China’s business elite are seeing the country that allows them to prosper slip away

China’s business elite are seeing the country that allows them to prosper slip away

“When the ability to govern declines, even in the absence of any concrete policies from the top, the incompetence, brutality and ignorance of lower-level officials will bring disaster to the common people they rule over,” said Mr. Wu, who is a senior fellow at the Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions.

Many businesses have lost a lot of money in the “zero Covid” environment that has shut down cities and locked millions of people in their homes for weeks as the government scrambles to stamp out the coronavirus.

“Under this dictator’s leadership, our great country is falling into the abyss,” said a Shenzhen-based hardware technology executive. “But there’s nothing you can do about it. It hurts and depresses me.”

Despite many conversations over the years, we never talked about politics. I was surprised when he called after the party congress to talk about his “political depression”. He said he used to be very nationalistic, believing that the Chinese were some of the smartest and hardest working people in the world. Now he and many of his friends spend most of their time hiking, golfing and drinking. “We are too stressed to work,” he said.

As recently as a year ago, his startup was doing so well that he was planning to take it public. He then lost a large chunk of his revenue and his new hires were laid off as cities locked down under “zero Covid” rules. He said he now had no choice but to lay off more than 100 people, sell his business and move his family to North America.

“Since the dark night has fallen,” he said, “I will deal with it in the dark night.”

A tech entrepreneur from Beijing who texted me after a party convention recounted a terrifying experience. In May, when there were rumors that Beijing might close, he felt he couldn’t tell his employees to leave work early and stock up on groceries. He worried that he might be reported for spreading the news, which led to people being detained by the police. He only told them that they should feel free to leave early if they had anything to attend to.

This successful businessman is now applying to emigrate to a European country and the USA.

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