TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese academic Tung Li-wen (董立文) said at a symposium on Saturday (April 16) that Xi Jinping’s (習近平) failed zero COVID policy threatens his chances of securing an unprecedented third term as Chinese leader later in the year.
Speaking at the Global Taiwan National Affairs Symposium, Tung said that the current situation in China is casting doubt on Xi’s “re-election” at the 20th National Congress, though most international experts previously believed it was almost guaranteed. The ongoing lockdowns in major cities across the country, including Shanghai, the resulting economic damage, and public outrage are contributing factors, the Liberty Times cited him as saying.
Tung said local officials may, in fact, be deliberately trying to embarrass Xi.
Tung said the brutality with which local governments have imposed one-size-fits-all measures is intentional and may suggest they are trying to trigger discontent among the populace. Since Xi himself gave the order for this approach, the blame for this policy failure will be directed toward him.
Tung likened this to the reckless cuts in carbon emissions last year which resulted in widespread power shortages across the country. This also proved embarrassing for Xi at the time.
Yet Tung does not think violent uprisings in China are likely. Instead, he predicts local governments may unite to obstruct Xi’s path to a third term, perhaps by instigating a sweeping review of his zero-COVID policy.
The pandemic in China must be looked at through a political lens, not a scientific one, he added. Since Xi used the pandemic for political ends, his opponents will do the same to counter him, Tung concluded.