Financial TimesFinancial Times

The humbling of Xi Jinping

By Edward White, Tom Mitchell, Sun Yu, Thomas Hale

02 Dec 2022 · 7 min read

For Chinese football fans watching World Cup matches on television, the first sign there was something amiss was when they realised they could hear the crowds in the stadium, but could not see them on their screens.

As nationwide protests against President Xi Jinping’s draconian zero-Covid policy gathered pace last weekend, the censors decided it was too embarrassing to see fans enjoying themselves in crowded stadiums in Qatar, with no one wearing a mask. So after every goal, Chinese television feeds focused only on the players and coaches on the pitch and ignored jubilant fans embracing each other in the stands.

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