What Happened: Major cities in China, including Beijing, Chengdu, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Urumqi, announced an easing of “zero-COVID” policies, Reuters reported Dec. 2. The changes are incremental and vary widely by region, city, district and neighborhood, with scores of designated high-risk zones still locked down throughout the country.

Why It Matters: Although Chinese authorities have not publicly acknowledged that anti-zero-COVID protests took place in November, the easing of restrictions demonstrates that officials are cautiously moving to avoid more social discontent, particularly as adjustments appear to correlate with locations where protest risk is relatively high. This round of adjustments represents a major step, as it involves easing restrictions in crowded places where viral spread is most likely to occur and reduces the need to demonstrate negative test results, limiting emphasis on surveillance technology. But China will not open too quickly or abandon zero-COVID, as that would be a major blow to the government’s credibility and legitimacy, as well as pose potentially severe health risks.

Background: China is under increased pressure to lift restrictions following Nov. 25-27 protests, but the country was already on an incremental easing trajectory following the release of the government’s 20 optimization measures for COVID-19 management on Nov. 13.

Source: Rane.com December 3, 2022