During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ruling communist party of China decentralized pandemic control decision making, but held local officials accountable for pandemic control with sanctions, creating a single-minded political survival preference for excessive local lockdowns. How to constrain agents while giving them enough power? This talk will discuss how conflicting goals force agents to balance tradeoffs and avoid extremes. A subset of officials, in cities subject to a high-profile poverty elimination target, had to mediate between pandemic control and economic costs of lockdowns. Using original datasets of daily intra-city mobility during China’s 2020 COVID-19 epidemic and poverty elimination, the talk will present that Xi’s poverty elimination campaign became an unintended brake for bureaucratic zealot of Zero-Covid and cities balancing both goals mitigated their COVID-19 lockdowns by approximately 40 percent.