Chinese business elites watch as the country that made them thrive is slipping away

“When governance capacity declines, even without any specific policies at the top, the incompetence, brutality and ignorance of lower-level officials will create disaster for the common people they rule,” Mr. Zhang said. Wu is a senior research scholar at the Stanford Center for Chinese Economics and Institutions.

Many businessmen have lost a lot of money under “coronavirus zero,” which has shut down cities and locked millions of people at home for weeks as the government seeks to eliminate it.

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

Despite many conversations over the years, we never talked about politics. I was surprised when he called after the party convention to talk about his “political depression.” He said he used to be very nationalistic and thought the Chinese were among 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 were too frustrated to work,” he said.

Until a year ago, his startup was doing so well that he planned to take it public. He then lost a ton of revenue, and his new hires were slack and dawdling when the city was locked down by the “zero-coronavirus” rule. Now he has no choice but to lay off more than 100 employees, sell his business and move his family to North America, he said.

“Now that night has come,” he said, “I will deal with it the way it is night.”

The Beijing tech entrepreneur who texted me after the party congress recounted a chilling experience. In May, when there were rumors that Beijing might be shutting down the city, he felt he couldn’t let employees leave work early to stock up. He fears he will be reported for spreading rumours – which has resulted in people being detained by the police. He just told them that if they had something to deal with, they should always be able to leave early.

The successful businessman is now applying for immigration to European countries and the United States.

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