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China’s Changing COVID-19 Policies: Market and Public Health


After the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, China took fast and decisive measures to successfully contain the spread of the virus within its borders. While the rest of the world saw huge human and social costs in the pandemic, the Chinese mainland for about two years was largely free from COVID. The zero-COVID model, however, met great challenges by early 2022. Despite some efforts to save the zero-COVID model, in November 2022, the Chinese government abruptly abandoned its signature COVID controls during the pandemic and switched to the opposite. This article reviews the evolution of the Chinese COVID policies and places the dramatic turns in the context of the changing Chinese political economy. The findings show that the shifting class interests and actions were an important force behind China’s retreat from zero- COVID.

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