After having successfully thwarted the new coronavirus throughout the last two years, China in
the last few months has experienced its largest Covid-19 outbreak since the virus was first
detected within Wuhan in December of this year. The Covid virus caused by the highly infectious
Omicron variation has spread to numerous important cities, among them Shanghai.
In the last month, the flu is now reaching the capital city, Beijing, and the events that occur there
could have a huge impact on what happens to the epidemic, China’s government, and the world
As of May 18, Beijing has been able to report 719 cases at the start of May, which is one of the
most severe surges that the city has experienced since the virus was first discovered. In
contrast, Shanghai, China’s capital city that had previously been the center of the news for its
devastation, has now reported 498 cases since the beginning of the month. China in general
has reached the 1.5 million confirmed Covid-19 number of cases and the majority of cases were
reported when March began.
While the Beijing cases are lower than Shanghai’s and significantly lower than those that which
has been reported within the United States, China has been quick to respond. Beijing officials
have implemented many strategies that are based on its Zero-Covid pandemic plan of action.
This includes rounds of obligatory mass PCR tests for its populations of over 22 million as well
as partial lockdowns; contact tracing; the isolation of contacts close to the case and the sealing
off of structures as well as cuts to public transit as well as closures of schools cinemas, malls,
and gyms, as well as prohibitions on eating indoors at restaurants.
Zhuoran Li who is a research assistant at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced
International Studies said to me “Family or friends living in Beijing have informed me that at the
moment it’s more about restricting certain communities, not the whole city. My aunt and uncle
for instance are able to go out and buy food on their own.”
Chinese authorities are taking action quickly to stop Beijing from triggering a massive lockdown.
The lockdown was carried out particularly recently and in the capital of finance, Shanghai.
Shanghai’s lockdown in Shanghai, which included the quarantining of a city with more than 26
million residents, was the subject of much criticism, both from at home and internationally with
reports coming out of food shortages and the civilians being unable to get the basic medical
While worldwide Covid-19 cases surpassed the 500 million threshold this month, a number of
countries across the world, particularly the United States and Europe as well, have eased their
pandemic prevention policies and have opted to live in the midst of the disease. China is,
however, maintained its no-Covid policy — a strategy it shared with countries such as Vietnam in
the past with countries like Vietnam and New Zealand but has now become the sole country to
Many pundits and experts particularly in the West have criticized China’s zero-Covid pandemic
policy as extreme as well as unsustainable when it comes to the highly infectious Omicron
variant. There is a growing trend that some members of the Chinese public and the intelligentsia
are declaring mixed views about the policy. However, the Chinese government is unaffected by
public opinion. A publication in the government-owned Global Times touts the policy in favor of
adhering “to the concept of living first and people last,” in contrast to the “cruel social
Darwinism” of the West.
The situation is a crucial test for the government of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), whose
leader President Xi Jinping, has elevated the nation’s pandemic response in order to boost the
party’s credibility. China is preparing to host the 20th Party Congress, the nation’s most
important political event, in which China’s party determines its leadership each year and
establishes important policy goals. In this year’s election, Xi is widely expected to win the
country’s most unheard-of third consecutive term as China’s leader.
The world over China’s Covid problems could cause a resurgence of global supply chain
problems as well as food shortages and inflation, and raise the possibility of an international
economic downturn. As with China’s fight with Covid, China’s current battle will affect the destiny
of more than its own people.
How bad is the most recent Covid outbreak?
Although there have been questions concerning the reliability of the Covid-19 information
reported by the Chinese government There can be no question that the present disease that is
affecting Beijing is the most severe the city has faced since the start of the epidemic. In addition
to an outbreak during the spring of the year, 2020 Beijing was mostly spared Covid-19 in the
previous years. The result was that Beijingers were able to enjoy life with no restrictions and
Beijing hosted major events such as the centenary celebration of Beijing’s founding of the CCP
as well as Beijing’s 2022 Beijing Olympics without any further instances of infection.
This has all changed since the advent of the more infectious Omicron variant which China has
been unable to bring under control through its zero-Covid strategy. It is not just more infectious,
but it is also more effective in getting past the protections of those who are vaccine-vaccinated.
For the entire country, there were restrictions of some kind across more than forty cities by May
5, which affected approximately 327.9 million people as per the CNBC article.
Although it’s a huge amount of people are affected, the number affected by lockdowns isn’t at all
a large portion of China’s population. Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist, and professor at the
University of Hong Kong said to me “Most people in China are normal, there are no masks,
social isolation, and very little influence on daily life which isn’t evident in the media coverage in
the media coverage of Covid in China. It appears that China is experiencing turmoil, however,
it’s cities such as Shanghai that have these measures implemented.”
But China’s present struggle to contain Covid and the magnitude of the present outbreak shows
a significant gap in the nation’s strategy to combat pandemics which is vaccination. While
China’s vaccine rate (two doses, without boosters) is approximately 87 percent, however, just
50% of those who are over 80 were completely vaccinated. It’s because China didn’t prioritize
older people in terms of vaccination, which is different from many other nations. (Indeed the
elderly were not approved to receive vaccines initially because of initial concerns about the
adverse effects of local vaccines.)
Cowling, who was recently co-author of a study on vaccine hesitancy in elderly Chinese adults,
explained to me that it’s possible that the absence of urgency may be due to China’s overall
success in reducing Covid.
“The most fundamental question concerns the risk-benefit equation for vaccines. While we say
in the West that vaccines pose little risk, they are a great benefit that far outweighs the risks In
China you face the possibility of a vaccine, which is very very low, but it is not zero however,
should the government continue with the zero-Covid strategy and it does work and the benefits
are only a small amount,” he said.
Cowling claimed she believed that China could have crafted more effective messages on
vaccines as was the case with the way that the UK was able to respond to concerns about the
AstraZeneca vaccine which can lead to blood clots. The majority of people who die in cities
such as Shanghai as well as Hong Kong have thus far been those who are not vaccinated.
With a low uptake of vaccines, In addition, the China-made vaccinations are now recognized as
less effective against omicron than the mRNA-based vaccinations (though about as effective as
mRNA-based vaccines against severe illness and death which require 3 doses). The poor
performance of local vaccines has raised questions as to the reason China hasn’t imported the
more efficient mRNA vaccines. Li Li, the Johns Hopkins researcher, described the situation to
me as being a type of “vaccine nationalists,” in which the Chinese government seeks to be
self-sufficient and strengthen its own pharmaceutical and biotech industry.
“For China, [to import the Western mRNA vaccines] implies that they can’t declare this victory
any longer and they’re recognizing that their own model of governance does not work as well as
that of the American system,” Li said.
What is the huge deal when the government decides to impose the
Shanghai-style lockdown in Beijing?
Authorities of Beijing have taken action swiftly to avoid repeating the mistakes of those in
Shanghai where discontent about the handling of the government’s response to the current
crisis has been all over Chinese on social networks and manifested itself in often unnoticed
demonstrators. The tools are not out of the equation, such as prohibiting rideshare services
from operating within the districts that are under lockdown. While the authorities have prevented
the chaos and panic of Shanghai but this hasn’t kept dissent from spreading even within an of
the most prestigious schools in the country and Beijing’s ongoing struggle against Covid is not
There could be a lot of consequences for Beijing if Beijing is forced to go through an
all-encompassing, Shanghai-style lockdown -for the government as well as the citizens and the
An emergency lockdown of Beijing is thought to be a major politically damaging loss to the CCP.
CCP, despite its difficult treatment of the first incident caused by Covid-19 in Wuhan was able to
successfully control the disease since.
Xi Jinping in particular has made use of China’s Covid success to promote his Chinese style of
government. boastfully declaring that in October 2020 “The disease once more confirms the
advantages of the socialist system that has Chinese features.” In a world where governments
frame their the events in terms of geopolitical rivalries between autocracies and democracies
and failure to do so in Beijing could be a loss of credibility.
Jane Duckett, professor of Chinese social and political issues at the University of Glasgow, told
me “I believe that the government is stuck between two rocks in a difficult space … in the event
that it doesn’t take the initiative to containthe] Covid and spread, it will grow, and when we have
an issue similar to Hong Kong, then their entire, ‘We’re in a position to protect lives, and the
system we have is better’ type of message is not enough … in fact, China may end up being just
as bad as the countries that their leadership has been criticizing of.”
The individuals most affected and are likely to remain more affected and impacted by the
Chinese government’s policies on pandemics are of course the typical Zhou ordinary Chinese
people. In addition to the grave mental health burden that is a result of living under restrictions,
Human Rights Watch discovered it was a “systematic rejection of medical treatment for those
suffering from severe, but not related to Covid,” sometimes even leading to deaths that were not
The economic consequences are extremely severe, with hundreds of small companies shut
down and they have also seen the Chinese stocks market has plummeted. Employment is
increasing, especially for younger people and young people, with the unemployment rate at 16
percent. For those aged between 16 and 24 being at around 16 percent (nationally at around 5
percent) as well as just under half the college graduates this year have received job offers.
Chinese government officials have been aware of the situation and have taken measures to
ease the current economic crisis. This includes allocations of living expenses for the
unemployed migrants who have to deal with the burden of uncertainty in normal times and
infrastructure investments to help boost the economy. The whole thing could not be enough but
as Joerg Wuttke who is president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, put it in an
interview, “The stimulus measures are like a band-aid to an injury.”
Economic concerns in China, one of the most populous economies in terms of GDP, and the
most prolific exporter of products, have already begun to ripple throughout the world.
One thing is that China’s lockdowns are disrupting the global distribution chain already being
impacted by previous events during the epidemic, which will result in longer wait times for
products such as electric vehicles as well as the iPhone.
This goes beyond consumer goods, though, as China is also the world’s second-largest
exporter of fertilizers, second only to Russia as well as the country has been progressively
reducing some of its fertilizer exports since the end of summer to address national food security
concerns. Since Russia also did a similar thing in the aftermath of its war against Ukraine The
twin crises could intensify an already alarming food shortage which could lead to a worsening of
the food in areas such as Africa as well as West Asia.
And any decline in China’s stock market and economy could consequently adversely impact the
economic performance of the countries in the Global South with particularly close economic ties,
such as South Africa as well as Brazil. This could affect the overall economy and possibly
increase the likelihood of a world recession.
If there’s a lesson we are learning from this epidemic is how what’s happening inside China isn’t
just confined to China; it can have profound implications on the global community. The way
Beijing fights against Covid could have significant consequences that extend beyond the
borders of China.