Since its initial outbreak in China in the early winter of 2019, COVID-19 has been a major threat to public health and politics. Countries developed different protocols for handling the virus. In the US, the ill-prepared health system went into shock, and panic concerning the virus became catastrophic. Precautions like masking, vaccination and “zooming in” became necessities of everyday life. In other places, such as New Zealand, the virus was very effectively controlled, but with stricter lockdown measures and damage to the country’s economy. An extreme example is China, which, up until a couple of months ago, had maintained its lockdown policies since the start of the pandemic.
COVID-19 traces its origins back to a live-animal market in Wuhan City, China, where it arose in the late months of 2019. China was initially caught off guard by the virus and its rapid human-to-human contact. As doctors and personnel on the scene spread word of the outbreak, the government actively tried to keep things under control and withhold information until approved by President Xi Jinping’s administration. China began enforcing heavy lockdown, testing, and mask mandating for its citizens. These regulations continued on a relatively stable basis up until the last few months.
The Chinese population became restless due to isolation and restraint from social gatherings for so long. Protests and dissent arose in early December of last year. Furthermore, public disputes with China’s censorship and government control policies have existed for many decades. This fragile peace lasted until late November of this year when ten people were trapped due to COVID restrictions in an apartment fire in Xinjiang. This outrage sparked the protests that have arisen.
Since being loosened on December 7th, new freedoms have allowed interaction but in return, millions have been infected and many have died. These changes in events provoke a question: Should China be going through with reintegration? China’s precautionary measures were effective. The country was able to reduce transmission and keep the population relatively safe. During this time, however, the population has become disillusioned with authority. But easing back in may not be so easy, as China’s population lacks the herd immunity and vaccination rates that other countries can boast.
I believe that, as hard as it will be for the foreseeable future, China should continue on the path to reopening the country. The population was infuriated with the continued enforcement of restrictions, and the economy suffered as well. In 2022, China saw its worst rate of economic growth, only 3%, since Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. Additionally, a large percentage of the population is unvaccinated. The country also lacks the vital protection of herd immunity, and so it cannot keep forestalling its lifting of restrictions. The unrest will only get worse and more lives will be lost if reintegration is not achieved. Thankfully, at the cost of a few years of hardship, China has chosen to rip off its band-aid now rather than continue its social repression, and risk the effects of a revolution.