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Zero-Covid China asks: Is World Cup on another planet?

Chinese state media have given huge attention to the World Cup this week, but the matches are fuelling frustrations that people in the country are being left out of the celebrations.

On top of China’s men’s national team not qualifying for the event, scenes of maskless celebrations and raucous gatherings in Qatar have irritated viewers, who have been discouraged from gathering to watch the games.

Many have used the World Cup to complain online about China’s existing strategies. The country maintains a zero-Covid policy, where entire communities are locked down over single cases of the virus, in order to prevent it from spreading.

China is currently experiencing its worst outbreak in six months, and localised lockdowns have surged over the last couple of weeks. In the past 24 hours, China has recorded more than 28,000 new cases; these are in every single provincial-level region.

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Football is very popular in China. President Xi Jinping is known for being a lover of the sport, and he has spoken previously of it being a dream for the country to win the World Cup .

As a result, matches are being shown on national broadcaster CCTV, and state media have sought to amplify China’s “presence”. The Global Times has reported on how China-made products “ranging from buses to the [Lusail] stadium, and even air conditioning units are well represented at the event”.

Leading outlets such as CCTV have also promoted the presence of Chinese flagbearers at the opening ceremony, and how two giant pandas arrived in Qatar to “meet” visitors arriving for the event.