All the way through the pandemic, China’s propaganda machine delivered a simple but powerful message: the country would not give up its fight to eradicate Covid.

Yet when President Xi Jinping’s government abruptly abandoned its zero-tolerance policy toward the virus this month, that machine — comprising everyone from officials to medical experts and state media commentators — had to quickly change gears. 

The result was a jarring 180-degree shift in the narrative. Covid was no longer the "devil" virus Xi warned about at the start of the pandemic; instead it was no worse than the flu, and the economy could reopen without fear. Keeping with the spirit of the times, the government stopped keeping count of all new cases and changed the classification of Covid deaths.

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