History called the communist party to save China, that is the way history is used by the party, says author Ian Johnson in a speech about his newly published book Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and their Battle for the Future in WorldOregon. But the official history doesn’t remain unchallenged. “Ian Johnson explores how some of China’s best-known writers, filmmakers, and artists have overcome crackdowns and censorship to forge a nationwide movement that challenges the Communist Party on its most hallowed ground: its control of history,” says the website.
China veteran Ian Johnson tells how he got expelled from China and what he found when he returned in 2023 to Foreign Affairs—and discovered what had changed over the past three years with COVID-19 hitting the country. He found a country is in stagnation, he tells in a gloomy diagnosis, although he also discovered dissent was not wholly stifled.
The crowds might be back in China’s restaurants but they are not spending as much as they used to. The economy is not back on track, the labor market is bad and salaries are being cut. Business analyst Shaun Rein has sent his researchers out, and they did come back with bad news, he tells CNBC.
China’s zero-Covid-19 policies might be over since December, visas might be available and the new government tries to restore business confidence, but the number of expats in Shanghai is still dropping, according to the latest update by Bloomberg. While earlier estimates by chambers of commerce in big cities of 50% of the expats leaving are not confirmed and might have been too high, Shanghai still sees an ongoing exodus, while replacements for expat positions are not yet coming in.
China claims that since the end of the disputed zero-Covid policies at the end of November 2022 till February 2023 200 million of its citizens have been diagnosed with Covid-19, writes AP. Of those, 800,000 critically ill patients have recovered, says the news agency in an article, based on notes from a meeting of the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee presided over by President and party leader Xi Jinping. The president claims Covid-19 has been effectively beaten.
Domestic tourism in China saw a jump, and consumer sentiment is improving more slowly after the zero-Covid policies ended, says consumer expert Ashley Dudarenok at CNBC. Brands are relucted in spending their marketing budgets. Dudarenok said that heading into 2023 and the Lunar New Year, some smaller brands had turned more conservative on China and cut their marketing budgets for the country in half.
The exit of the Zero-Covid policy in China was not the cause of the rampant spread of the virus, or triggered by the protests, but was already spreading unstoppable for a longer time, according to the World Health Organization, writes Reuters. WHO’s emergency director Mike Ryan described the end of the zero-Covid policy as an unavoidable strategic decision on Wednesday 14 December.
Strategic analyst Victor Shih, author of Coalitions of the Weak, (2022), looks at China’s sudden exit from its contested zero-Covid policy. Was it because of the protests, was it planned before, and what does it mean for the country’s domestic policies and economics? A discussion at the New Yorker on how decisions at the top-level take place.