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President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy has become a political liability

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President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy has become a political liability

Protests in major cities, poor economic indicators, and widespread discontent online – President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy is transforming from a propaganda triumph to a political liability.

For two years, strict lockdowns, mass testing, and tight border controls had beaten back the virus, resulting in relatively few deaths in the world’s most populous country.

While much of the Western world was hit hard by epidemics, China’s “dynamic zero-Covid” approach was hailed as a symbol of Xi’s astute leadership and commemorated during the ruling Communist Party’s centennial celebrations last year.

Xi was portrayed as avuncular, wise, and in complete command of a Chinese success story in adoring television specials and staged ceremonies.

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However, as he seeks an unprecedented third term in power at the party congress this autumn, a virus outbreak fueled by the Omicron variant is raising awkward and unexpected questions.

According to official figures, hundreds of people have died, mostly in Shanghai, where the population has been enraged by a lockdown that is only partially lifting after nearly two months.

Beijingers are concerned that they will be next, while economic dynamos from Jilin to Shenzhen have been stymied by restrictions, and the economy is losing steam.

Vivienne Shue, a China studies professor at the University of Oxford, told AFP that the leadership’s intransigence “now risks making China’s performance appear not only stubborn, but perilously uncreative, and unwise.”

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Nonetheless, Xi insists that the country should “unwaveringly” pursue zero-Covid, claiming that Chinese lives are more valuable than economic pain.

However, the strict application of virus controls has sparked outrage and ridicule, particularly in Shanghai, where sarcastic memes have swept the internet and scuffles with hazmat-clad officials have been witnessed on the streets.

Hundreds of students gathered last week at Beijing’s elite Peking University, the birthplace of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, to protest Covid rules.

Experts say Xi has bet too much on zero-Covid to now take a step back.

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“Challenging this policy means challenging him,” said Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

– Beat the drum for Congress –

This is an important year for Xi.

When China’s ruling class meets in Beijing for the 20th Party Congress to elect the country’s top decision-makers, he is expected to win a third term as party leader.

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While the abrupt unravelling of Beijing’s Covid narrative is a challenge, experts believe it is unlikely to derail his bid to rule China indefinitely.

“Through anti-corruption and other campaigns, he has already solidified his power base,” Wu said.

In the run-up to the congress, Xi’s priority is to maintain the status quo, he added.

China has escaped the deaths that have plagued most other major countries, bolstering zero-credibility. Covid’s

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Top leaders, including Premier Li Keqiang, have come forward to reassure that the Covid-19 controls will only be temporary.

Following the country’s lowest retail sales and factory output in months, Li said on Wednesday that local governments should increase their “sense of urgency” in addressing the economic crisis.

His prominence has sparked speculation of a schism or challenge to Xi’s authority from party factions disgruntled by the virus’s impact.

Others warn against drawing too many conclusions from information spoon-fed to the public by a Communist Party steeped in secrecy and storytelling.

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“Xi may have given Li the authority to make a course correction,” said Joseph Torigian, an elite politics expert at American University.

– Covid is a bad communist.

The zero-Covid policy has a significant political component.

As Xi’s authority spreads across the country, officials have been fired or reprimanded for failing to stop outbreaks.

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Shanghai’s chaotic lockdown has cast doubt on the fate of the city’s Communist Party secretary, Li Qiang, who has long been considered one of Xi’s top choices for premiership once Li Keqiang steps down.

However, analysts from the SinoInsider consultancy wrote that “as long as Xi is in office and has sufficient political strength, Li Qiang has a good chance of joining the Politburo Standing Committee,” referring to a select group of top Chinese leaders.

According to Beijing watchers, rumblings of divisions and behind-the-scenes moves are easily overblown but not always incorrect.

“Like most governing parties around the world, the CCP works hard to present itself as thoroughly unified in purpose,” Shue said.

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“And, like most governing parties around the world, the CCP is almost always… beset by very consequential internal party policy differences.”

Experts say it’s difficult to see how Xi can abandon the policy without losing political capital now that he’s committed to zero-Covid.

However, the congress is still several months away, and it is too early to assess the impact on China’s most powerful leader since Mao.

“It’s difficult to say whether top party elites have different perspectives on zero-Covid,” Torigian said.

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“Chinese politics are not a popularity contest,” he added.

Hollywood

Review of the spy thriller “Heart of Stone”: Alia Bhatt shines.

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Review of the spy thriller “Heart of Stone”: Alia Bhatt shines.

In a realm where intrigue and suspense collide, Bollywood’s beloved star Alia Bhatt has once again proven her mettle in the enthralling spy thriller “Heart of Stone.” Directed by the visionary Raj Mehta, this cinematic marvel takes audiences on a roller-coaster ride through espionage, deception, and unrelenting action, with Bhatt’s luminous performance at its epicenter.

A Glimpse into the Plot

“Heart of Stone” delves into the shadowy world of espionage, where nothing is as it seems, and allegiances can crumble in an instant. Bhatt’s character, Maya Verma, is a compelling enigma—a resolute intelligence operative navigating a labyrinth of covert operations and intricate deceptions. As the layers of the narrative peel away, Maya finds herself ensnared in a high-stakes game where trust is elusive and danger lurks in every frame.

The Resplendent Alia Bhatt

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Alia Bhatt’s portrayal of Maya Verma is nothing short of a revelation. Known for her remarkable versatility, Bhatt imbues Maya with a potent mix of strength and vulnerability. With every expression, every gesture, she breathes life into a character that resonates on both emotional and cerebral levels. Bhatt’s artistry reaches its zenith as Maya grapples with inner demons while outwitting her adversaries—a captivating dance that only an actress of her caliber could orchestrate.

Raj Mehta’s Directorial Panache

Raj Mehta, celebrated for his directorial finesse, orchestrates the tapestry of “Heart of Stone” with masterful precision. Seamlessly weaving heart-thumping action sequences and labyrinthine plot twists, Mehta keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. His meticulous attention to detail manifests in every scene, painting a cinematic canvas that’s as thrilling as it is visually arresting.

Supporting Cast: A Tapestry of Brilliance

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The constellation of talent in “Heart of Stone” goes beyond Alia Bhatt. The ensemble cast, featuring Rajkummar Rao, Aditi Rao Hydari, and Vicky Kaushal, contributes to the film’s tapestry with their impeccable performances. The chemistry between the characters adds depth to the narrative, amplifying the emotional resonance and enriching the overall storytelling.

A Symphony of Cinematic Excellence

“Heart of Stone” is an embodiment of cinematic finesse. The film’s production values, from picturesque locations to evocative cinematography, envelop the viewer in a sensory feast. The musical score, composed with an acute understanding of the narrative’s ebbs and flows, elevates the tension and emotions, further ensnaring the audience in the movie’s spellbinding aura.

A Triumph of Genre Fusion

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Critics and audiences alike have bestowed “Heart of Stone” with effusive praise for its seamless fusion of espionage, action, and drama. The film’s ingenious plot twists, coupled with Alia Bhatt’s extraordinary performance, thrust it into the echelons of standout espionage thrillers. It’s a symphony of storytelling that resonates long after the credits roll.

In a year replete with cinematic treasures, “Heart of Stone” stands tall as an embodiment of brilliance. Alia Bhatt’s luminosity shines with unparalleled intensity, solidifying her place as one of Bollywood’s brightest stars. This cinematic tour de force is a must-watch, an experience that unearths the magic created when remarkable talent converges to craft an indelible cinematic journey.

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