Chinese Communist Party Archives Reveal Contradictions, Confusion, and Corruption in “Reform” Policies

(p. C3) Up until the Covid pandemic, I spent years traversing the country to explore the Chinese Communist Party archives from the reform period. Access was at times surprisingly easy, and my findings were eye-opening.

. . .

The archives suggest that officials were aware of reform’s contradictions from its earliest days. Remnants of the command economy combined with what one economist called “selected, pasteurized, partial, truncated, restricted and disjointed pieces of market and private property policy.” The outcome, said Liu Guoguang, a professor of economics and alternate member of the party’s Central Committee, was “a confused economic system.”

Private ownership of intellectual property had no place in this system, and its theft was actively encouraged throughout the party hierarchy. Two government ministries jointly circulated a directive on counterfeiting in 1983, noting that due to the country’s legal obligations, it was necessary with such goods to “change the name of the product.” As one report noted, “We need a unified approach towards copying” so that “the quality of the copied equipment can be guaranteed.”

The counterfeiting of computer technology assumed particular importance after Zhao Ziyang, the country’s premier from 1980 to 1987, read “The Third Wave,” by the American futurist Alvin Toffler. The book predicted that, in the wake of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, a third revolution would be based on the computer. In October 1983, Zhao proposed skipping the second wave altogether: “Time and tide wait for no one, opportunity knocks but once,” he pronounced. To leap into the digital era, China would need to imitate and reverse engineer foreign products.

But the copying wasn’t limited to computer technology. By 2001, China was awash in fake pharmaceutical products and pirated Hollywood movies on DVD. China’s accession to the WTO that year led to a bonanza of copying, for which few consumers paid more than ordinary Chinese: Electric kettles blew up, brake pads failed. Spices contained paraffin wax, noodles used a red dye that caused cancer, and rice wine was made with cheap industrial-grade alcohol. In 2007, the government estimated that one-fifth of the food and consumer goods it checked were substandard or tainted.

China’s financial system rested on similarly shaky foundations. By the summer of 1988, the pace of growth led to double-digit inflation, and state banks were unable to pay villagers for their contractual deliveries of grain, cotton and other essential products. Protests in 1989, in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere across the country, were as much about economic as political discontent. About a fifth of the files in the party archives deal with debt—lending to solve the debt, further debt due to the lending, more lending to solve an even larger debt.

. . .

The image that emerges from the archives is very different from the impression that many have of today’s China. From a distance, the country’s gleaming cities may resemble an impressively shipshape tanker, with the captain and his lieutenants standing proudly on the bridge, but below deck, sailors are desperately pumping water and plugging holes to keep the vessel afloat.

For the full essay, see:

Frank Dikötter. “China’s Economic Miracle That Wasn’t.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 19, 2022): C3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date November 17, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

The essay quoted above is adapted from Dikötter’s book:

Dikötter, Frank. China after Mao: The Rise of a Superpower. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2022.

Chinese Protestors Seek “Freedom” and “Rule of Law”

(p. A1) BEIJING—Protests are erupting in major cities in China over President Xi Jinping’s zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19, an unusual show of defiance in the country as the economic and social costs from snap lockdowns and other strict restrictions escalate.

. . .

(p. A8) The protests followed demonstrations on Friday [Nov. 25, 2022] in Urumqi, capital of the remote region of Xinjiang, where a deadly fire enraged residents who had struggled with lockdowns of more than 100 days. Residents flooded social media with comments suggesting that Covid restrictions contributed to a delay in putting out the fire, in which officials said 10 people died.

In Beijing, hundreds of protesters marched on Sunday night. A large police presence pinned protesters near the Liangmahe river, a popular spot for family picnics by day that is close to many foreign embassies. “Freedom,” the protesters shouted in unison.

. . .

Signs that unrest after the deadly fire in Urumqi was spreading beyond Xinjiang became apparent on Saturday [Nov. 26, 2022], when videos circulating on social media showed crowds gathering on a street in central Shanghai calling for a lifting of lockdowns. The videos were verified by Storyful, a social-media research company owned by News Corp, parent company of The Wall Street Journal.

. . .

One middle-aged Shanghai resident said he stopped by on his way home and joined the crowd in singing “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical “Les Misérables” and the Chinese national anthem. A friend who grew up in Xinjiang began to cry, he said.

“[We in] Shanghai can relate to that, because we had gone through such a long lockdown,” he said, referring to more than two months of iron-fisted Covid controls imposed on the city earlier this year.

The mood intensified. Using expletives and call-and-response chanting, some protesters began to denounce both Mr. Xi and his Covid-control strategy. Another clip from the scene showed demonstrators standing across from lines of police.

The clip showed one man chanting, “The Communist Party.” Others responded, “Step down.”

“Xi Jinping,” the man shouted. “Step down,” others responded.

. . .

On Chinese social-media, users raced against censors to spread images and news of the protests, along with expressions of solidarity. “Long live the people, may the dead rest in peace,” said a message that spread widely. Others posted an image of a blank white sheet of paper—a nod to censorship—with the words “I love you, China. I love you, young people.”

The protests continued Sunday [Nov. 27, 2022], with students gathering around noon on the campus of Tsinghua University, another elite school in Beijing. Some in the crowd carried sheets of paper that were either blank or had an exclamation mark inside a red circle—the symbol that indicates an online post has been deleted—according to witness video footage shared with the Journal. The students sang songs and chanted “Democracy and rule of law!”

For the full story, see:

Lingling Wei, Brian Spegele and Wenxin Fan. “Protests Spread in Challenge To Xi’s Regime.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Nov. 28, 2022): A1 & A8.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 28, 2022, and has the title “Chinese Protests Spread Over Government’s Covid Restrictions.” Where the versions differ, the quotes above follow the more detailed online version.)

Chinese Citizens Tune Out Randomly Linked Nonsense Propaganda Phrases

(p. B1) China is now one of the last places on earth trying to eliminate Covid-19, and the Communist Party has relied heavily on propaganda to justify increasingly long lockdowns and burdensome testing requirements that can sometimes lead to three tests a week.

The barrage of messages — online and on television, loudspeakers and social platforms — has become so overbearing that some citizens say it has drowned out their frustrations, downplayed the reality of the country’s tough coronavirus rules and, occasionally, bordered on the absurd.

. . .

(p. B4) Yang Xiao, a 33-year-old cinematographer in Shanghai who was confined to his apartment for two months during a lockdown this year, had grown tired of them all.

“With the Covid control, propaganda and state power expanded and occupied all aspects of our life,” he said in a phone interview. Day after day, Mr. Yang heard loudspeakers in his neighborhood repeatedly broadcasting a notice for P.C.R. testing. He said the announcements had disturbed his sleep at night and woke him up at dawn.

“Our life was dictated and disciplined by propaganda and state power,” he said.

To communicate his frustrations, Mr. Yang selected 600 common Chinese propaganda phrases, such as “core awareness,” “obey the overall situation” and “the supremacy of nationhood.” He gave each phrase a number and then put the numbers into Google’s Random Generator, a program that scrambles data.

He ended up with senseless phrases such as “detect citizens’ life and death line,” “strictly implement functions” and “specialize overall plans without slack.” Then he used a voice program to read the phrases aloud and played the audio on a loudspeaker in his neighborhood.

No one seemed to notice the five minutes of computer-generated nonsense.

When Mr. Yang uploaded a video of the scene online, however, more than 1.3 million people viewed it. Many praised the way he used government language as satire. Chinese propaganda was “too absurd to be criticized using logic,” Mr. Yang said. “I simulated the discourse like a mirror, reflecting its own absurdity.”

His video was taken down by censors.

. . .

In June [2022], dozens of residents protested against the police and Covid control workers who installed chain-link fences around neighborhood apartments. When a protester was shoved into a police car and taken away, one man shouted: “Freedom! Equality! Justice! Rule of law!” Those words would be familiar to most Chinese citizens: They are commonly cited by state media as core socialist values under Mr. Xi.

For the full story, see:

Zixu Wang. “China’s Covid Propaganda, Often Seen as Absurd, Stirs Rebellion.” The New York Times (Friday, September 30, 2022): B1 & B4.

[Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.]

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 29, 2022, and has the title “China’s ‘Absurd’ Covid Propaganda Stirs Rebellion.”)

Weary and Angry with Lockdowns in China, “Everyone Is Scared”

(p. A12) In the hours before the southern Chinese city of Chengdu entered a coronavirus lockdown, Matthew Chen visited four vegetable markets in an attempt to stock up on fresh food. But seemingly the entire city had the same idea, and by the time he got to each place, most of the shelves had been stripped bare, except for hot peppers and fruit, he said.

Mr. Chen, a white-collar worker in his 30s, managed to scavenge enough cherry tomatoes, meat and greens for about one day, and since then has been ordering grocery deliveries to tide him through the lockdown, which began on Friday. But he worries about whether that supply will remain stable, and how much longer he will have to rely on it.

“The longer a lockdown goes, the more problems emerge, and the harder it is to tolerate it,” he said, noting that the Chengdu government had not given a timeline for reopening.

. . .

The challenges in enforcing such extensive controls are daunting, perhaps more so now than at any other point in the pandemic. Nearly three years of on-and-off lockdowns have lashed the economy, sending unemployment soaring, especially among young people. The country is increasingly isolated, as the rest of the world largely abandons Covid restrictions. New subvariants are ever more transmissible. And the seemingly endless restrictions leave more ordinary Chinese people wearier by the day.

. . .

Chengdu officials themselves have already tested residents’ trust, after the authorities last week ordered a man detained for 15 days, accusing him of spreading false rumors on social media about a looming lockdown. Two days later, when the city did actually lock down, social media erupted with support for the man and anger at the government.

“Everyone is scared, scared that the situation will become like Shanghai,” said Mr. Chen, the office worker, who had traveled to Chengdu on business before becoming trapped there by the restrictions.

Still, he saw little alternative but to bear with the situation. “Personally, I’m extremely fed up with and not supportive of these policies. But there’s nothing I can do,” he said. “I can only wait.”

For the full story, see:

Vivian Wang. “As Beijing Imposes More Covid Lockdowns Across China, ‘Everyone Is Scared’.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 6, 2022): A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version has the date Sept. 5, 2022, and has the title “As China Imposes More Covid Lockdowns, ‘Everyone Is Scared’.”)

“In the Face of the Sickles, What Can the Wheat Do?”

A low-budget movie depicting a poor couple’s struggle in rural China surprised many with a run at the Chinese box office that dwarfed some blockbusters. Now, many are wondering why they can’t watch it.

“Return to Dust” depicts two outcasts, a woman with a physical disability and a farmer too poor to marry, who get together in a marriage arranged by their families. With a realistic style, Li Ruijun, the director, tells the story of the hardships they face.

The movie, which features mostly locals in China’s western Gansu province rather than professional actors, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year and started screening in China in July. It quickly gained a following on social media. By early September, daily ticket revenue topped 10 million yuan ($1.4 million), surpassing big-budget movies such as “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

. . .

The movie’s disappearance came just ahead of a twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress in mid-October, at which President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a third term in power.

Hashtags about the movie and its removal on social-media platform Weibo became unclickable, a sign that the discussion was considered sensitive. Some blog posts on China’s do-everything app, WeChat, that asked why the movie was removed online also disappeared.

Weibo didn’t respond to a request for comment. iQIYI and Huawei Technologies Co., which operate major streaming platforms, didn’t reply to requests for comment. Tencent Holdings Ltd., which owns Tencent Video and WeChat, also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

China’s National Radio and Television Administration, the country’s broadcasting authority, didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment.

. . .

Many social-media discussions centered on how the lives of the couple in the movie were exploited by those in power. For example, in one scene, a wealthy man in the village pressures the husband to donate blood for his sick father.

In a line from the movie widely cited by social media users, the husband says, “In the face of the sickles, what can the wheat do?”

For the full story, see:

Liyan Qi. “?Chinese Fans of Popular Movie ‘Return to Dust’ Wonder What Happened to It.” wsj.com Posted Sunday, October 2, 2022), URL: https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinese-fans-of-popular-movie-return-to-dust-wonder-what-happened-to-it-11664721604?mod=Searchresults_pos1&page=1

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: As of 10/6/22, the article had not appeared in the print version of the WSJ.)

Wittgenstein Center’s Scenario Has Global Population Peak in 2050 at 8.7 Billion

(p. A2) Since the 1960s, when the global number of people first hit three billion, it has taken a bit over a decade to cross each new billion-person milestone, and so it might seem natural to assume that nine billion humans and then 10 billion are, inexorably, just around the corner. That is exactly what the latest population projections from the U.N. and the U.S. Census Bureau have calculated.

. . .

The U.N.’s projections are the best known. But an alternate set of projections has been gaining attention in recent years, spearheaded by the demographer Wolfgang Lutz, under the auspices of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital at the University of Vienna, of which Mr. Lutz is founding director.

. . .

“There’s two big questions,” Mr. Lutz explains, that determine whether his forecasts or the U.N.’s end up closer to the mark. “First, how rapidly fertility will decline in Africa…. The other question is China, and countries with very low fertility, if they will recover and how fast they will recover.”

. . .

The Wittgenstein forecasts, by contrast, look not only at historical patterns, but attempt to ask why birthrates rise and fall. A big factor, not formally included in the U.N.’s models, is education levels. Put simply: As people, especially women, have greater opportunities to pursue education, they have smaller families.

. . .

The U.N. projects Africa’s population will grow from 1.3 billion today to 3.9 billion by century’s end.

Once education is accounted for, Wittgenstein’s baseline scenario projects Africa’s population will rise to 2.9 billion during that time period. In another scenario from Wittgenstein, which it calls the “rapid development” scenario, the population of Africa will only reach 1.7 billion by century’s end.

Wittgenstein’s phrase “rapid development” is revealing: This isn’t a forecast of doom and decline, but rather one in which health and education simply improve, a world with better human well-being, lower mortality, and medium levels of immigration.

. . .

Wittgenstein’s rapid-development scenario has the global population topping out at 8.7 billion in 2050.

For the full commentary see:

Josh Zumbrun. “THE NUMBERS; As Population Nears 8 Billion, Some See Peak.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2022): A2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 12, 2022, and has the title “THE NUMBERS; Global Population Is About to Hit 8 Billion—and Some Argue It Is Near Its Peak.”)

Those Who Survived Dictatorship Know We Need “More Freedom, More Speech, Not Less”

(p. A19) The left’s reaction to Mr. Trump’s rhetoric was instructive. Anyone who mentioned the lab-leak theory was assailed as pro-Trump. Social-media companies removed posts mentioning it. By January 2021, it was obvious that shutting down debate was the true antiscience position. Invaluable months were lost, time the Chinese Communist Party used to destroy data and spread disinformation about the virus’s origins. We may never know the truth, but we do know there was a coverup.

Increasing numbers of Americans believe their freedom is under attack, and I agree. . . .

Schools are being pressured to remove books and cancel professors for spreading the “wrong” ideas. These sentiments are all too familiar to me, and to anyone who has survived life in a dictatorship. The only answer is more freedom, more speech, not less.

For the full commentary see:

Garry Kasparov. “‘Woke’ Is a Bad Word for a Real Threat to American Democracy.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021): A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 17, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.

Young Despairing Chinese Adopt the “Run Philosophy”

(p. B1) “I can’t stand the thought that I will have to die in this place,” said Cheng Xinyu, a 19-year-old writer in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, who is thinking of migrating to foreign countries before the government’s iron fist falls on her.

She can’t imagine having children in China, either.

“I like children, but I don’t dare to have them here because I won’t be able to protect them,” she said, citing concerns like pandemic control workers breaking into apartments to spray disinfectant, killing pets and requiring residents to leave the keys in their apartment door locks.

Ms. Cheng is part of a new trend known as the “run philosophy,” or “runxue,” that preaches running away from China to seek a safer and brighter future. She and millions of others also reposted a video in which a young man pushed back against police officers who warned that his family would be punished for three generations if he refused to go to a quarantine camp. “This will be our last generation,” he told the police.

His response became an online meme that was later censored. Many young people identified with the sentiment, saying they would be reluctant to have children under the increasingly authoritarian government.

. . .

(p. B3) The “run philosophy” and the “last generation” are the rallying cries for many Chinese in their 20s and 30s who despair about their country and their future. They are entering the labor force, getting married and deciding whether to have children in one of the country’s bleakest moments in decades. Censored and politically suppressed, some are considering voting with their feet while others want to protest by not having children.

. . .

Doris Wang, a young professional in Shanghai, said she had never planned to have children in China. Living through the harsh lockdown in the past two months reaffirmed her decision. Children should be playing in nature and with one another, she said, but they’re locked up in apartments, going through rounds of Covid testing, getting yelled at by pandemic control workers and listening to stern announcements from loudspeakers on the street.

“Even adults feel very depressed, desperate and unhealthy, not to mention children,” she said. “They’ll definitely have psychological issues to deal with when they grow up.” She said she planned to migrate to a Western country so she could have a normal life and dignity.

Compounding the frustrations, headlines are full of bad news about jobs. There will be more than 10 million college graduates in China this year, a record. But many businesses are laying off workers or freezing head counts as they try to survive the lockdowns and regulatory crackdowns.

. . .

“When you find that as an individual you have zero ability to fight back the state apparatus, your only way out is to run,” said Ms. Wang, the young professional in Shanghai.

For the full commentary see:

Li Yuan. “The New New World; Young Chinese Feel Suffocated.” The New York Times (Wednesday, May 25, 2022): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 24, 2022, and has the title “The New New World;‘The Last Generation’: The Disillusionment of Young Chinese.”

On June 4th, Four-Inch Replicas of the Tiananmen Square Goddess of Democracy Statue Appeared at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

(p. 10) TAIPEI, Taiwan — For decades, a large candlelight vigil was held in Hong Kong each June 4, to commemorate those killed when Chinese soldiers crushed the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing.

On Saturday, smaller crowds gathered in Taipei and other cities around the world — this time mourning not just the people slain 33 years ago, but also the fate of Hong Kong, where the smothering of dissent has put an end to the vigil in Victoria Park, the world’s most prominent public memorial to the victims of 1989.

“Now it’s about the two things together — Hong Kong as well as what happened on June 4,” said Francis Tse, a former Hong Kong resident who was one of about 400 people commemorating the anniversary in downtown Sydney, Australia. He and many others carried signs calling for the release of activists imprisoned in Hong Kong.

. . .

On Saturday [June 4, 2022], people who joined commemorations in Taipei, Sydney and London said they had also come to denounce the erasure of political freedoms in Hong Kong, as well as China’s draconian policies in two other regions, Xinjiang and Tibet.

“Now Hong Kong can no longer tell the truth and the real history, we must pass on this history even more in Taiwan,” said Henry Tong, a 41-year-old from Hong Kong who moved to Taiwan last year and attended this year’s vigil in Taipei. “Because of Hong Kong’s prohibition and suppression, it has blossomed everywhere.”

. . .

Over the past year, universities in Hong Kong have removed prominent Tiananmen memorials. In December, the University of Hong Kong took down the “Pillar of Shame,” a 26-foot statue by the Danish artist Jens Galschiot. A depiction of writhing corpses signifying those killed in 1989, it had been at the campus since the late 1990s, becoming a symbol of defiance against the Chinese authorities.

Since its removal, Prague and other cities have hosted replicas of the statue, and a smaller version was unveiled in Taipei on Saturday.

Another statue — modeled after the “Goddess of Democracy” erected by students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 — was removed from the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus late last year. In recent days, anonymous activists, determined to commemorate June 4 however they can, have left four-inch replicas of it around the campus.

For the full story see:

John Liu, Chris Buckley, Austin Ramzy, and Isabella Kwai. “Mourning Tiananmen’s Victims, and the Hong Kong That Was In Taipei [sic].” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, June 5, 2022): 10.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated June 30 [sic], 2022, and has the title “Mourning Tiananmen’s Victims, and the Hong Kong That Was.” The online version says that the print version has the title “In Taipei, Mourning Tiananmen’s Victims, and the Hong Kong That Was”, but my National print version has the title “Mourning Tiananmen’s Victims, and the Hong Kong That Was in Taipai [sic].”)

“Maverick” Chinese Entrepreneur Zhou Hang Dares Criticize Zero Covid Policy

(p. B1) China’s entrepreneur class is grappling with the worst economic slump in decades as the government’s zero Covid policy has shut down cities and kept would-be customers at home. Yet they can’t seem to agree on how loudly they should complain — or even whether they should at all.

. . .

Their approach, the equivalent of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand, doesn’t make sense to Zhou Hang. Mr. Zhou, a tech entrepreneur and a venture capitalist, has questioned how his peers can pretend it’s business as usual, given the political and economic upheaval. Stop putting up with the ridiculous reality, he urged. It’s time to speak up and seek change.

Mr. Zhou is rare in China’s business community for being openly critical of the government’s zero Covid policy, which has put hundreds of millions of people under some kind of lockdowns in the past few months, costing jobs and revenues. He’s saying what many others are whispering in private but fear to say in public.

“The questions we should ask ourselves are,” he wrote in an article that was censored within an hour of posting (p. B4) but shared widely in other formats, “what caused such widespread negative sentiment across the society? Who should be responsible for this? And how can we change it?”

He said the lockdowns in Shanghai and other cities made it clear that wealth and social status meant little to a government determined to pursue its zero Covid policy. “We’re all nobodies who could be sent to the quarantine camps, and our homes could be broken into,” he wrote. “If we still choose to adapt to and put up with this, all of us will face the same destiny: trapped.”

. . .

Mr. Zhou, 49, is known as a maverick in Chinese business circles. He founded his first business in stereo systems with his brother in the mid-1990s when he was still in college. In 2010, he started Yongche, one of the first ride-hailing companies.

Unlike most Chinese bosses, he didn’t demand that his employees work overtime, and he didn’t like liquor-filled business meals. He turned down hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and refused to participate in subsidy wars because doing so didn’t make economic sense. He ended up losing out to his more aggressive competitor Didi.

He later wrote a best seller about his failure and became a partner at a venture capital firm in Beijing. In April [2022], he was named chairman of the ride-sharing company Caocao, a subsidiary of auto manufacturing giant Geely Auto Group.

A Chinese citizen with his family in Canada, Mr. Zhou said in an interview that in the past many wealthy Chinese people like him would move their families and some of their assets abroad but work in China because there were more opportunities.

Now, some of the top talent are trying to move their businesses out of the country, too. It doesn’t bode well for China’s future, he said.

“Entrepreneurs have good survivor’s instinct,” he said. “Now they’re forced to look beyond China.” He coined a term — “passive globalization” — based on his discussions with other entrepreneurs. “Many of us are starting to take such actions,” he said.

For the full story see:

Li Yuan. “A Solitary Critic on ‘Zero Covid’.” The New York Times (Saturday, June 11, 2022): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 10, 2022 and has the title “A Chinese Entrepreneur Who Says What Others Only Think.”)

Arbitrary Long Lockdown Shows Shanghai “the Precarity of Rights” Under Communist Xi

(p. A5) BEIJING — June [2022], for Shanghai, was supposed to be a time of triumph. After two months of strict lockdown, the authorities had declared the city’s recent coronavirus outbreak under control. Businesses and restaurants were finally reopening. State media trumpeted a return to normalcy, and on the first night of release, people milled in the streets, shouting, “Freedom!”

Julie Geng, a 25-year-old investment analyst in the city, could not bring herself to join. “I don’t think there’s anything worth celebrating,” she said. She had spent part of April confined in a centralized quarantine facility after testing positive and the feeling of powerlessness was still fresh.

“I feel there is no basic guarantee in life, and so much could change overnight,” she said. “It makes me feel very fragile.”

. . .

Some residents are confronting the precarity of rights they once took for granted: to buy food and to expect privacy in their own homes. Some are grieving relationships that fractured under the stresses of lockdown. Many people remain anxious about the weeks they went without pay or whether their businesses will survive.

Hanging over it all is a broader inability to put the ordeal fully behind them, as China still holds to its goal of eliminating the virus. The authorities announced recently that every district in the city would briefly lock down each weekend until the end of July for mass testing.

. . .

The long-term fallout of the containment policies was already becoming clear in the inquiries that Xu Xinyue, a psychologist, received in recent weeks.

When the pandemic began two years ago, said Ms. Xu, who volunteers for a national counseling hotline, many callers were scared of the virus itself. But recent callers from Shanghai had been more concerned with the secondary effects of China’s controls — parents anxious about the consequences of prolonged online schooling, or young professionals worried about paying their mortgages, after the lockdown pummeled Shanghai’s job market.

Others were questioning why they had worked so hard in the first place, having seen how money could not ensure their comfort or safety during lockdown. They were now saving less and spending more on food and other tangible objects that could bring a sense of security, Ms. Xu said.

“Money has lost its original value,” she said. “This has upended the way they always thought, leaving them a bit lost.”

. . .

Anna Qin, an education consultant in her 20s, has started going to the office and the gym again. She walks and bicycles around the city, delighting in feeling her feet on the pavement.

But the fact that such mundane things now feel so special is just a reminder of how much the city was forced to sacrifice.

“We’re glad it’s opening up again, but also there’s no acknowledgment of what we went through,” she said.

“Now it’s closed, now it’s open, and we have no control. And now we’re supposed to be happy.”

For the full story see:

Vivian Wang. “Strict Lockdown Is Over, But Raw Feelings Linger.” The New York Times (Thursday, June 30, 2022): A5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 29, 2022 and has the title “‘Very Fragile’: Shanghai Wrestles With Psychological Scars of Lockdown.”)