“When the ability to govern is reduced, even if there is no specific high-level policy, the incompetence, brutality and ignorance of low-level officials will create disasters for the ordinary people who are governed,” Mr. Wu said. He is a senior fellow at the Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions.
Many businesses have lost a lot of money under “zero-Covid”, which has shut down cities and locked millions of people in their homes for weeks as the government tries to stamp out the coronavirus.
“Under the leadership of this dictator, our great country is falling into an abyss,” said a Shenzhen-based hardware technology executive. “But you can’t do anything. It hurts and depresses me.”
Despite many conversations over the years, we never talked about politics. I was surprised when he called after the party congress to talk about his “political depression”. He said he was very nationalistic because he believed the Chinese were among the most intelligent and hardworking people in the world. Now, he and his many friends spend most of their time walking, golfing and drinking. “We are too depressed to work,” he said.
Until a year ago, his startup was doing so well that he was planning to take it public. It then lost much of its revenue and new recruits sat idle as the city was locked down under “zero-Covid” rules. He said he now has no choice but to lay off more than 100 people, sell the business and move his family to North America.
“As the dark night descends,” he said, “I will face him by the path of the dark night.”
The tech company in Beijing who texted me after the party congress recounted a harrowing experience. In May, when there were rumors that Beijing might be locked down, its workers could not be told to leave work early and stock up on groceries. He was worried they might be charged for spreading rumours, something the police had managed to arrest people for. He only told them that they should feel free to leave early if they had things to take care of.
This successful company is now applying to immigrate to a European country and the United States.