As NYTimes reported, immediately after Beijing announced that a wave of new coronavirus outbreaks had been detected, an official said that supermarket chains must ensure timely replenishment. The city has a limited stock of foods and oils to meet people’s needs for the next month. Evelyn Zheng, a freelance writer who lives in Beijing, isn’t going to take any chances.

Her relatives in Shanghai are urging her to either leave Beijing or stock up on food. For weeks, Zheng has been reading social media posts from residents in Shanghai who chronicle the chaos and misery of living under a month-long seal of control in Shanghai.

When she buys food, Zheng sees many neighbors have the same idea, and some store shelves have been swept empty.

Zheng says, “At first, I was worried about Shanghai, because my family is there, and there was no good news from any of my friends.”
Zheng adds, “Now, Beijing is starting, too, and I don’t know when it will land on my head.”

Residents joined forces and reposted content that had been removed from the Internet with a speed and ingenuity that at one point overwhelmed censors.

Some political and academic elites have suggested that the government’s propaganda about the Shanghai lockdown undermines its credibility.

Fang Kecheng is a journalism professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who studies media and politics.

He said, “The reality is that these past few years, official propaganda has been pretty successful, or at least rarely has met such strong pushback.”
He adds, “We can see this is not a regular situation. The temperature of public opinion is very different.”

A video titled “Voices of April” is only six minutes long and pairs black-and-white images of the Shanghai skyline with a variety of voices recorded over the past month: residents loudly asking the government for supplies; a son pleading to have his sick father hospitalized; a grassroots cadre explaining to frustrated callers in a sobbing voice that she, too, is tired and unable to do anything.

An anonymous user initially posted the video on social media. Censorship then quickly deleted the video.

But netizens played a cat-and-mouse game to avoid censors by posting the video’s footage upside down, embedding it in other images, or using the video’s voiceover to post on an unrelated video.

There was even a way around censorship by having SpongeBob SquarePants sitting in a Krusty Krab fast food restaurant watching the video on a cartoon computer.

Xiao Qiang, who studies Internet freedom at the University of California, Berkeley, says that the scale of censorship needed to suppress dissent is “too large this time.”

“The censorship is more effective than two years ago, but this shows its limit. They can’t solve the root of the problem. People see the government could be getting this wrong to the point of disaster,” Xiao said, pointing to emerging complaints that the zero Covid policy could be self-defeating and unrealistic.”

Earlier this month, Shanghai’s Oriental TV announced that it would host a star-studded variety show with songs and dances celebrating the government’s campaign against the epidemic.

However, Dongfang TV postponed the show after angry reactions emerged online.
Dongfang TV wrote on its Weibo account that “We welcome your valuable comments on our work.”

As NY Times reported, the Shanghai lockdown in its fourth week has created a rare challenge for China’s propaganda infrastructure.

Officials have defended their deployment of extensive, heavy-handed lockdowns as the Omicron variety spreads across the country.

They’ve promoted a triumphalist version of their Covid reaction, claiming that only the Chinese government dared to combat and contain the infection.

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