The impulse for each agency at each level of the Party or state to add tasks or criteria at their operational base—straws added to the camel’s back—leads to disaster on occasion. Performance-based promotion ‘tournaments’ drive this syndrome.

For example, the central government allows those testing negative for COVID-19 free passage. At the province level stricter controls require a repeat of the test. At the prefecture level, more stringent policy requires 21 days’ quarantine and two COVID-19 tests. And at the county level, the policy is to keep everyone out.