Are China's protests a real threat for Beijing?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images)

Protests against Beijing's "zero COVID" restrictions have spread across China in the biggest outburst of unrest since President Xi Jinping took power more than a decade ago. Government critics blamed lockdown rules for a slow response to an apartment-building fire that killed 10 people in the remote city of Urumqi, fueling public anger. Two groups totaling 1,000 or more protesters gathered in Beijing on Monday. "We don't want masks, we want freedom," one of the groups chanted. "Lift the lockdown," demonstrators shouted at a different protest, in China's far west.

The government says it has been prioritizing lives over the economy by enforcing COVID lockdowns. Authorities are trying to curb China's biggest coronavirus outburst since the pandemic and its related restrictions began three years ago. The restrictions have reduced foot traffic, hurting small businesses, and cut into production at major factories, like a Foxconn facility in Zhengzhou in central China that makes Apple iPhones. Some protesters have called for Xi to resign in a rare challenge to Communist Party leadership. Beijing on Monday eased restrictions in some areas, while reaffirming its "zero COVID" strategy and dispatching police to prevent further anti-government rallies. President Xi has few good options to defuse the crisis. How much of a threat are the protests to Xi's leadership?

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Harold Maass, The Week US

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at The Week. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 debut of the U.S. print edition and served as editor of when it launched in 2008. Harold started his career as a newspaper reporter in South Florida and Haiti. He has previously worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, ABC News and Fox News, and for several years wrote a daily roundup of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance.