Old video of Xi Jinping discussing pandemic strategy misleads online after zero-Covid reversal

An old video of Chinese President Xi Jinping discussing his government’s “flexible” approach to the pandemic has been misleadingly shared in posts after China quickly dismantled key pillars of its zero-Covid strategy. The clip was viewed thousands of times in the posts it appeared criticize the easing of restrictions due to the increase in Covid-19 cases in China. However, the video shows the Chinese leader speaking in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic.

“Xi’s summary of the past three years of anti-epidemic efforts,” reads a streamlined Chinese tweet shared Dec. 18.

The video, which has more than 12,000 views, shows Xi speaking to a group of people about China’s Covid-19 policy.

“I think we still need it,” he says in Mandarin. “That’s a sign of good national governance. It can be tightened quickly when it’s needed and relaxed in an orderly way when it’s needed. It’s a kind of ability to freely advance and retreat.”

Covid-19 cases are soaring in China following the government’s sudden decision to lift years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing, with struggling hospitals, pharmacy shelves stripped bare and crematoria across the country struggling to deal with an influx of bodies.

The end of mandatory testing has made it difficult to track the toll of the Covid surge in China, with authorities admitting it was “impossible” to count how many have fallen ill.

A screenshot of the misleading post, taken on December 20, 2022

The video has been viewed more than 135,000 times in similar posts, including here, here, here, and here.

Some social media users seemed to believe the footage showed Xi speaking after the lifting of Covid restrictions.

“He’s been wrong for three years, but he still wants people to praise him for his wisdom,” commented one Twitter user.

“After his re-election to the 20th Congress, he greatly changed his old inferiority complex and began to be very conceited and arrogant,” wrote another, referring to an October meeting of Communist Party leaders in which Xi was appointed general secretary of the party. for another five years.

However, the posts are misleading: While Xi’s recent flurry of diplomatic engagements has dominated the headlines, he has yet to publicly comment on the collapse of what was until recently a signatory policy, AFP reported.

A reverse image search found the video previously posted by China’s state broadcaster CCTV on April 1, 2020 on video platform Haokan.

The video is a longer version of the clip circulating in the misleading posts.

Below is a screenshot comparing the video in the misleading posts (left) and the CCTV video (right):

A screenshot comparing the video in the deceptive post (left) and the CCTV video (right)

The title reads in simplified Chinese: “Xi Jinping: flexibility is a sign of good governance of the country”.

The text on the screen reads: “March 31, 2020, Hangzhou, Zhejiang: Xi Jinping inspected the brain operations command center of Hangzhou city.”

Screenshot of CCTV video

The Hangzhou City Brain Operations Command Center pioneered a health code that was later rolled out to the whole country.

The Chinese public were required to show a green health code on their phone to enter buildings and public spaces, until the regime was reduced in December to nursing homes, medical institutes, kindergartens, middle and high schools.

Xi visited the Center on March 31, 2020 to learn about Hangzhou city’s use of health codes and other pandemic measures, Xinhua news agency reported on April 1, 2020.

The local government in Hangzhou issued a press release about Xi’s visit on April 2, 2020, which was also covered in a separate report by CCTV.

“On the afternoon of the 31st, President Xi Jinping came to the Hangzhou City Brain Operations Command Center,” CCTV reported.

“It is too early to ease the Covid prevention and control measures. It is better to avoid gatherings,” Xi said with quotes.

He then described restrictions such as limiting the number of diners in restaurants, before adding: “I think we still need it. This is a manifestation of the national level of governance. It can be managed quickly when it is managed and released in an orderly way when it is released. It is a kind of ability to freely advance and retreat.”

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