What Next

China’s Zero-COVID Policy

How did a virus prevention strategy turn into punishment?

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Episode Notes

When China first instituted its zero-COVID policy, it was a success: as other countries struggled with soaring infection rates and overburdened hospitals, life for many Chinese citizens began to look normal again within months—so long as they weren’t infected. But the omicron variant changed the game. Now, people are speaking out against draconian lockdown measures they say are inappropriate to face the current level of threat.

How did zero-COVID evolve from being the most effective virus prevention strategy in the world to a disproportionate and punitive system? And how has that evolution expanded state control?

Guest: Dake Kang, journalist in the Beijing bureau of the Associated Press.

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Podcast production by Mary Wilson, Elena Schwartz, Carmel Delshad, Anna Rubanova and Sam Kim.

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About the Show

The problem with the news right now? It’s everywhere. And each day, it can feel like we’re all just mindlessly scrolling. It’s why we created What Next. This short daily show is here to help you make sense of things. When the news feels overwhelming, we’re here to help you answer: What next? Look for new episodes every weekday morning.

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  • Mary Harris is the host and managing editor of What Next, Slate's new daily news podcast. She has reported throughout the public radio system, for NPR, Marketplace, and WNYC.

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