Daring protests against President Xi

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J. Soedradjad Djiwandono
J. Soedradjad Djiwandono, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas Indonesia, and Adjunct Professor of International Economics, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

Jakarta, IO – Across many cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai, hundreds of thousands of young people have recently been marching in protest against President Xi Jinping’s policy of “zero Covid”. Broadening the protest, the occasion has been also optimized to stand against a controlled press, symbolized by waving a white sheet of paper everywhere. In a city in central China ten people reportedly died when a building was on fire: rescuers could not reach the victims, partly because of the rigid rules characterizing the “zero-Covid” policy. 

Market reaction has been immediate, as reflected in the downward movement of equity indexes in Beijing, Shanghai, and other major centers. This was also evident in capital markets in other countries. People complain about the high unemployment that has spread across many areas, high inflation and the lockdown that for some areas has endured for three full years. 

Certain protesters are reported to even be daring enough to demand the resignation of President Xi; that surely is a new demand unheard of before. It is still not clear as to how this goes directly to the ear of the supreme leader, and even less how the President would respond or whether he would ignore it completely. 

He is still enjoying his special place in China history, holding the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China for a third consecutive five-year term; it may be that he could not care less about the protests. But he certainly must be concerned about low growth rates, high inflation, unemployment and the declining value of the Renminbi. 

The other news worthy development in a state ruled by an autocratic ruler is the situation in Iran. The country has been facing protests by women and supporters, standing against the death of a young woman in detention by the morality police in Teheran a month or so ago, for not wearing her hijab properly. The protest has been spreading in cities, not just in Teheran but others, where protesters are more daring, publicly cutting their hair and burning their hijabs everywhere. Police forces have been ordered to crush the demonstrators, resulting in many being jailed and threatened with a death sentence. Ayatollah Khamenei has praised the forces for their repressive actions in a recent sermon. But this has not seemed to be able to suppress nor to calm the demonstrations.