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Mass protests may ease covid restrictions in China but won’t lead to any democratic freedoms, Northeastern experts say

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( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )
Hundreds of people stage a demonstration against Xi Jinping's zero-Covid policy at Liangmaqiao district in Beijing, China on Nov. 27, 2022. The Chinese government has faced unprecedented dissent protests in several cities, including Urumqi, Shanghai, and Beijing.

China began easing COVID-19 restrictions and opening up cities from strict lockdowns on Wednesday in the face of mass protests that erupted across the country last weekend. 

While the protests are unlikely to lead to more democratic freedoms and social change, Northeastern experts say, China might have to grapple with a rapid rise in COVID cases due to insufficient natural and vaccination immunity as a result of the “zero-COVID” policy.

From talking to family and friends and reading social media posts, Hua Dong, senior academic specialist in Chinese language at Northeastern, saw the frustration with the “zero-COVID” policy building up among Chinese citizens. She says the frustration found an outlet through the protests that broke out across China last weekend. 

“Zero-COVID policy has been so strict and long and did so much damage to the well-being of everyone’s sanity,” she says.

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