Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Will China’s protests survive?

By James Palmer

28 Nov 2022 · 7 min read

Editor's Note

China has not seen protests on this scale since the brutally-suppressed, student-led demonstrations of 1989. FP examines what’s driving the protests and how Chinese leaders are likely to respond.

People across China rallied this weekend against the government’s increasingly unpopular zero-COVID policy after a deadly apartment fire in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, with some directly challenging the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It represents the largest wave of popular protest since student-led demonstrations in 1989. Authorities are scrambling to respond to the protests, which have been accompanied by an even broader expression of online support.

Protests are common in China, but nationwide protests for a single cause are not. Protests that explicitly call for the end of the CCP are even rarer, especially in Beijing, where one person dropping a banner calling for the removal of Chinese President Xi Jinping last month made major news. Now, some protesters are openly calling for Xi to step down, blank signs have become a symbol of resistance to censorship, and videos of the protests have spread on social media.

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