China’s President Xi Jinping signalled there would be no immediate loosening of his controversial zero-Covid strategy as a historic Communist Party congress opened in Beijing.
In a break in decades-long tradition, delegates are likely to hand Mr Xi a third term as party chief.
Zero-Covid was a “people’s war to stop the spread of the virus”, he said.
The policy has saved lives, but also exacted a punishing toll on the Chinese people and economy.
There is increasing public fatigue over lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Beijing has come under strict security measures ahead of the congress, sparking frustration in the city with a rare and dramatic public protest on Thursday criticising Mr Xi and zero Covid.
Xi is too smart to think that he can prevent any Covid or that it would be worth the economic cost. What is worth the economic cost, however, is to use Covid as a cover to reorder society, crack down on opponents, and finish his genocide. He’s a pure-bred totalitarian and the economic success of the past couple of decades has created an actual Chinese middle class. That can’t be tolerated.