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Blockade in Shanghai tests Xi Jinping’s loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party

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The ascent attracted Li Tian.

Shanghai’s top official seemed to have only a few months left to take one of seven posts on the Politburo’s standing committee, China’s most influential political body, as its longtime patron Xi Jinping was preparing for a third term as head in November.

However, in China’s most modern and one of the most manageable cities, weeks of brutal closure have escalated into a surreal crisis, with signs that faith in the Communist Party’s ability to rule has been blurred.

Fears that families will be torn apart under the draconian quarantine system are coupled with a flurry of administrative setbacks and a rise in dissent: the body was mistakenly stuffed into a corpse bag while the man was still alive; piles of undelivered food rot outside apartment complexes, even when people worry about being hungry, when struggling to get essentials; careful holding of night protests when residents sing or knock pots, and rarely clashes between citizens and police.

While many of the city’s 25 million residents blame their forced isolation Xi and his policy of zero covidthe future of Lee and other senior lieutenants hangs in the balance as pressure on Beijing intensifies to find the scapegoat for chaos and embarrassment.

The question is what to do with Lee, a close ally for two decades after the couple worked together in Zhejiang in the early 2000s, and Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng. The decision will infiltrate the party and return unwanted attention to secret clashes as a number of rising cadres fight for coveted top government positions.

Xi Jinping is expected to receive a third term as President of China in November © Greg Baker / AFP / Getty Images

“In Shanghai and within the party, more and more votes are rising, especially from the outside [vice-premier] Han Zheng is asking Xi to force Li to resign, ”said Alex Payet, executive director of Cercius Group, a consulting firm specializing in elite Chinese politics. Khan is a member of the Politburo’s standing committee and is considered a rival to Shanghai’s party secretary, who will replace Li Keqiang as prime minister next year.

Payet believes Lee’s dismissal will cause an “earthquake” inside the party, disrupting a delicate system of alliances ahead of the party’s congress, which is held twice a decade in November, when a third C term is expected and a new Politburo is open.

“When Xi sacrificed Lee, the message was sent to his other allies [and current politburo members] like Chen Miner, Ding Xuexiang and Cai Qi, that no one is safe and inviolable. . . We expect Xi to bargain with other factions within the party to keep Lee in the game, despite the ongoing fiasco in Shanghai – although the same cannot be said of Gong, ”Payet added.

Victor Shi, a professor of Chinese political economy at the University of California, San Diego, said the defense of the city’s leadership could be due not only to close ties with Xi, but also because the Chinese leader was hidden from the real effects of his zero covid . politics.

“We don’t know to what extent Xi Jinping sees the full extent of the blocking policy in Shanghai; does he know that a large number of people are starving, ”he said. “We don’t know what information Shanghai is providing to the central government. He is surrounded by private secretaries who filter out his information before it reaches the table. “

Cercius analysts also noted that while former party secretary Hubei Jiang Chaliang and former party secretary Wuhan Ma Guoqiang were removed from office through initial coronavirus outbreak two years ago both men “survived”. There was no investigation by the party unit into internal discipline, and they were not expelled from the party.

Delivery worker rides a motorcycle through an almost empty intersection during a Covid-19 blockade in Shanghai

The closure of Shanghai has caused extensive economic damage © Bloomberg

However, Payet said, as calls for accountability intensified, political pressure could mean Lee would not follow his predecessors in rising from Shanghai to the Politburo’s standing committee and would instead be “appointed elsewhere in the central party apparatus.”

China’s return to citywide blockades in response to the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant has caused extensive damage to the world’s second-largest economy. These measures have stifled domestic and international supply chains and sparked a series incentives Hopes of 5.5 percent growth this year are fading, his lowest target in 30 years.

But Xi is refused to back down about zero covid policy. A stunning report from a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee chaired by the president on Thursday warned of “any easing of control efforts” and stressed the importance of “resolutely combating any attempts to distort, question or reject China’s anti-Covid policy.”

Despite frustration with local authorities, many in Shanghai, however, ultimately blame the central government in Beijing for the hardships they are experiencing.

“Shanghai government officials were consistent in the beginning,” said a Shanghai woman in her forties, who asked not to be named for fear of her safety. “They didn’t want to impose a harsh closure because the economic cost is very high. What they said and did was consistent. Austerity was imposed by the central government. “

She added that the realities of life under blockade have forced a generation of young people – who grew up in prosperity – to begin to re-evaluate the wisdom of China’s political system. “Attitudes toward the Chinese government have changed,” she said.

Diana Fu, a Chinese domestic policy expert at the Brookings Institution think tank, notes that from imperial China to the Xi era, the legitimacy of the ruler has always relied on the provision of social goods.

“The party’s contract with the public is based on guarantees not of political rights, but of social rights – basic food, housing and health care … Digital reports of starvation in one of China’s most prosperous cities – Shanghai – actually ring the alarm that the party “The state does not fulfill the end of the social contract,” she said.

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