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China’s Zero-COVID Strategy: Part I

– The CCP’s “Hard Weapons” in Controlling China’s Citizens

By: Huai Ning(怀宁)

The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the world for more than two years. Governments across the globe have been testing strategies for handling the disease. More and more nations have  gravitated towards a policy of eased restrictions and co-existence with the virus. Counter to this trend, the Chinese government has been firm in carrying out its “Zero-COVID” strategy.

Beijing’s “Zero-COVID” strategy is a vigorous quarantine and community lockdown practice where, after identifying a given COVID-19 case, the authorities force all residents in the vicinity (which can range from a few blocks to a district or an entire city) to stay inside their homes for an extended period of time. These lockdowns can last from several days to several weeks or, in some cases, even months.

The core of that approach is “people control.” The virus is invisible and does not follow the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) orders, so the CCP chooses to control the people that it can order around. (However, whether the CCP can use the lockdown method to win its battle against the COVID is questionable, especially nowadays Omicron variant can spread at a much faster speed. Anyhow, this is a different issue that we won’t discuss here.)

No other large countries have been able to achieve such a complete lockdown as the CCP has. Many Western countries have tried similar isolation approaches in the past, but only China appears to have been successful in enforcing “Zero COVID.” One reason for this disparity is that the free world, with its respect for freedom and human rights, has been unable to sacrifice its citizens’ rights so completely. In contrast, the CCP has been willing to sacrifice not only its citizens’ rights, but sometimes even their lives.

There are other countries in the world that lack respect for human rights and impose tight control over their citizens, such as North Korea, but only China has developed a comprehensive system for controlling and monitoring its citizens. This sophisticated population control mechanisms, which the CCP has built over the course of several decades, is a key ingredient in China’s suppression of dissent and disobedience surrounding the “Zero-COVID” policy. In this analysis, we examine the CCP’s many citizen control mechanisms and their usage thus far in the era of COVID.


I. China’s “Zero-COVID” Approach

The CCP’s “Zero-COVID” policy involves:

  • implementation of tight control over international travel,
  • isolation of confirmed and suspected COVID patients in highly secure quarantine centers or tightly insulated modular hospitals, with isolation continuing until the patient is either cured or dead,
  • complete lockdown with strict home quarantines of cities or neighborhoods where COVID cases have occurred, and
  • ongoing, obligatory mass COVID testing.

When COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan, China, the Chinese government locked down the city for 76 days (from January 23 to April 8, 2020). Since the start of this period in early 2020, Beijing has enforced strict control over travel into China:

  • Since March 28, 2020, China has closed its doors to non-essential foreigners.
  • To enter China, Chinese citizens must show negative results on a COVID test administered within 72 hours of boarding an airplane to China.
  • All inbound passengers are required to quarantine for at least 14 days at the city of their arrival.
  • After the 14 days of quarantine in the city of initial arrival, if the passenger continues their travel within China, they are required to further quarantine at their destination city for another period, usually 7-14 days. Local governments may impose longer quarantines. Shenyang city, for example, requires a total of 56 (28+28) days of quarantine.

Inside China, a lockdown at the community level means:

  • The community gates are closed and locked. Nobody can enter or exit except for designated personnel or those with special permission. Implementation of such travel restrictions is feasible because neighborhood communities in China are normally built with a wall encircling apartment buildings.
  • Residents are forced to stay inside their homes until the quarantine is lifted. In many cases, authorities will affix a seal to the door of each home. If a resident opens their door from inside, the seal will be broken, resulting in severe punishment. Sometimes, the authorities set up video cameras to monitor the doors of the residences.
  • Residents may be allowed to order food or medicine online (if it is available). However, there have been many reports of supplies being insufficient or altogether lacking.
  • In some cities, each family may be allowed to send one person out to shop for supplies once every several days.
  • In the countryside, the authorities set up gates on village roads or they block the roads so that no one can enter or exit. In one village outside of Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province, the CCP village head even welded the gate of a local family shut so as to prevent them from going out. {1}

Beijing has mandated that everyone install a mandatory Health Code smartphone app (健康码). The app is used for COVID tracing; the government sets each resident’s health code to one of three colors based on the individual’s estimated risk of exposure to COVID. This process is automated by utilizing phone location tracking and big data analysis (although authorities can manually intervene to change someone’s health code). The police and guards at stores and other facilities check the color of each patron’s health code app, deciding on this basis whether to allow the individual to enter or exit. The colors are:

  • Green: the phone holder has a normal health condition and does not need quarantine.
  • Yellow: the phone holder has possible exposure to a COVID patient – the CCP’s big data analysis finds the phone holder was in the same place at approximately the same time as a COVID patient. The person is normally required to have a COVID test and is not allowed to enter public facilities.
  • Red: there is a significant chance that the phone holder is infected with COVID, and thus the individual must be quarantined.

One example of forced quarantine occurred in a Shanghai supermarket, where a customer was shopping when his Health Code app turned red. After he was taken away, all customers inside the store were locked in and forced to quarantine in the supermarket for a two-week period. An online photo showing the customers sleeping on the store’s floors was viewed over 220 million times. {2}

Some medical patients, unable to seek treatment at a hospital due to strict enforcement of stay-at-home-orders, have experienced suffering or death; many have passed away from such treatable afflictions as heart disease, the need for kidney dialysis, or pregnancy.

For example, Dr. Yaqiong Xu, a professor in Physics at Vanderbilt University, lost her life in late October, 2021. She was diagnosed with rectal cancer in early October and decided to travel from her residence in the United States to her hometown, Wuhan, for treatment. Upon arriving in China, she was required to quarantine at the arriving port – Dongguan City, Guangdong Province, for 14 days; despite her informing authorities that she was a cancer patient and needed to go to hospital as soon as possible, no special provision was made. After her quarantine, Dr. Xu traveled to Wuhan where again, she was required to quarantined for a second time. She passed away in late October, just after completing the two consecutive periods of quarantine without any substantial medical treatment. {3}

Indeed, the CCP’s strict enforcement of quarantines is inhumane; it has caused many human tragedies. If these incidents were to occur in Western countries, people would protest in the streets, forcing the government to change its policy – but then again, a Western government would not adopt such a policy in the first place.

We now ask: how has the CCP been able to carry out these cruel policies without causing a significant public outcry? In July 2020, Dr. Zhang Wenhong, the leading medical expert on Shanghai’s anti-COVID task force, said that China’s government has been able to enforce the “Zero-COVID” policy due to two unique characteristics: “strong community management ability,” and “the great cooperation of the whole society.” In other words, the CCP has strict control over its citizens, and the Chinese people have become accustomed to yielding to the CCP after having being coerced and brainwashed for so long.

In the next sections we will look at the extensive repertoire of means that the CCP can employ to control the Chinese people.


II. The CCP’s Power Base: The Party and its Affiliated Organizations

In justifying its right to rule over China, the CCP cites its victory in the military battles of 1949, which ended the Chinese Civil War. This idea has been in use for decades – Mao Zedong, the CCP’s founder, famously expressed that, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun (枪杆子里面出政权).” Wielding tight control over China’s military, the CCP is not shy about declaring that it is entitled to reign over China.

At present, the CCP has about 4.7 million branch organizations throughout China, with more than 95 million members. This comprises about 8.5 percent of Chinas adult population. These CCP members hold all leadership positions and most of the regular positions throughout all levels of the government. The CCP Central Committee controls the central government and the Head of the CCP Central Committee (the General Secretary) holds the title of President of China. Every local government or ministerial organ has a parallel structure: the CCP party committee and the administrative office. The party committee holds the power to appoint officials and positions the administrative head as the deputy of the party committee (so that the party committee head is the highest). Furthermore, the party controls all elections and legislative organs in China. Thus, the CCP has positioned itself to control the Chinese government.

The CCP has a helper – it is closely affiliated with the Communist Youth League (CYL), an organization with more than 81 million members ranging from 14 to 28 years of age. The normal path for a Chinese person to obtain CCP membership is to first join the CYL, then later join the CCP. Like members of the CCP, key members of CYL can occupy important positions at all levels of government, schools, companies,  institutions and the army.

In today’s China, the privilege of being a government official motivates many people to join the CYL and then the CCP. The benefits of being affiliated with these organizations, both visible and invisible, illegal and legal, attract many people who hope for an improved career path.

Unlike members of political parties in the United States, the CCP and CYL members are required to participate in regular political studies and to actively follow the CCP’s directions. At the induction ceremony of the CCP or the CYL, new members must swear an oath to be loyal to the communist organization and to devote their lives to the communist cause, including in all social activities. Just as the Hitler Youth helped the Nazi Party in Hitler’s Germany, the CYL has been of significant aid to the CCP.  Jjust like the Nazi Party, the CCP claims that its work is done “for the people.”

In addition to the CCP, there are eight legally recognized minor political parties in China. These include parties such as the “Chinese Peasants’ and Workers’ Democratic Party,” the “China Democratic League,” and the “Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang.” These auxiliary parties have a combined membership totaling less than 1.3 million, and each has “voluntarily” accepted the leadership of the CCP. This point is enforced by party bylaws and is frequently repeated in public.

Why don’t the members of these auxiliary parties simply join the CCP? These parties serve a use. The CCP calls them “democratic parties.” They show the world that China has “democracy.” The leaders of some of these parties are allowed to hold positions at the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, but their suggestions are ignored. Thus, these auxiliary parties are merely “decorative flower vases.” The leaders of some of these parties are themselves CCP members.

For example, the “Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League” is one of these eight parties. It has about 3,000 members. The CCP uses this party to promote its bid to claim Taiwan as a territory of mainland China.

The CCP has also legally recognized seven religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Christianity, Daoism, Islam, and Protestantism. Within China, the CCP controls the practice of these religions  and they are subject to the CCP’s “leadership.” Little religious freedom is allowed. For example, the CCP dissolved those Protestant churches with close ties to religious groups in the United States, establishing the new “Three-Self’s Patriotic Protestant Churches Organization” in their place. The “three selves’” refer to “self-governance,” “self-support,” and “self-propagation.”

Most of the leaders of China’s official religious associations are CCP members, though this is usually not advertised to the public. One example is Wang Zheyi, the Secretary General of China’s Taoist Association. When he was arrested for unspecified crimes in 2015, it was disclosed that he is a CCP party secretary. This meant the Taoist Association, under Wang’s leadership, was functioning like a branch of the CCP.

These religious associations are political, rather than spiritual, in nature. Instead of conducting serious religious activities, they actively advocate that religious practitioners should follow and support the CCP. This means, for example, that the Christianity condoned by the CCP is quite different from the Christianity practiced elsewhere in the world. Genuine religions, such as the true Christianity and Falun Gong, help their members to focus on spiritual development: respecting the divine, improving their morality, and becoming good people. The CCP attempts to squash such spiritual practice in China, attaching labels such as “supported by foreign forces” or “evil cult” and the CCT perpetrates brutal persecution against practitioners.

In China, the CCP and its affiliated youth organization, the CYL, are the only real political powers. Their members hold all positions of import in the private and public sectors, and they control all the “democratic parties” and “religions associations” in the country. These CCP and CYL officials are the backbone enabling the CCP to enforce its policies in China, including the strict lockdowns and inhumane “Zero-COVID” policy.

All levels of the government and its pseudo-democratic façades participate in maintaining the CCP’s multi-layered, cult-like, totalitarian control system. The “People’s Republic of China” is not really the people’s China; it is the CCP’s China.


III. The CCP’s “Hard Weapons”

Chinese people often say that the CCP maintains power through three things: “the gun,” “the knife,” and “the pen.” “The gun” is the People’s Liberation Army (PLA); “the knife” consists of the armed police, unarmed police, and components of the judicial system; and “the pen” refers to the CCP’s propaganda machine. The CCP’s hard weapons are “the gun,” “the knife,” and other mechanisms allowing control over the citizenry. The CCP’s soft weapons include its “pen” as well as its various internet control apparatuses.

A. The CCP’s “Gun”: The PLA

The PLA has 2.3 million active troops, the largest number among any country’s military worldwide. China also has more than 10 million PLA troops in reserve. These reserves can be called into action as needed by the CCP Central Military Commission. {4} Just as  CCP members hold all of the important positions in China’s government, CCP members hold all PLA leadership positions as well. The PLA is in effect the CCP’s army. Its sole purpose is to defend, uphold, and carry out the CCP’s directives and it has shown no hesitation in killing civilians to defend the interests of the CCP.

This is exactly what happened during the infamous June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. The PLA followed the CCP’s orders. It fired on and killed thousands of protesters on Tiananmen Square and in Beijing’s neighboring areas. As usual, the CCP has denied and covered up this incident and has hidden information about the victims. In the fall of 2021, a detailed count of deaths from the June 4th incident went public, There were 10,974 students, 7,992 citizens, and 11,865 unidentified and others, totaling 31,978 civilians who died at the hands of the “People’s Liberation” Army.

During the Wuhan lockdown in 2020 and 2021, the PLA deployed 9,000 troops from six garrisons, including the army, the air force, and other military units. {5} In February 2020, these armed forces quickly built 14 modular hospitals with over 12,000 beds, an act that brought world-wide recognition. {6} While this sounded like an impressive and rapid response aiming at containing the COVID-19 virus, closer inspection painted a troublesome picture of the facilities they built.

First of all, the authorities and the PLA quarantined not only the COVID patients, but also those who were not infected with COVID, including those who simply had a fever or a runny nose. Once a person was locked into the containment facility, he couldn’t come out, and visitors were out of the question. The modular hospitals resembled death camps. Leaked videos showed inhuman living conditions, including little (if any) heating, a lack of or no food distribution, and a gross lack of medical staff and supplies. These were “hospitals” in name only. In essence they were more like death camps. It is not known how many people died in these “hospitals.” The CCP simply  “zeroed out” the number.

On July 1, 2020, the CCP Central Military Commission announced that the PLA reserves were under its direct command. Since then, many members of the PLA Reserve force have participated in implementing the “Zero COVID” strategy. These reservists have worked together with other local volunteers at checkpoints and on patrols in cities across China.

On December 28, 2021, a video surfaced depicting a man wearing a “PLA Veteran Volunteer” armband forcibly pushing back a pretty young wiman in red clothing who was attempting to pass through a community checkpoint gate. The man was in an official PLA uniform. It is possible that he was a PLA reservist. The video was taken down shortly after being uploaded, and a different video was put in its place. This new video depicted a woman in a black coat blocking, but not pushing, the lady in red. A statement beneath the video said that the video had been recorded in October and that the lady in red had a mental illness. {7} Why was the original video replaced? Did the CCP just want to hide that a man had shoved the woman or was its goal to hide that the PLA reserve forces have participated in lockdowns at community level in China?

B. The CCP’s “Knives”

B-1. The Armed Police

In 1982, the CCP created the “Chinese People’s Armed Police Force,” with over 1.5 million troops. The responsibilities of the Armed Police include maintaining internal security, riot control, and counterterrorism. Similar to the PLA, despite having “People” in its name, the “People’s Armed Police Force” is, in reality, the CCP’s armed Police Force against the people.

Let us consider some historical incidents involving China’s armed police.

In March 1989, in Lhasa, Tibet, widespread protests broke out in opposition to Beijing’s takeover of the region. To quell the opposition, the CCP created a meticulous 8-layered action plan. The 5th layer involved dedicating a spy team of 300 agents to infiltrate Lhasa’s citizenry and impersonate monks. These Chinese agent provocateurs entered Bakuo Street in downtown Lhasa. They burned down the Jing Pagoda in Jokhang Temple and incited a mob to loot grain stores and attack the Tibetan-Gansu Trading Company. The authorities were able to capture excellent video footage of the ensuing violence, which was used as fodder for the CCP’s propaganda machine. The riots had apparently become violent and out-of-control and the CCP was able to justify use of the armed police to  crack down immediately.

Similar events played out again in Lhasa in March 2008. According to one account, 20 men set cars on fire and looted stores. The men were not locals and were exceptionally well-organized. Who were they? In another account, a woman from Thailand who happened to be in the Lhasa police station at the time recalled a very peculiar scene among a group of men arrested as part of a mad mob. One person from the mob, with a knife in his hand, identified himself as a police officer and changed his civilian clothing into his police uniform. During her interview with the BBC, this woman was even able to identify the police officer within the mob that was featured in a video aired by the CCP’s Chinese Central Television (CCTV). The footage from the CCTV segment was removed from the web after the BBC aired its interview with this witness. {8}

On the evening of July 5th, 2009, in Urumqi City, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, a protest of several hundred Uyghurs opposing government policies turned into a riot. The armed police were deployed to crack down on the violence. The authorities cut off Internet service to the region, and the state-controlled media bombarded the public throughout China with accusations against the Uyghurs of East Turkistan. The Uyghurs were labeled as terrorists; the media spun the narrative that Uyghurs had attacked and killed Han people, justifying the actions of the armed police.

Maris Alimas, a Xinjiang refugee who escaped to Europe shortly after the riot, worked at the No. 2 People’s Hospital during the riot. She witnessed that, at the side gate of the hospital, 5 or 6 Uyghur youths were chased into an alley by a couple hundred Han young men. These Han young men all had the same style of short hair, and all had in hand the same type of wooden baton.  When the armed police showed up at the other end of the alley, the Han group quickly withdrew and the Uyghurs were then gunned down by the armed police. Ms. Alimas recounts that the armed police directed the hospital not to provide medical assistance to the Uyghurs who were dying in the alley, and that the hospital’s CCP head threatened that she would be fired if she were to disobey by providing medical rescue. {9}

Rebiya Kadeer, a spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, denounced the activities of the CCP agent provocateurs who masqueraded as Uyghurs during the 2009 riots: “These well-organized undercover agents mixed with the protesters incited violence, provoked the police as well as provoked protesters to attack the police.” During a press conference in Japan, she condemned the CCP’s “snatch squads” who abducted Uyghurs, resulting in the disappearance of approximately 10,000 Uyghurs throughout the region. She urged international human rights groups to thoroughly investigate the events of the ongoing Uyghur genocide. {10}

Since then, the CCP has built more than 380 detention facilities in Xinjiang. Over 2 million Uyghurs are locked in these forced labor camps, being forced to work in cotton fields and textile mills. This widespread enslavement and mistreatment of Uyghurs has led the entire world to condemn the CCP’s genocide and human rights violations, leading to the recent boycott of Xinjiang cotton. {11} {12}

Similar events were observed during the 2019-2020 Hong Kong Protests: it was discovered that some organized mobs were speaking Mandarin (the language used in mainland China) and were unable to speak Cantonese (the language used in Hong Kong). Similarly, some police officers who repressed these protests in Hong Kong spoke Mandarin among themselves and didn’t answer citizens’ questions asked in Cantonese; their police uniforms did not show the police ID that was mandatory for all Hong Kong police – people believe they were the mainland armed police sent by the CCP.

The aforementioned examples illustrate a tried-and-true tactic of the armed police: infiltration of peaceful and legitimate dissenting groups so as to incite violence to justify the CCP’s hard repression. These armed police have been responsible for turning many peaceful protests into riots by impersonating protesters and perpetrating criminal acts. In essence, the armed police are a well-organized group of crisis actors and an essential resource in the sculpting of public opinion, a tool to garner public support on taking lethal actions against the country’s own citizenry, and a “knife” that provides precise and merciless strikes against the CCP’s enemies under the guise of “protecting people.”

As part of China’s implementation of the “Zero-COVID” policy, several hundreds of thousands of armed police were deployed to seal off airports, railroad stations, and roads leading to and from cities that were under lockdown, blocking people from entering and leaving. The same armed police force was also responsible for sealing up sensitive areas, such as the modular hospitals mentioned earlier. Knowing the capabilities of the armed police and their past actions against peaceful citizens, one must ask: how many atrocities have been perpetrated against those citizens suspected of having a COVID infection?

B-2. Police

The CCP has two million regular police, called the “People’s Police.” It also has four million “auxiliary police,” and at least one million “assistant police.” Including the armed police, the CCP employs more than 8.5 million police officers to “maintain internal security,” i.e. to monitor and suppress the citizens of China.

As more and more CCP officials expand their privilege to gain power and fortune, most have become corrupt and have plundered the interests of the populace. Oppression by the CCP has led to tens of thousands of “mass incidents” (群体事件) each year. These “mass incidents” are not organized protests, but rather spontaneously occurring reactions, where a group of people push back against local authorities, sometimes becoming riotous. There were a total of 180,000 such mass incidents in 2010, as calculated by Professor Sun Liping. {13} To suppress these spontaneous protests, the CCP regime frequently uses the armed or unarmed police forces to arrest protesters and put them in detention centers.

Police tactics for handling such mass incidents are now used in “Zero-COVID” enforcement. Below are some examples.

On March 23, 2020, people tried to escape en masse out of Hubei Province, which was under lockdown. Police from Jiangxi Province blocked traffic across a bridge between the two provinces, and they beat and arrested many pedestrians who attempted to cross the bridge on foot. This led to a riot involving more than ten thousand people. {14}

On July 12, 2020, a conflict between villagers and police occurred at the No. 1 Village of Daxing District, Beijing. The village was previously locked down and had just been re-opened. Police asked villagers to purchase a new passing card for 30 yuan. The villagers considered it another way for the police to exploit money and impose tighter control. So some villagers refused to purchase the card, then the police beat and arrested them. {15}

Another large city Xi’an in Shaanxi Province was locked down on December 23, 2021, with 13 million unprepared people sealed in. Since the government announced the lockdown suddenly, people didn’t have time to stock up on food. A video surfaced on the Internet showing a police officer affixing a seal onto a family door while the couple inside repeatedly begged him for help. The couple said that they had called various stores and the community office multiple times asking for food, but nobody answered their calls. They begged the police officer to contact authorities to get some food for them before sealing their door, saying that otherwise they would certainly be unable to survive. The police officer refused their pleas for help, saying that he was only ordered to seal their door and that he was not responsible for helping them.

C. China’s Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau (UALEB)

In addition to the police, each city in China also has a UALEB (城管) serving as a sub-police force. In 2013 the staff and volunteers employed in UALEBs across China reached more than one million in number. {16} The duties of these urban administrators primarily consist of handling temporary, urgent, difficult, and tricky tasks in the city. They are frequently exposed for beating vegetable sellers along street sides, demolishing resident houses by force, and other such acts.

One example of a task assigned to UALEB is the forced demolition of residential buildings. Chinese cities take on big real estate development efforts each year to generate GDP. City officials will not only build on empty lots, but also pick some old residential regions to rebuild. The UALEB (sometimes backed by the police) is responsible for demolishing the old houses, despite objection from the residents. They harass or beat the residents to force them to move out. They would even bring bulldozers to knock down the old houses if the residents still refused to cooperate Sometimes they would even bury the residents in the rubble. If protests ensued in reaction to the forced demolition, the higher authorities might even pin the blame on the UALEB, firing a few urban administrators to pacify people’s anger.

During the lockdown of Wuhan, residents had to order food and vegetables online from supermarkets. To help residents pick up their orders, some supermarkets placed the customers’ packages on the street. On March 4, 2020, a group of armed urban administrators arrived at one such supermarket, saying that selling food on street is illegal. The UALEB administrators proceeded to beat the supermarket workers present on the street, a treatment typically given to street peddlers. {17}

On December 12, 2021, while Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province was under partial lockdown due to COVID, a video circulated on Chinese social media showing a middle-aged UALEB member brutally beating a young man. The young man, a volunteer journalist, was slapped, punched, kicked, and beaten over the head with a metal kettle, all of which lasted for more than 6 minutes. Although several passersby begged the attacker to stop, nobody intervened, as the man was wearing a red armband saying “urban administrator.” {18} This video garnered millions of views online before eventually being removed from the web by the CCP’s cyber police. In the end, nothing resulted except for angry comments on the web, as the Chinese people are used to being “managed” by urban administrators.

When a city locks down, the urban administrators will lock down all hotels, restaurants, and public facilities. Visitors who happen to be in the city are also subject to quarantine, being forced to pay for extended hotel stays through the duration of the lockdown.

D. China’s Unique Community Management Agents – Militia and Grid Administrators

New urban development in Chinese cities follows the “walled community” model: All communities, including government buildings, hospitals, schools, residential compounds, and so on, are enclosed with walls and monitored with numerous cameras. Such communities usually have one or a few gates and are secured by security guards.

Each “community” has a control office that monitors video feeds from surveillance cameras mounted on the gates, walls, and lamp poles. The monitoring and recording of community residents involves the use of advanced technology such as facial recognition systems.

Employing such high-tech surveillance in combination with the walled residential community model makes it possible for the CCP to impose strict lockdowns. By closing the community’s gates and sealing each resident’s home, the community can easily be turned into a prison-like camp.

In China, each community has a “community committee.” These committees can be loosely compared to the “homeowners association” found in the United States, except that the community committees in China answer to their local CCP branch offices. A given community’s committee normally hires a security team (using homeowners’ money) to monitor the gates and patrol the community. The community committee and the security team are one group to ensure no residents sneak out of their homes during quarantine.

The CCP also mobilizes militia and volunteers from the communities to help on various “Zero-COVID” activities.

China has 8 million militia members. Before the pandemic, the militias were not so active. Currently, militia members are active across China. As a sub-police force, these militias actively patrol communities and arrest anyone who attempts to escape from a locked-down community. Militia members may be equipped with a baton, shield, uniform, and other devices.

Another control mechanism of the CCP is the Grid Administrators (网格员).

Starting in 2004, the CCP began to create the Grid Administrator system with the goal of further extending its control at the neighborhood level. Each city divides its territory into many grid squares with each square being roughly 100 by 100 meters (about 2.5 acres). A given residential community may consist of multiple grid squares. A grid square in the city may have as few as 15 or 20 families. The CCP also implements grid control in certain parts of the countryside, where each grid square may contain about 40 people.

Local CCP branches recruit and pay grid administrators, assigning one or more of them to each grid square. The grid administrators monitor and report on the daily lives of each resident within the assigned grid square, following the CCP’s official manual for grid administration. {19} Grid administrators pay especially close attention to religious believers and political dissidents, such as Falun Gong practitioners, members of the Christian churches, and Uyghurs.

The administrator of a given grid square can visit any family within his square any time. The administrator may take pictures of residents or demand that they sign forms. The administrators also monitor the online activity of residents. They can even call the residents, “Hi, I am your grid administrator, your wall-breaker. Have you taken the COVID vaccine shot?” {20}

Grid administrators check and register all facilities within their square, such as, for example, road lights, drain well covers, and other relevant facilities., making sure that no corner of their square is neglected. On the surface, it may appear that careful accounting of physical resources might benefit the residents in the area. In reality, this accounting is to support the CCP’s monitoring and surveillance agenda. For example, ensuring that streetlights are in proper working order allows the CCP’s camera monitoring system to function optimally along that stretch of road.

In addition to aiding surveillance, the CCP uses this accounting of grid-square level resources to preempt those who might resist or fight against the regime. This concern took shape during Jiang Zemin’s time as head of the CCP. For example, when Jiang visited Germany in April 2002, he asked the German government to weld shut all manhole covers along the route that his convey would take. This was to prevent any attacks on Jiang’s convoy from below.

The grid administrators have played an important role in enforcing the “Zero-COVID” policy. On March 10th, 2020, a CCP newspaper Legal Daily reported that about 4.5 million grid administrators in China had helped with COVID-19 containment; the CCP praised their contributions in mobilizing volunteers. They motivated residents to cooperate with lockdown activities, and even advocated that residents sacrifice themselves. {21}

Ruili, a city located on the border between China and Myanmar (Burma) in China’s Yunnan Province, used to be a hub for cross-border trading. Before the pandemic, the city had a floating population of near half million, but that figure has fallen significantly since COVID hit. The authorities imposed lockdowns five times, suppressing the city’s role in trade with Myanmar and leading many people to move away. As a result, the city’s population has dropped to about 100,000 people. Ruili’s former Deputy Mayor, Dai Rongli, even wrote a public letter on October 28, 2021, asking that the government adjust its COVID strategy to save the city. {22}

Ruili’s grid administrators do not all share this view that the dwindling of the city’s population should be stopped, however. As one grid administrator said in August 2021, “(It’s worth it) even all the people in Ruili die. At least we have protected the country.” {23}

Many online commentators felt that this grid administrator’s mentality reflects the cruel attitude of the CCP, and some netizens have compared the CCP’s grid administrators to local branch leaders of the Nazi Party. During the height of the Nazi Party’s power, Nazi Party branch leaders were responsible for keeping tabs on those living in their area, with a given branch leader being responsible for monitoring around 50 German families.

Going by the numbers, the CCP has greatly outdone the Nazi Party: the CCP has 4.86 million local branches and over 92 million members. Adding in the additional 4.5 million grid administrators, the regime has achieved heightened control over the Chinese people.

By ruling China with “guns” and “knives” (the army and the police), the CCP has sown fear in many Chinese people’s mind. This has led the Chinese people to be fairly obedient under the CCP’s “Zero-COVID” policy. The lockdown conditions have been harsh, and many have voiced criticism on the internet, but organized protests in the streets are almost unheard-of.

However, complaints on the internet do not frighten the CCP; it can cleanse the “unharmonized” voices from the web quickly (as we will discuss in Part II of this series, regarding the CCP’s “Soft Weapons”). As such, China remains quietly under control, and the CCP continues its practice of “maintaining stability” at the cost of human rights.


1. Phoenix, “The Village Manager Who Welded the Gate of a Villager Family Was Punished,” January 5, 2022.
2. LIHKG, “After a COVID patient was identified in a Shanghai supermarket store, all customers were forced to sleep in the store for two weeks.”
3. VTC News, “U.S. Professor Died of Cancer Due to Long Quarantine in China,” December 12, 2021.
4. NetEase, “How Many Soldiers Does China Have?” March 11, 2019.
5. Chongqing City Government Website, “Seeking the Secret Code for Military Mobilization to Fight the Pandemic,” April 14, 2020.
6. Qiushi Theory Magazine, “The PLA’s Fight against the Pandemic in Wuhan,” March 9, 2020.
7. Weibo, “A Lanzhou Lady Attempted to Pass the Blockade Checkpoint,” January 2022.
8. Epoch Times, “The Tiananmen Square Case Is Full of Suspicions; The CCP’s Fakery to Incite National Hatred Has Been Exposed,” November 7, 2013.
9. VOA, “Witnesses Recalled the Xinjiang July 5th Incident,” July 6, 2019.
10. The Guardian, “Exile Leader: Over Ten Thousand Uyghurs Were Killed in the July 5th Incident,” July 29, 2009.
11. Fortune, “Reports of forced labor are driving brands to abandon Chinese cotton,” July 18, 2021
12. NBC, “U.S. to block cotton from Chinese region over Uighur crackdown,” Jan 14, 2021
13. Pincong, “The Count of the Major Mass Incidences in China During 1976 to 2019.”
14. VOA, “Jiangxi Police Blocked Hubei Residents to Come into the Province, Causing Major Clash,” March 27, 2020.
15. Epoch Times, “Police and Villagers Clashed in a Village of Beijing,” July 13, 2020.
16. New York Times, “Urban Administrative Crimes,” August 2, 2013.
17. Radio Free Asia, “Wuhan Urban Administrators Beat Supermarket Employees,” March 4, 2020.
18. Weibo, “Volunteer Reporter Beaten When Doing Broadcasting,” December 27, 2021.
19. Chinascope, “A Manual For Grid Administrators,” February 3, 2022.

A Manual for Grid Administrators

20. Douban, “True Story of a Grid administrator.”
21. Xinhua. “Grid administrators Building the First Line of Defense Against the COVID-19,” March 10, 2020.
22. Lianhe Zaobao, “Former Deputy Major Asking the Authorities to Loosen COVID Strategy for Ruili,” October 28, 2021.
23. Reddit, “At Least We Protected the Country,” September 2021.至少我们保住了国家呕/.