Former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal


While the recent protests in China against stringent Covid-19 norms are unusual, President Xi Jinping will not only continue with the zero-Covid policy, but the communist state would also use force to quell the protests if need be, according to former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal.

During the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress held in Beijing in October 2022, the president had categorically said that there would be no departure from the zero-Covid policy.  

There is public dissatisfaction due to unavailability of basic amenities like food and water during the lockdowns, which has brought people to the streets, Sibal told BQ Prime in an exclusive interview.

Though the immediate trigger point has been the death of 10 people in Xinjiang’s Urumqi, this time, people might have run out of patience while dealing with intermittent lockdowns and harsh rules, Sibal said.  

On slogans being raised against the Chinese president, asking him to step down, the former secretary said that even during the recently concluded Communist Party Congress at Beijing, there was a big banner against Xi Jinping, which was taken down.

However, in spite of the growing unhappiness against the president, the protests are yet to show any political overtone, he said.

Citing the example of Chinese crackdown on protests in Hong Kong, Sibal said that though—for the time being—the Chinese authorities are showing restraint, they will use force to suppress it.

“I don’t see him backing down. The manner in which he has centralised power and established his grip over the Chinese system and appointed all his henchmen in Politburo, he is not going to lose face,” Sibal said.

Any recoiling before public opinion would have other repercussions for the all-powerful Chinese leader, he said.  

Sibal sounded a note of caution given that China is the biggest export partner of all the major economies. So, any slowdown and supply chain disruption due to rising Covid cases or zero-Covid policy would have a deleterious impact on the world economy, he said.  


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