Chinese President Xi Jinping and his senior officials concluded their two-day central economic work conference with state-run media to speed up policy adjustments and pledge to prop up the country’s battered economy in 2023.
State media reported that two veteran journalists from China state media had died days after contracting COVID-19 in Beijing since the government ended “zero-COVID” policies on December 7. Hence, the meeting took place days after the state government lifted one of the world’s most burdensome anti-Covid restrictions and lockdowns, but sadly hurt the economy and sparked public protests.
State media said in its readout of the conference that addressing the federal government’s shortcomings would strengthen the overall coordination of pandemic policies that analysts estimate has grown by just 3 percent in 2022, which is the lowest growth in nearly half a century of Chinese rule. The state has first expressed its views on ensuring a smooth “transition” during the current pandemic and social order while seeking stability and growth in 2023.
Beijing has begun a “transition” to a “year of stability” with a spike in virus infections and growing fears that Covid could spread to China’s 1.4 billion population as people travel next month during the Lunar New Year. China’s National Health Commission said it stockpiled vaccinations, ventilators, essential medicines, and test kits in rural areas. It also advised travelers to minimize contact with elderly relatives.
However, official figures do not show the whole picture, as testing conflicts with symptoms of large outbreaks in cities where queues outside fever clinics and empty pharmacy shelves are standard.
On the other hand, the White House has revealed that China is ready to help if requested. A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade expressed its views on continuing to support COVID-19 for the provision of medical equipment and joint research work.
Although China’s international borders are mainly closed, recent decisions to abandon domestic pre-travel testing and disable apps that track people’s travel history have freed people up to move around the country.
In a sign of the economic recovery drive and the reopening of the country, business magazine Caixin reported on Friday, December 16, 2022, that the government is seeking to rapidly increase domestic and international flights by the end of January 2023.
According to state media reports, Henan, one of China’s most populous provinces, has suspended all holidays for healthcare workers until the end of March 2023 to allow for “a smooth transition” from the Covid restrictions. At the same time, the Global Times newspaper reported that several cities had opened new vaccination sites to encourage the public to get booster shots, which is officially underway.
Undermining near-term growth prospects, even if the opening revives China’s battered economy. JPMorgan on Friday forecasted China’s growth rate of 2.8 percent in 2022, well below the official target of 5.5 percent, marking the country’s worst performance in nearly half a century. Analysts fear China will pay the price as the virus spreads through the population after a prolonged lockdown, lowering vaccination rates among the elderly.
“Go all out” was the message from China’s state-owned asset regulator in a statement urging state-owned drugmakers to meet the “rapid increase” demand for COVID-related drugs.
China was set for a “transitional period of pain,” according to the bank’s analysts, who expected a surge in infections after the Lunar New Year before the economy began to recover in mid-2023. China’s top state planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission, said: “hard efforts” are needed to sustain the growth recovery amid a hostile external environment and a slowdown in the global economy.