social network that the Chinese now use to do everything, talk to each other and buy milk and which for this reason the government cannot block “unless it risks paralyzing the country”. The platform where those who participate in the demonstrations publish videos of the protests. “It seems to be the very nature of this platform that it creates a new form of organization where people coordinate with each other and it snowballs.”

The Chinese, who in the first months of 2020 had lent themselves “with discipline and great confidence” to the lockdown measures, now realize “that the situation in the rest of the world has normalized and in China it still hasn’t, that there is something it doesn’t work at the government level.” And why now? “First of all because covid infections increase in winter and then people are watching the World Cup in Qatar and see the stadiums full, without restrictive measures, without masks”, indicates the sinologist.

The Chinese government is at an impasse, “between a rock and a hard place”. “It is increasingly difficult to continue with these quarantine measures that people can no longer tolerate, but on the other hand, radical change poses enormous health risks, with the contagion spreading, without an effective vaccination campaign, without herd immunity, and in the absence of capillary health structures capable of withstanding an explosion of cases and intensive care. Perhaps if we eliminated the lockdown measures today, there would be millions of deaths in three weeks”.

So there is no easy way out. “Even the government is blocked. It is a dramatic situation”. The way to overcome the crisis “would be to understand that the failure of the anti-covid policies is the tip of a much bigger iceberg that concerns so much of the Chinese system that does not work. An intellectual leap would be necessary because the protests are not aimed at Xi (the slogans against him in Shanghai are isolated), but they are deeper and affect the system”, concludes Sisci.