TOKYO – As President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid lockdowns batter China’s economy, his political acumen and authority are being tested as never before.

Later this year, Xi plans to nail down a precedent-breaking third term as Chinese Communist Party leader. To secure it, Xi must prove himself in two areas: show that his trademark anti-Covid policies are working and that Asia’s biggest economy is resilient.

Yet both hinge on a wild card that’s increasingly tumbling out of Xi’s direct control: a plunging stock market. Chinese equities this year have shed some US$2.7 trillion of market value.