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This 'trigger point' caused the protests in China - Pyotr Kurzin

Kitco News

(Kitco News) - China's local governments recently eased some of their COVID restrictions in response to widespread public outrage, including protests, against the country's virus controls. These protests across the mainland started in the northwest, when ten people died in a building fire and couldn't escape due to pandemic policies, according to Pyotr Kurzin, a geopolitics analyst and Host of The Global Gambit podcast.

"There was a specific trigger point, which was in the state capital of Urumqi in the northwest, which is in the province of Xinjiang," he said. "About ten people died in a horrible accident, a fire, and they were unable to escape because of the restrictive COVID policies. There were a lot of barriers and restrictions on access."

He claimed that these protests comprise "the most notable public display of frustration" against the Xi administration. However, Kurzin added that this does not mean regime change.

"There were certainly people chanting 'down with President Xi, down with the CCP' [at the protests], but the majority of people, I think, largely want to see the end of these COVID policies," he said.

Kurzin spoke with David Lin, Anchor and Producer at Kitco News.

The extent of China's COVID policies

China's zero-COVID policy aims at completely eradicating the virus from the country through strict controls. Mass testing is regularly conducted, and those testing positive for COVID-19 may find their entire building being quarantined. Lockdowns last until few infections are found.

Kurzin suggested that these policies were about more than just mitigating COVID-19, and were more about "psychological control."

"China is a very centralized country, and it very much wants to control every element of people's lives," he said. "The social credit system in that way [is an example of this]… all of these things are quite draconian."

In response to anti-lockdown protests, local Chinese authorities are checking people's phones for anti-government sentiment. However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) needs to tread carefully, said Kurzin.

"If they continue to check people's phones or apps, like Telegram… you're going to see people come back out [and protest]," he said. "The CCP are definitely facing a renewed degree of threat."

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'Iranian Rebellion'

In September, a 22-year-old Iranian woman was arrested for violating Iran's law against mandatory headscarves, and allegedly beaten by police, resulting in her death. This caused a wave of anti-government protests across the country.

Kurzin called this an "Iranian Rebellion," with systematic goals of changing policy or even the regime.

"The difference between the Chinese protests and the Iranian rebellion, as I'm calling it, is very clear," he said. "The Iranian rebellion is much larger in scale, and it's much clearer [with regards to] systemic change than it is with China, at the moment… The regime is threatening public executions and assassinations of young and outward-speaking people."

However, Kurzin claimed that there is little similarity between Iran's current protests and the 2012 Arab Spring, a series of anti-government protests that spread across the Arab world.

"I wouldn't say this is an Arab Spring in the sense of it spilling over into other countries," he said. "If it were to, I'd be quite surprised… I think this is going to remain, at least from a rebellion point-of-view, an internal affair."

To find out Kurzin's analysis of other geopolitical developments, including whether Ukraine will join NATO, watch the video above.

Follow David Lin on Twitter: @davidlin_TV

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