Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Shanghai Surprise: China Mulls Locking Down Workers Inside Factories


Shanghai, entering its second month of COVID-19 lockdowns, is considering a radical move to restart the city’s vital industries.

City workers might be forced to trade getting locked down at home for getting locked down at work, according to a new report from Are Technica.

Some factories have been able to continue operations while minimizing the risk of COVID outbreaks by operating with workers shut inside a “closed loop,” meaning that they have to remain inside a plant, eating there and in some cases reportedly sleeping on the floor, for days or even weeks at a time.

As Beijing demands that more business reopen, companies are trying to figure out how to deal with conflicting demands to keep residents locked down. “Most companies will ask people to live at the factory,” one anonymous Shanghai resident told the press. “But how are you going to do it? People may not be allowed to go home.”

In recent weeks, many of the city’s 25 million hungry residents have taken to their balconies in protest. A few have even chosen to fling themselves to their deaths rather than live one more starving day trapped in their apartments.

Shanghai’s solution? Fence them in.

Images of white hazmat suit-clad workers sealing entrances of housing blocks and closing off entire streets with roughly two metre-tall green fencing went viral on social media, prompting questions and complaints from residents.

Reuters says the fences are being erected around buildings “where at least one person tested positive for COVID-19,” and that residents aren’t allowed out of their own front doors.

The question might not be whether workers would be willing to trade an at-home lockdown for an at-work lockdown, but whether they’ll be allowed — or even physically able — to make the one-way commute.

There have been countless social media videos of Shanghai residents being beaten by Shanghai’s “Big White” lockdown enforcers just for being outdoors. I’d hate to imagine what might happen to someone trying to scale a fence.

The discrepancy between Beijing’s draconian insistence on a “Zero COVID” policy and the country’s need to avoid a recession — or worse — couldn’t be more striking.

Despite Communist China’s complete failure to choke off Shanghai’s mostly harmless omicron outbreak, the country might try the exact same totalitarian methods in the capital, Beijing:

China’s capital, Beijing, began mass testing of more than 3 million people on Monday to find COVID-19 cases and restricted residents in one part of the city to their compounds, sparking worries of a wider Shanghai-style lockdown. While only 70 cases have been found so far in the city of more than 21 million since a new outbreak surfaced on Friday, authorities have rolled out strict measures under China’s “zero-COVID” policy to try to prevent a further spread of the virus.

A local official called the situation in Beijing “urgent and grim,” even with the small number of cases and omicron’s generally mild symptoms. In Shanghai, there were 19,000 new cases on Sunday, in line with the weeks-long trend, but only 51 deaths.

That’s a mortality rate of about one-quarter of one percent.

It’s difficult to determine just what Chinese strongman Xi Jinping is trying to accomplish with Zero COVID.

The virus has become less harmful as it’s expanded from epidemic to pandemic to endemic. And he’s put the Communist Party’s prestige on the line (as well as his own), in a vain effort to use thugs and fences to combat a virus.

Is all this just a crude show of force on his part? Is he hoping to cause more damage to Western economies than his own, and thus improve China’s relative position? Or, having decided on a useless and destructive policy, is he just too stubborn or prideful to change tack?