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Letter from Taiwan's Foxconn founder influenced China to end zero-COVID: WSJ

Chinese advisers reportedly used Gou's letter as ammunition to build case to ease zero-COVID measures

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Terry Gou speaking at Hon Hai Research Institute.

Terry Gou speaking at Hon Hai Research Institute. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A letter sent by Foxconn founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) "played a major role" in convincing Beijing to end its zero-COVID policy, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is claiming.

According to the report, more than a month ago, Foxconn's massive facility in Zhengzhou was in chaos as workers angrily protested against epidemic prevention measures. In the letter, Gou reportedly wrote that the disruption threatened China's centrality to global supply chains, and he demanded more transparency about the constraints imposed on the Foxconn workers.

Sources told The WSJ Chinese health officials and government aides reportedly highlighted Gou's letter to back their argument that Beijing needed to accelerate the loosening of its epidemic prevention restrictions. A few weeks later, demonstrations broke out in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, enabling policymakers to build their case for easing COVID restrictions.

The report quoted sources saying that Chinese officials and aides who advocate loosening epidemic prevention restrictions believe that although China's zero-COVID policy has successfully maintained public health, strategies must be adjusted for the Omicron variant. They believe that Omicron has a lower fatality rate but increased infectiousness, which will bring more closures amid fatigue over zero-COVID policies, hamper the economy, and jeopardize China's status as a global manufacturing power.

Senior officials in Beijing are concerned that disruptions caused by their COVID policy and heightened U.S.-China political tensions could lead to a more serious decoupling of China from the rest of the world, sources said. The report claims after Guo sent the letter to top Beijing officials, the Chinese government's COVID prevention propaganda messaging began to change.

The mouthpieces of the CCP such as the People's Daily played down the seriousness of COVID, and the government on Nov. 11 then announced 20 "optimized measures." However, the new epidemic prevention regulations resulted in differing interpretations by local leaders, with many still opting to enact harsh lockdowns.

Sources said senior officials in Beijing did not believe that the wave of demonstrations posed a serious political threat, but some aides utilized them to bolster their case for a relaxation of epidemic prevention restrictions. In apparent response to these lobbying efforts, the Chinese government on Wednesday (Dec. 7) announced 10 new measures, removing many of its isolation and virus testing requirements and limiting the authority of local governments to order lockdowns.

However, Gou's office sternly denied the report and claimed that he had nothing to do with the contents of the report, according to CNA. Foxconn and China's State Council Information Office have yet to respond to requests for comment.