It’s 2025 in Beijing, five years since the start of the pandemic, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s "COVID zero" policy is still an inescapable part of daily life.

Residents must get PCR tested every few days at one of the booths on nearly every street corner. A personalized health code app determines who can move around the capital, and where. Children have to test negative to go to the park. Something as simple as a visit to a coffee shop or supermarket can result in being locked down in your apartment, not even allowed out for food — which the state instead provides.

Because a few positive cases prompt officials to restrict movement in all or parts of the city, CEOs assume they must deal with several shutdowns a year. Companies, universities and cultural institutions that once thrived on contact with the rest of the world are isolated, with flights into China limited and travelers still facing compulsory quarantines. Multinationals struggle to convince foreign staff to relocate and put up with the nuisances of COVID zero that locals largely accept as their unaltering reality.