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Over the past few years, President Xi Jinping has reined in China’s biggest tech companies, stamped out democracy in Hong Kong and locked down 26 million people in Shanghai to eliminate COVID-19 cases.

Yet he now faces a surprise challenge from middle-class homeowners who are watching their family wealth slip away with a sustained slide in the property market, which makes up a fifth of China’s economic activity. Some 70% of household wealth in China is tied up in property, far more than in the U.S., making it one of the most sensitive political issues for the Communist Party.

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