Flash Points

Themed journeys through our archive.

What You Need to Know About China’s Protests

From their origins to what comes next.

A person stands with his fist pumped in a crowd.
A person stands with his fist pumped in a crowd.
Protesters gather on a street in Shanghai on Nov. 27. Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

Last weekend, mass protests broke out across China over Beijing’s zero-COVID policy. A deadly apartment fire in the Xinjiang region sparked the demonstrations—the largest the country has seen since 1989. In this rare nationwide display of dissent, some protesters have even challenged the ruling Chinese Communist Party, demanded freedom of expression, and called for President Xi Jinping’s resignation.

Beijing has since quelled many of the protests. Now, the question is whether the demonstrations can lead to lasting change. In this edition of Flash Points, we explore the origins of the protests, their impact on China’s ruling party, and what they could mean for China’s future.—Chloe Hadavas

Xi’s Obsession With Control Produced China’s Protests

This challenge to the Chinese Communist Party and the state has been building for some time, FP’s Howard W. French writes.

Last weekend, mass protests broke out across China over Beijing’s zero-COVID policy. A deadly apartment fire in the Xinjiang region sparked the demonstrations—the largest the country has seen since 1989. In this rare nationwide display of dissent, some protesters have even challenged the ruling Chinese Communist Party, demanded freedom of expression, and called for President Xi Jinping’s resignation.

Beijing has since quelled many of the protests. Now, the question is whether the demonstrations can lead to lasting change. In this edition of Flash Points, we explore the origins of the protests, their impact on China’s ruling party, and what they could mean for China’s future.—Chloe Hadavas


A woman with her arms raised holds up a blank white sheet of paper while a man nearby holds a megaphone to his mouth.
A woman with her arms raised holds up a blank white sheet of paper while a man nearby holds a megaphone to his mouth.

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against China’s strict zero-COVID measures on Nov. 28 in Beijing.Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Xi’s Obsession With Control Produced China’s Protests

This challenge to the Chinese Communist Party and the state has been building for some time, FP’s Howard W. French writes.


Protesters hold up pieces of A4 paper in China.
Protesters hold up pieces of A4 paper in China.

Protesters hold up pieces of A4 paper as a symbol against censorship and China’s strict zero-COVID measures in Beijing on Nov. 27. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

What Sparked China’s Weekend of Anger?

ChinaFile contributors discuss the roots of China’s protests.


Protesters hold up white paper as a symbol against censorship during a protest in Beijing.
Protesters hold up white paper as a symbol against censorship during a protest in Beijing.

Protesters hold up white paper as a symbol against censorship during a protest in Beijing on Nov. 27.Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Will China’s Protests Survive?

A nationwide movement of this scale has no post-1989 precedent, FP’s James Palmer writes.


A protester participates in a rally in Beijing.
A protester participates in a rally in Beijing.

A protester participates in a rally in Beijing on Nov. 28.Noel Celis/AFP via Getty images

China’s Protests Punch a Hole in Xi’s Credibility

A new wave of social unrest may be here, Deng Yuwen writes.


Protesters march during a rally against China's harsh COVID-19 restrictions in Beijing on Nov. 28.
Protesters march during a rally against China's harsh COVID-19 restrictions in Beijing on Nov. 28.

Protesters march during a rally against China’s harsh COVID-19 restrictions in Beijing on Nov. 28. NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

China’s Massive Protests Are the End of a Once-Trusted Governance Model

Local tools of party power have been overwhelmed by zero-COVID, Lynette H. Ong writes.

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