As in 1989, the latest round of protests is not likely to bring down the Party or its leadership. The machinery to control dissent is too strong and too omnipresent. There will be no defiant occupation of Tiananmen Square, and no need to send in tanks.
But all the same, the message of the protesters appears to have gotten through. With legions of businesses ruined, soaring unemployment and the agonizingly persistent uncertainty of lockdowns’ length, Xi may have recognized that he must bring back some semblance of normalcy or he will risk the legitimacy he has spent more than a decade crafting.
The Chinese protesters who braved the system’s repressions may appear to have lost, but like their forebears a generation ago, they may be starting to get some of what they want.