For President Xi Jinping and his acolytes, this is the Year of Living Dangerously.
A disastrous foreign policy move and a failing domestic agenda have plunged the ruling Communist Party of China into a quagmire of uncertainty.
At home, SARS-CoV-2 infections are surging on the mainland despite Beijing’s zero-Covid-19 strategy. In Hong Kong, an outbreak of the Omicron variant has turned into an epidemic with the city of 7.4 million reporting at least 700,000 cases and nearly 4,000 deaths.
Most of them were recorded in the past two weeks with the bodies piling up of unvaccinated senior citizens. For China’s puppet local government under Carrie Lam, it has been an unmitigated disaster.
“It feels like we are left to die, do you understand?” one young mother who gave her name as Siu told the Hong Kong Free Press.
Across the border, high-tech manufacturing hub Shenzhen is in lockdown after a major outbreak, as well as other cities across China. In the financial capital of Shanghai, entire districts have been sealed off while schools have closed.
“Apple suppliers Foxconn and Unimicron Technology Corporation have suspended operations in Shenzhen, known as China’s Silicon Valley,” Reuters news agency reported.
Internationally, Beijing is also facing massive pressure because of its “no limits” commitment to Russia amid Moscow’s illegal war in Ukraine.
Catalog of disaster:
- Chinese-made vaccines have proved less effective against the Omicron variant.
- Hong Kong has borne the brunt of the outbreak after being silenced by a Beijing-imposed National Security Law, restricting freedom of speech in the former British territory.
- Tens of thousands of people have since fled the city amid growing discontent.
- Economically, China has been hit by ballooning bad loans in the property sector, a debt landslide engulfing local governments, and stalling consumer demand.
- On the global stage, Beijing has pushed a pro-Russian conversation.
- State censors have also airbrushed Moscow’s bombing campaign on major Ukrainian cities.
Delve deeper: China’s propaganda decision to support Russia is hardly surprising. Xi has referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as his “best friend.” On the eve of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing last month, they even agreed to a “no limits” pact.
Friendly advice: Since then, reports have surfaced that Chinese officials knew about Moscow’s plans to invade Ukraine along with suggestions that Putin asked Xi for “military equipment.”
Big picture: Beijing has been warned by Washington not to breach Russian sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union, and its international allies such as Japan and the United Kingdom.
Forget it: “We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Ethical chaos: “China is in a bind. It wants to support Russia, but also wants to support the international order from which [it] benefits. [It] doesn’t want to alienate the major economies its own economy is intertwined with,” Malcolm Riddell, the founder of consultancy ChinaDebate, said.
China Factor comment: This was supposed to be the Year of Tranquility with Xi running for an unprecedented third term in office ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. What the autocrat did not want was a crisis at home, fueled by Covid-19 and a debt-laden economy, or a self-inflicting foreign policy blunder over Ukraine.