China’s Opaque Decision-Making Confounds Business, Governments

Sudden zero-Covid reversal shows risks of trying to predict where Beijing is headed as Xi Jinping upends developed model

As China relaxes pandemic restrictions and reopens to foreign travelers, clinics and hospital hallways overflow with patients amid a wave of infections that is testing the healthcare system, following the abrupt removal of the so-called zero-Covid strategy. Photo: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

For most of the past two years, foreign officials and business executives grappled with Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping’s unflinching insistence on a zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19. Now they are struggling to make sense of Beijing’s decision to scrap those pandemic controls virtually without warning.

The whiplash from China’s about-face on its zero-Covid strategy exemplifies the uncertainties that businesses, foreign governments and academics face in dealing with a black-box political system that has become increasingly impenetrable as Mr. Xi has accumulated more power.

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