As China doubles down on lockdowns, some Chinese seek an exit

Ms. Xie is among a small but growing group of Chinese who are looking to the exits as China’s pandemic controls drag into their third year. Many are middle-class or wealthy Shanghai residents who have been trapped for nearly two months by a citywide lockdown that has battered the economy and limited access to food and medicine. Some, like Ms. Xie, have ties overseas and worry that China’s door to the world is closing. Others are disheartened by heightened government censorship and surveillance, which the pandemic has aggravated.

“I can’t change or condemn the current situation in China,” said Ms. Xie, who lives in Jiangsu Province, bordering Shanghai. “And if you can’t change it, all you can do is run.”

The urge to leave contrasts with the authorities’ triumphant narrative of the pandemic, which says that their rigid controls have made China the only safe haven in a world devastated by the virus. It is another sign that the government’s zero Covid strategy is coming at an increasingly high cost.

Online searches for “emigration” increased by 440 percent last month, according to one tracker. Some internet users have even coined a trending term for the mindset: “run philosophy.” Immigration consultants say inquiries about leaving China have surged since the Shanghai lockdown.

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