Reports of looting, unrest in Shanghai as angry residents chafe at lockdown

I can’t tell you how widespread this might be. All I can do is show you the clips that are circulating.


The people in the first video were reportedly chanting, “Send provisions.” If you read yesterday’s post, you know why.

As public frustration builds, the threat of civil disorder rises:

It’s a Catch-22 for the Chinese government. Lift restrictions and they’re apt to see a massive outbreak in their largest city that the health-care system can’t cope with. Refuse to lift restrictions and they’re at risk of mass starvation and riots playing out before the world’s eyes on social media faster than Chinese censors can cover it up. And they’d likely end up with a massive outbreak in that scenario too, with lockdown rules suddenly being ignored en masse.

Something’s got to give. Either the government will lift restrictions or the desperate locals will lift them themselves.

Lo and behold, today brings news that restrictions in Shanghai are being relaxed — sort of:

During a news conference Saturday, Shanghai Vice Mayor Zong Ming said sections of the city will now be classified as “precautionary,” “controlled” or “locked down,” depending on the results of the testing.

Residents in areas deemed “precautionary” with no infections over the past 14 days will be able to move around their districts, but gatherings will be restricted. In “controlled” areas, residents can move around in their neighborhoods, which are smaller than districts. “Locked down” areas will require everyone to stay at home.


Seems like a useful compromise, until you realize how many people are infected:

Is there a single neighborhood with zero infections? If not then Shanghai is still effectively under an indefinite citywide lockdown, just under another name.

Holman Jenkins notes the double whammy inherent in China’s “zero COVID” policy. On the one hand, the government’s zero-tolerance policy towards infection has led the Chinese to be terrified of COVID. On the other hand, the horror stories about privations in Shanghai have led them to be terrified of lockdown. For instance, the AP reports today on elderly residents of Shanghai dying mysteriously at the hospital and their relatives being left in the dark as to why. Was it COVID? Or is the hospital so badly understaffed due to doctors and nurses being quarantined that their loved ones essentially died of neglect?

Also, how many people with illnesses never made it to the hospital because of lockdown, forced to die in agony at home because they weren’t allowed to leave?

The entire Chinese population is watching Shanghai warily and wondering which would be worse in their city, COVID running wild or a Wuhan-style lockdown. Jenkins:


So we’re left with a perplexity. Is China telling us it has failed and cannot succeed at protecting its healthcare system as the West has done, by vaccinating, by shielding the most vulnerable, and so permitting zero Covid to end? Or has the Communist Party trapped itself in a double bind because it made a national trophy out of not allowing transmission to happen and now can never allow transmission to happen as part of a sensible endgame?…

If transmission must be suppressed and anything else is a defeat, then the Communist Party has set a game for itself in which no victory is possible.

Let me recommend two Twitter threads to you (each too long to post here in full) for insight into the mood in Shanghai. One comes from Jared Nelson, an American who lives there with his family and is now past three weeks of being stuck at home. Restrictions in his building are getting *tighter,* with residents now asked not to leave their apartments except for testing. Previously they were allowed to come downstairs for deliveries; now, two volunteers are sent outside to retrieve deliveries for the entire building.

But they’re only allowed to do so at a specific time of day. Which is a problem when the deliveries involve perishables:


Why are residents not allowed to leave their apartments for deliveries when they’re told every day to queue up in long lines for testing? It’s absurd, says Nelson, who speculates that the close quarters of those lines are inadvertently seeding infections. That’s nerve-wracking in a country where a positive test means you’re whisked away to a quarantine facility without your family, especially when the facilities are in a condition like this:

The other thread comes from a Chinese YouTuber who’s keen for people to understand how sensitive the Chinese people are to the prospect of starvation. It’s not just horrifying in the abstract for them, it’s a reminder of the bad old days under Mao, before China’s standard of living began to improve. As such, the difficulty Shanghai residents are having in finding food is politically potent. She thinks the unrest in the city could get much worse:


It’s too risky for Beijing to end the lockdown and it’s too risky for them not to end the lockdown. What happens next?

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David Strom 12:40 PM | July 23, 2024