China economy
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
A worker in a protective suit stands watch near the barricades at a testing site as the authorities order a third round of coronavirus tests for residents of Beijing’s Chaoyang district on May 8. Photo: AP

LettersWith its zero-Covid policy, China may derail its own ascent

  • The strategy did save lives and protect economic growth in the early stages of the pandemic
  • By continuing with it when the world is moving on, China risks losing its place in the global value chain
Feel strongly about this letter, or any other aspects of the news? Share your views by emailing us your Letter to the Editor at [email protected] or filling in this Google form. Submissions should not exceed 400 words, and must include your full name and address, plus a phone number for verification.
It has taken China decades to emerge from the rubble of a string of political catastrophes, such as the Cultural Revolution, and build the momentum to become an integral part of the global value chain.

Some vested interests may attempt to contain China for geopolitical, economic and ideological reasons. But only China can derail its own ascent.

In its latest efforts to combat Covid-19, the Chinese government is, in effect, forcing the world to adapt to a revamped global value chain without China.

When the pandemic started in Wuhan over two years ago, China implemented a zero-Covid strategy to contain the virus. While the strategy put tremendous pressure on its society and economy, China did save many lives while sustaining growth. The rest of the world scrambled to deal with both the health and economic challenges when the virus started raging within their borders.

Since then, most of the world has decided to eventually live with Covid-19 as many policymakers believe the virus will inevitably become endemic. Even some of the most advanced societies experienced massive Covid-induced hospitalisation and death rates in the process. But they are managing somewhat to live with Covid-19 today.

China, on the other hand, did not sufficiently prepare itself for a world with the virus and thus lacks a sound exit strategy.

The emphasis on the potential death toll, due to inadequate medical infrastructure, high number of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated seniors, and lower efficacy of domestic inactivated vaccines, should China abandon its “dynamic zero” policy, might no longer convince its citizens to support the current strategy without a path forward. People might question why the relevant agencies failed to promptly address these shortcomings by ramping up Covid-19 medical facilities, scaling up vaccination for seniors, and importing foreign mRNA vaccines or introducing domestic versions.

Coincidentally, the world is experiencing a geopolitical shift, with the decoupling trend and the war in Ukraine.

China seems to be vacating its position in the very value chain which it took generations to build, and distancing itself from international stakeholders when it needs them the most.

If the Chinese government continues the guiding philosophy of “crossing the river by touching the stones” on its path forward, China could still turn crisis into opportunity by enhancing engagement with overseas talent and business, and thus continue to be a positive force when the world needs China’s involvement the most.

Hans Zeng, Singapore