After micromanaging the coronavirus strategy for nearly three years, the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, has suddenly left the populace to improvise.

By Chris BuckleyAlexandra Stevenson and Keith Bradsher

The southwestern city of Chongqing was the latest frontline of Xi Jinping’s “zero Covid” war, until it came to epitomize China’s potentially devastating about-face that has cracked the Communist Party’s edifice of absolute control.

The city last month was enduring one of the biggest outbreaks cropping up across China, when the national leader, Mr. Xi, ordered officials to continue mass testing, lockdowns and quarantines. Chen Min’er, the Chongqing party secretary, devoutly complied, closing off neighborhoods and ordering the instant construction of a quarantine hospital designed to hold up to 21,000 beds.

“Be resolute in fighting and winning this war of annihilation against the pandemic,” Mr. Chen, a protégé of Mr. Xi, told officials on Nov. 27. “Not a day of delay.”

But 10 days later, China suddenly abandoned the “zero Covid” strategy on which Mr. Xi had staked his reputation. Now the country faces a surge of infections, and Mr. Xi has left officials scrambling to manage the disarray and uncertainty.

Link to article in The New York Times by Chris Buckley, et al.

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