In the opening of CCP’s 20th National Congress, Chinese leader Xi Jinping defended his well-known “Zero COVID” policy, but he didn’t mention when the much-hated strategy might end.

He said:

“We have put people first and put lives first, and upheld ‘dynamic Covid Zero’ without wavering.”

He also said that Zero-COVID was a “people’s war to stop the spread of the virus.”

The statements show Xi’s commitment to adhere to the strict Zero-COVID policy in the world’s No. 2 economy, despite rising signs of dissent from the policy’s social cost and harsh economic consequences.

The People’s Daily, the CCP’s mouthpiece, also signaled to the public that China would not ease the Zero-COVID policy any time soon. Last week, People’s Daily posted commentaries for three consecutive days to defend the strategy. 

However, analysts and investors had another angle. 

Analysts thought that what Xi said about COVID gave him room to make changes to the policy. Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, said that Xi definitely wants to protect a policy related to him, which is understandable.

Huang added:

“But I was a little bit surprised he didn’t repeat what he said in June, which was repeated by People’s Daily.” 

“He seems to have slightly retreated from what he said before. And he didn’t send a clear signal that this policy will be pursued in the long run.”

Scott Kennedy is from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In an interview with Bloomberg, he said that though Chinese leader Xi Jinping praised Zero-COVID for allegedly reducing the number of cases and deaths, he did not delve into details “specifically around ‘dynamic Covid Zero.’ He left open room for some potential changes and adjustments.”

Last month, Morgan Stanley said China would end its restrictions on COVID by the spring of 2023. On the other hand, Goldman Sachs thinks China won’t reopen until the second quarter of next year. Japanese financial group Nomura Holdings believes the situation might improve after March, when the CCP’s top leadership list will be concluded. 

Beijing has stepped up security for the Party Congress, leading to a rare and dramatic protest against Xi and zero Covid last Thursday, October 13.

On that day, two banners were displayed on a bridge near a major university that read:

 “We want food, not PCR tests. We want freedom, not lockdowns and controls.”

Following this rare protest against Xi, China censored the term “Beijing” on social media in its most extreme censorship form.

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