Xi Jinping’s absence from the G20 and COP26, a symbol of Chinese isolation

As the world opens up again, China is closing in. Xi Jinping will neither be in Rome on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 October, to participate in the G20 summit, nor in Glasgow from 1ᵉʳ to 12 November, for the world climate conference (COP26), and probably not in Senegal, for the third China-Africa summit scheduled for the end of November. In Europe, he is expected to be represented by Wang Yi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The secretary general of the Communist Party of China has not been out of China since January 18, 2020, the date of his return from Burma, and everything suggests that he does not plan to do so before the end of the Olympic Games in winter, February 20, 2022. Two years of physical absence on the international scene, unprecedented for a leader of the G20.

A policy due to the Chinese characteristics of the management of the health crisis. After three weeks of procrastination and lies in early January 2020, China surprised the world by isolating the epidemic’s epicenter, Wuhan, for seventy-six days. While the rest of the planet was gradually confined in turn, China was emerging from this crisis and adopting the zero Covid-19 policy. At the slightest case, the country is testing millions of people and isolating entire neighborhoods, even entire cities. Direct consequence: since March 27, 2020, the country has practically lived in a bubble. Chinese passports are no longer renewed, international flights reduced by more than 97%, and the few people who enter the country, even vaccinated with a Chinese vaccine, are subject to two or even three weeks of strict quarantine in a hotel. . The rare foreign leaders received in the country, like John Kerry, Joe Biden’s “Mr. Climate”, remain in the provinces.

The problem is that with less than a hundred days of the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing on February 4, 2022, new cases continue to emerge. Few: 39 cases on October 27, but, in the name of zero Covid-19, cities of several million inhabitants are again confined and deprived of public transport. Authorities are dissuading residents of Beijing from leaving the capital. For months, millions of officials have been confined there and, every day, parents tempted to leave are warned of the unfortunate consequences that could result for their child’s education.

Zero Covid strategy as much political as health

This policy is not about to end. Each large city is in the process of removing accommodation centers (at the rate of 20 beds per 10,000 inhabitants), in order to systematically quarantine people entering the country. Thousands of identical cells, monitored by surveillance cameras and where a robot will bring meals, are under construction. For many diplomats and even Chinese, this zero Covid strategy is as much political as it is health. Xi Jinping announced in September 2020 “The victory of the Chinese people” against the virus and nothing should be able to contradict it.

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Xi Jinping’s absence from the G20 and COP26, a symbol of Chinese isolation