THE CORNER XI HAS PAINTED HIMSELF INTO: Ending China’s zero-covid policy could unleash chaos: But keeping it ensures a grim economic outlook for 2023.

Not all businesses have struggled through China’s zero-covid era. Andon Health, a Shenzhen-listed company that makes covid tests and medical devices, for example, posted a 32,000% increase in net profits in the third quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2021, as it cranked out testing devices for China and America. The 35 largest companies producing covid-19 tests raked in some 150bn yuan ($21bn) in revenues in the first half of 2022, minting a new generation of pandemic tycoons.

But outside China’s covid-industrial complex, the economy is suffering. Lockdowns and onerous restrictions on movement have stunted consumer confidence and economic growth. Over the past fortnight they have inspired protests across the country, with tensions escalating over the weekend. Young people on the streets of Shanghai on November 27th rejected the prospect of endless testing and lockdowns, chanting: “We don’t want covid tests; we want freedom.”

Xi: Best I can do is more lockdowns.