Working out what’s going on in China is never easy. But the current situation feels utterly bewildering. More than two years after COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, 400 million people are now living under some form of lockdown across the country, amid security clampdowns, strict social media censorship and growing civil unrest.

What can China do to resolve a crisis that threatens not only the health and security of its people, but of the world’s largest economy and all those who depend on it? Naturally we asked the experts: Professor Jane Duckett and her colleagues at the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for China Research, who have been tracking the Chinese government’s rollercoaster COVID strategy from the outset. Their long-form account of the dilemma now facing the country’s leadership, and the risk to President Xi Jinping’s grip on power, is fascinating and frightening in equal measure.

Mike Herd

Investigations Editor, Insights

A Shanghai refuse worker shows the strain of the month-long COVID lockdown. Shutterstock

China’s COVID crisis and the dilemma facing its leaders, by experts who have monitored it since the Wuhan outbreak

Jane Duckett, University of Glasgow; Meixuan Chen, University of Glasgow; William Wang, University of Glasgow

What can China do to resolve a crisis that threatens not only the health and security of its people and economy, but the future of Chinese Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping?

An unmarked grave with a headstone that resembles a computer screen, nicknamed ‘iGrave’, is seen in north-west London. Leon Neal/AFP

Deadbots can speak for you after your death. Is that ethical?

Sara Suárez-Gonzalo, UOC - Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

The recent case of a man making a simulation of his deceased fiancée raises important questions: while AI makes it possible to create “deadbots”, is it ethically desirable or reprehensible to do so?

The growth of benefits derived from reading for pleasure starts young. (Shutterstock)

Reading to improve language skills? Focus on fiction rather than non-fiction

Raymond A. Mar, York University, Canada

Verbal abilities provide benefits in school and in one’s career. Fostering a love for stories and fiction in children should be a high priority.