A year after the lockdown that made Shanghai a byword for all that was wrong with the country’s COVID-19 approach, China’s most international city is showing the effects of a policy that left the nation disconnected from the world.

Home to most foreign company headquarters and a quarter of China’s expatriate population before 2022, Shanghai has seen an exodus since the brutal two-month lockdown that crippled the city of 25 million from late last March. Foreign nationals like Xenia Sidorenko, a Russian fashion entrepreneur who has called China home for a dozen years, are leaving and foreign investment and business activity in the metropolis have also dwindled.

"It was just nonsense. With your brain understanding that something absolutely unacceptable is happening and you are still trying to keep calm and carry on,” said Sidorenko, referring to the lockdown period. She plans to move to New Zealand with her husband later this year once she makes arrangements for her firm, UseDem, which upcycles waste from China’s denim industry into bags. "I feel like this is the moment I need to move on.”