Xi Jinping: Chinese leader sticks to covid-zero strategy | International
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Many expected a gesture, a timid wink, a small loophole that would announce the end of the strict covid-zero strategy in China. But we will have to keep waiting. The president, Xi Jinping, has defended this Sunday the approach in which Beijing has persisted to tackle the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, once again backing a model that has helped “prevent the importation of cases and spikes from within of the country, and persevering without hesitation in suppressing outbreaks in real time”, as he proclaimed during the speech with which he marked the opening of the XX Congress of the Communist Party.
The president has assured that the country has opted “for the primacy of the people and of life” and has put the fight against the virus as an example of the practice of the “founding spirit” of the militancy of the Communist Party of China, against what he has called “the sudden appearance of the covid-19 epidemic”.
“We have waged a people’s war, a general war, a war of containment, to combat it,” he continued in the brief moment he dedicated to the pandemic, “which has allowed us to protect the life of the people to the maximum.” and health, and achieve important positive results in terms of the coordination of epidemiological prevention and control and economic and social development”.
The appointment was of special relevance because during the speech the general secretary of the party traditionally makes an assessment of the last five years at the height of power, and the political guidelines for the next five years are drawn. With the Chinese economy affected, there has been speculation in recent months about a possible relaxation of health policy.
China is one of the few countries on the planet that persists in a strict zero covid strategy, which implies massive testing and total or partial confinement of cities at the time a few cases are detected, which has caused growing social discontent over lockdowns in megacities like Shanghai. The strategy has also widened the gap with the rest of the world, since it requires quarantines of up to 10 days to enter the country ―they reached 21 days―, in addition to restrictions on obtaining visas, with high ticket prices and regular trip cancellations.
Some analysts consider it probable that there will be a relaxation, but not immediate, but progressive in the coming months and without abandoning the general framework of the covid zero strategy. The idea would be to adjust it and better adapt it to local conditions and to new variants of the virus. But this is unlikely to happen before March, when the transition to the new political cycle is complete, with the formation of a new government.
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Major financial institutions have been downgrading China’s growth prospects over a year plagued by lockdown disruptions, the low point of which was marked by the closure of the mega-city of Shanghai for more than two months last spring.
The International Monetary Fund believes that the second economic power will grow by 3.2% in 2022, while the World Bank lowers it to 2.8%, far from the target set by Beijing for this year, around 5.5% . In both cases, the Washington-based agencies blame the uncertainty caused by the strict covid-zero strategy and the crisis in the real estate sector that is plaguing the country.
The EU Chamber of Commerce in China, which represents 1,800 companies established in this country, has recently warned of “the risks of decoupling” from China and has criticized Beijing for “sacrificing on the altar of ideology” the economic benefits of the “opening and reform”. In a recent report he warns of a “loss of business confidence” that is opening the door for “other emerging markets” to fill that “void”.
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