The victorious speeches at the historic 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China, held in October, whose delegates unanimously extended the era of the reign of Chinese President Xi Jinping, had not yet been heard, when an invisible hand tried to add a spoonful of protest tar to the barrel of golden political honey of the Celestial Empire.

Over the weekend, Beijing, Shanghai and a number of other major cities in the country - Chengdu, Guangzhou, Wuhan - for several hours were in the grip of a rally element - an extremely rare phenomenon in the socio-political life of modern China.

Before the events of recent days in the 21st century, something like this has never been observed in the country.

Solar and lunar eclipses are much more frequent.

And then there was not a solar, but a street eclipse.

After the most high-profile story more than 30 years ago - the student protests in 1989 on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, I remember that in 1999, supporters of the Falun Gong sect were still buzzing.

This sect then managed to fool a lot of gullible Chinese, who began to master some special breathing technique and look for new ways of spiritual growth - bypassing the communist ideology.

Ten years after the events in Tiananmen Square, Falun Gong ended badly.

And in November 2023, it was the turn of the third wave of protests in the last half century.

It aroused the secret hope of Chinese dissidents settled abroad, as well as Beijing’s sworn “friends” in the Western camp: what if the monumental political vertical is shaken, and what if Xi Jinping’s power is not as strong as Chinese propaganda portrays it?

As you know, the devil is in the details.

To try to understand what actually happened, it is necessary to pay attention to these meaningful details.

So, it all started after the tragedy that happened last Friday in the city of Urumqi, where ten people were burned alive as a result of a fire in a multi-storey building.

How and why this happened remains to be clarified during the investigation, which is already being conducted by the authorities of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region - it was there that the tragedy broke out.

While the official media in hot pursuit did not react to what happened - the Chinese did not see reports from the scene, interviews with eyewitnesses - the initiative was seized by social networks.

In them, a version appeared that the culprit was the strict anti-COVID measures in force in China, ordering citizens to observe the regime of self-isolation and limiting the ability of emergency services to operate quickly.

Whether the firefighters did not have time in time, or people were afraid to leave the burning building - no one really knows.

Be that as it may, the version that people died due to the fault of the authorities, who got everyone with their epidemiological control, has become dominant.

The fire in Urumqi triggered protests the country has not seen in decades.

Of course, it is quite possible to assume that the Chinese are psychologically just tired of being locked up for three years: anti-COVID control in the country where the pandemic began is one of the toughest in the world.

However, it is noteworthy that, firstly, after the 20th Congress of the CCP, the authorities just began to gradually weaken the measures of sanitary control, and secondly, it is precisely today that this control, which has bothered many, seems to be becoming uncontested.

In the past two weeks, day after day, the country has been breaking daily anti-records in the number of detected cases of COVID-19 for the entire period of the pandemic.

The numbers are simply shocking.

And then it turns out that there is no strength to stay at home.

Patience burst at the most inopportune moment.

In general, in these Chinese speeches of recent days there is something that, in its typology and technology, vaguely resembles the scenarios of the protests of the so-called Arab Spring - ten-year-old upheavals that began in Tunisia, then spread to Egypt and other countries of the Middle East.

In Tunisia, it all started with the suicide of a street fruit vendor, who thus protested against the policy of the authorities, who tried to declare such a business illegal.

Then this story began to be promoted by social networks, which played an active role in spreading protest moods and mobilizing youth.

The list of demands from those who took to the streets included calls for political reform and regime change.

If you look closely at the current Chinese protests, you cannot help but notice that this whole story does not seem to be about the coronavirus at all and not about how to deal with it.

In the video, filmed in Shanghai of 25 million, protesters yell: "Go away, Xi Jinping!", "Go away, Communist Party!", "We don't want dictatorship, we want democracy!"

Something similar sounded at that time in the south of the country, in the city of Chengdu.

“Down with dictatorship!”, “We don’t need lifelong rulers!”, “We don’t need emperors!”

the crowd chanted.

And finally, in Beijing, at Tsinghua University, one of the oldest and most prestigious educational institutions in China, from which Xi Jinping himself graduated, like his predecessor Hu Jintao, students sang the Internationale and chanted: “We don’t want a lockdown, we want freedom !"

In the hands of protesters in different cities of China these days were sheets of white paper - a symbol of protest against state control over the media.

This is how a movement arose in China these days - not white ribbon, but white leaf.

Question: what does the coronavirus and the fire in Urumqi have to do with it?

Only the blind will not notice that these Chinese protests unfolded according to the same scenario, and the demonstrators used the same slogans about democracy, the rule of law and freedom of speech.

At the same time, it is difficult to call these protests spontaneous, in no way connected with each other, because they all took place like a blueprint.

Can all this shake Xi Jinping's position and the Chinese power vertical?

Not in the slightest way.

Please note that, unlike the events of 1989, not a single person was killed, injured, or injured - the maximum earned a bruise during a street push with the police.

And it's not at all the fact that it worked.

True, the BBC reported that its reporter was kicked, handcuffed and held for several hours at a police station in Shanghai.

Then they let go.

What can I say - the work of the BBC in "authoritarian China" is difficult and dangerous.

Of course, the Chinese authorities will debrief and draw conclusions.

However, the ghost of Tiananmen will remain a ghost - it's a different time in the yard and China is completely different.

The point of view of the author may not coincide with the position of the editors.