In Beijing, business follows one another.
Authorities won’t use the word, but this town is basically in lockdown.
In a number of areas of the capital, all non-essential shops are closed, restaurants and cafes are open for take-out only and people are asked to work from home.
COVID cases here have tripled in a week, they’re at the highest level on record.
While many have greeted the latest rules with weary acceptance, there is clearly a price people have paid for nearly three years of restrictions.
The main shopping areas were eerily quiet and the traditional hunting lanes, usually teeming with people, had only a net.
Mr. Zheng’s cafe was still open, but only for takeout.
“Business hasn’t been good this year and it’s been even worse recently, because of the pandemic,” he said, “See, there’s no one in this huntong.”
But elsewhere in the country, the anger goes much further.
In the central city of Zhengzhou, workers at Foxconn, Apple’s largest assembly plant, clashed violently with police.
Videos on Chinese social media show workers throwing large objects at authorities and smashing surveillance cameras.
There has been a COVID outbreak at the factory, many workers have been unable to leave and some are now saying there is not enough food and promised bonus payments have been delayed.
Video shows numerous police officers and workers in hazmat suits beating a worker with batons.
Elsewhere, being stuck at home is wearing people down. In Chongqing City, Zheng Meng took a video of himself trying to leave his apartment.
“You can’t leave,” a pandemic worker told him, “this resort is high risk.”
It is rare for someone in China to speak so clearly, but he was very clear in his opinion that China is wrong.
“The World Cup embarrasses the government because everyone at home is still watching TV and there are no masks for everyone else,” he said.
“Why are the Chinese people different from the rest of the world? Because our physical condition is weaker? Or the Omicron in China is stronger? There is supposed to be a reasonable reason, there is no reason at all They’re just forcing us to stay home.”
Just a week ago there had been real hope that things might start to look up. The government has called for the rules to be “optimized”, so that the response is more targeted and less comprehensive.
But he is hesitant in the face of the resurgence of infections.
The problem is that while local government officials have been tasked with trying to ease COVID restrictions, it appears they haven’t been tasked with keeping their cool when cases inevitably spike.
“The situation is getting worse all over China”
So, under immense pressure to keep the numbers down, they resorted to the familiar tactic of shutting things down.
This illustrates the fundamental pitfall of China’s zero COVID agenda – there is no way out of it without increasing infections and deaths, and the government has spent three years telling people this is unacceptable. .
There are many people in China who support zero COVID, many are afraid of the virus.
This may be an obstacle in the coming months for a regime that still faces many.