Chinese officials on Thursday admitted the massive lockdowns imposed against coronavirus outbreaks in major cities across China are inflicting significant damage upon the Chinese economy.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that “multiple teams” have been assembled to brainstorm methods of coping with the economic fallout from “zero-Covid” policies and devise less draconian methods of containing future outbreaks.
Judging from the approach taken by these teams, the Chinese Communist dictatorship is a little nervous about growing public unease with the deranged lockdowns imposed on cities like Xi’an over the past few months:
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said researchers were “certainly able” to roll out new strategies in the near term, while noting they were “actively thinking and planning”.
Improved control measures would differ from the current “dynamic clearing” policy, but China is unlikely to simply lift all restrictions as some Western countries have done, he said at a forum on Tuesday held by the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University.
Any changes to China’s pandemic policies would put “people first and life first”, while also allowing China to better interact with the international community and safeguard its own economic development, he said.
The SCMP suggested Beijing is also nervous about falling behind on economics now that Western powers appear to have turned against lockdowns as a pandemic control measures, and worried about Chinese citizens losing patients with the incredibly costly “zero-Covid” approach when other nations are finding less heavy-handed ways of dealing with the Wuhan coronavirus.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) advised China to review its zero-Covid policies in late January, warning that China’s expensive total lockdowns could jeopardize the global post-pandemic recovery.
“China is still using a zero-Covid policy. But what Covid is teaching all of us is that a highly transmissible variant may be much more difficult to contain without a dramatic impact on the economy,” IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said.
Chinese officials blocked two members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of Covid-19 from entering China. https://t.co/4QwbQXOtct
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 17, 2021
Also weighing upon the minds of Chinese Communist officials is the situation in Hong Kong, where coronavirus cases have surged by roughly 60 times in a single month, but the local government is reluctant to impose Xi’an-style lockdowns that could permanently destroy the city’s already perilous position as a global financial hub.
The rest of China’s population might not be comfortable with giving Hong Kong a special “dynamic zero-Covid” policy exemption to the rigid and grueling lockdown rules that apply to other cities.
The New York Times on Wednesday had some fun quoting Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam admitting that she “really can’t explain” what “dynamic zero-Covid” actually means, while some pro-Beijing lawmakers think asking for a precise definition of the term should be illegal under Hong Kong’s oppressive national security law.
For the moment, “dynamic zero-Covid” is a rhetorical placeholder for some yet-to-be-formulated policy that will somehow eliminate the coronavirus without subjecting Hong Kong to the lockdowns imposed on other cities. The most fanatical Beijing loyalists are beginning to mutter about prosecuting Hong Kong officials as “two-faced” traitors if they don’t get the coronavirus under control soon.
This photo taken on December 28, 2021 shows nearly empty roads in Xi’an in China’s northern Shaanxi province, amid a coronavirus lockdown in the city. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Another SCMP article on Thursday claimed this political turbulence is the reason dictator Xi Jinping conveyed his “advice” for controlling the massive Hong Kong outbreak to Lam through intermediaries, instead of posting his instructions to Lam as public pronouncements in worshipful Chinese state media.
“Unusually, the message was largely absent from mainland media – there was no mention in People’s Daily, Xinhua or on CCTV. Observers say that is because it is intended for the Hong Kong audience, and that Beijing does not want to stir more debate on the city among the mainland public,” the SCMP wrote.
One of those observers was an unnamed “mainland official” who bluntly stated “the deliberate omission of the story in mainland media was a bid to avoid a public backlash against Hong Kong.”
In fact, the SCMP noted Chinese state media barely mentions the outbreak in Hong Kong at all, not even in publications and broadcasts specifically dedicated to tracking Covid-19 outbreaks. The most recent mention of Hong Kong in mainland publications was a report on Saturday about a mainland city struggling to ship vegetables to the island.