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The unyielding leader of China has changed. The difficult phase is now ahead.

China has abruptly dropped the “zero covid” policy that it described as unshakable just a few weeks ago. New approach is sensible if overdue, putting more responsibility on individuals and easing coercive control measures. But rapid change might also unleash a wave of infections for which China is ill-prepared. Instead of corralling citizens into mass quarantine centers, the new approach emphasizes allowing them to recover at home if they are sick. The big risk is that China is opening itself to a tidal wave of omicron infections.