WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday criticized China’s strict “zero COVID” strategy that has sparked mass protests across the country calling for President Xi Jinping to resign.
“We’ve said that zero COVID is not a policy [we’re] pursuing here in the United States,” a National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement. “And as we’ve said, we think it’s going to be very difficult for the People’s Republic of China to be able to contain this virus through their zero COVID strategy.”
China’s COVID policies have ignited mass protests throughout the country over the last few days in what some are calling the largest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades. The protests have now spread to at least eight major cities in China, with most people pushing back on the severe restrictions and some amping up calls for Xi to resign.
The “zero COVID” strategy aims to isolate every infected individual in China and has confined millions of people to their home for weeks — some of whom have complained about a lack of reliable access to food and medical supplies. The NSC spokesperson on Monday made it clear that these excessive COVID restrictions would not be pursued in the United States, which will instead rely on public health tools such as vaccines and testing.
“For us, we are focused on what works and that means using the public health tools like: continuing to enhance vaccination rates, including boosters and making testing and treatment easily accessible,” the spokesperson said.
While the spokesperson lightly criticized China for implementing the policy and emphasized citizens’ right to protest, the Biden administration has so far held back on issuing a larger condemnation of Xi amid the unrest. The White House’s apparent restraint in more forcefully supporting the protesters in China comes amid President Joe Biden’s broader effort to mend fences with Xi — whom he met with during the G-20 meeting earlier in November — and stabilize the currently rocky U.S.-China relationship.
“We’ve long said everyone has the right to peacefully protest, here in the United States and around the world,” the spokesperson said. “This includes in the PRC.”
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