The Chinese Dream: Is It Still Alive?

The pandemic and the Zero Covid policy have exacerbated issues that had already emerged. Xi Jinping is facing the first internal protests since Tiananmen. The social contract between the CCP and the citizens needs rethinking.

The policies enacted by the government to contain rising covid cases have exhausted the community. Nowadays, citizens are much more afraid of Covid procedures and isolation rather than of the virus. The lack of flexibility has led the government to an unrealistic approach to the pandemic, which is now showing all its shortcomings. Nonetheless, in order to understand why these protests are different from the past, we need to grab deeper, and consider the pre-covid scenario. Before the advent of the Pandemic, China was already facing a challenging period: after years of astonishing development, economic growth had started to slow down and some critical externalities emerged.

Transition periods are rarely easy. The pandemic and the Zero Covid policy have exacerbated issues that had already started to emerge.

China has undergone an incredible development pattern, with more than 800’000 people lifted out of poverty in less than fifty years. The World Bank defined it as “The fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history”. As a consequence, China has risen to become an economic, military, and political superpower. When Xi came into leadership a decade ago, he promised his country a “Chinese Dream” of restored national greatness by mid-century. Between 2000 and 2010 the average growth rate of the country was 11.4%, so everyone was hopeful. The same narrative was resumed after the XX Congress held in November 2022, when Xi established himself as the most powerful leader in the modern history of China. However, as it is well known, good things don’t last forever: currently, the context is very different from ten years ago and the Chinese people don’t have the same confidence and enthusiasm they had in the past. During the last decade, the Asian Dragon has entered a new phase of its development, featured by the issues of developed economies: the economic growth rate settles to more normal levels, inflation goes up, and so does the unemployment rate in the cities. More importantly, the government has to start dealing with crucial unaddressed issues, such as inequality, an unbalanced economic structure, over-dependence on FDI and exports, and pollution.

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