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