China gives up zero covid strategy to try to revive growth

The economy undergoes the consequences of the three years of the strict health policy led by Beijing against COVID-19. This year, growth should revolve around 3 %, compared to more than 8 % in 2021.

by Frédéric Lemaître (Beijing, correspondent)

Priority to the economy. Almost three years after having placed the country under a bell in the name of zero covid policy, China abandons this strategy. Twice a year, the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party – made up of 25 leaders, reduced to 24 following 20 national congress, this fall – meets to take stock of the economic situation : in July and December. In July, the report insisted on the need to maintain the “zero dynamic” policy “. “The emergence of an epidemic must immediately be placed under strict [measures of] prevention and control,” said managers.

Nothing like this in the report published on Wednesday, December 7. The objective is now to “optimize” and “better articulate prevention and control of the epidemic with economic and social development”. The expression “zero covid” has even purely and simply disappeared. On the same day, the National Health Commission announced that China ended systematic tests, that people diagnosed positive would be able to be isolated at home and no longer sent to quarantine centers, that confinements would be limited to people carrying virus and will no longer concern a whole district or an entire city.

Likewise, the tests will cease to be required during travel in public transport and between cities. Even if the tests remain necessary for the entry of schools and hospitals and if China has not completely reopened its borders, continuing in particular to impose around forty days to enter its territory, the change with the current practice is considerable. While more than 1,200 executives have been sanctioned for three years for not having taken sufficient measures to control the epidemic, it is now the opposite policy that is recommended. The political bureau warns local officials against “formalism, bureaucratism and the arbitrary use of power”.

explosion of unemployment for young people

Of course, there is no question for the Chinese Communist Party to recognize its mistakes. No question either of admitting to having been sensitive to demonstrations which, everywhere in the country, multiplied, at the end of November, against the abuses of inhuman confinements. Officially, “prevention and control measures are optimized and perfected, taking into account the situation”, according to the China New Agency. But the social and economic situation had become untenable. Growth should be around 3 % this year, compared to more than 8 % in 2021. In November, exports, the main factor of Chinese growth, even fell 8.7 % compared to November 2021.

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/Media reports cited above.