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Nancy Qian

China’s Real Covid Crisis Is Yet to Come

Chinese leaders can claim enviable success in tamping down the pandemic using massive lockdowns but they’re going to struggle to return the country to normalcy.

The country’s Covid-zero policy is unsustainable. 

The country’s Covid-zero policy is unsustainable. 

Photographer: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly two years after the first cases of Covid-19 emerged in China, authorities are still locking down whole metropolises after detecting handfuls of infections. The country’s strict “Covid zero” policy has been effective: With a population of around 1.3 billion, it has recorded only around 125,000 cases and less than 6,000 deaths. No other large nation can claim to have fought the pandemic so successfully.

The tools China has wielded thus far, however, will be less useful in the post-pandemic period. In fact, unlike their counterparts elsewhere, Chinese leaders may find returning the country to normalcy even harder than fighting the virus.