Beijing has adopted a “COVID Zero” tolerance policy to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, meaning that the communist regime will prioritize eliminating the virus over the economy should it be forced to choose between the two. According to Goldman Sachs, China might continue with this policy for the entirety of this year, a decision that could have some serious consequences on the country’s economic growth.
A note written by Goldman Sachs analysts states that there are reports of domestically manufactured Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines that offer limited protection against the Omicron variant. This will strengthen Beijing’s resolve to stick with the COVID Zero policy.
The analysts expect quarantine requirements for foreigners to be in place during the Winter Olympics, the yearly meeting of the National Legislature in March, and the 20th Communist Party Congress scheduled for Q4. They also speculate that border restrictions could continue well into spring 2023 given that the viral transmission is “typically higher” during the winter season.
However, Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm, does not believe that China’s COVID Zero policy will work well in 2022 as it did in 2020. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, he predicted supply chain challenges to persist throughout the world. Inflation might last longer than what most people expect, he warned.
“The ability to live with the virus, an extremely easily transmissible virus that isn’t as fatal, is the exact opposite of China’s policy of zero Covid, and zero Covid will not work for them. But they’re going to stick with it… It’s not primarily a virus-driven challenge, but it’s one that the Chinese government can’t get out of their way on,” Bremmer stated.
The communist regime is also using public shaming tactics to combat the pandemic. Recently, a video circulated on Chinese social media showing armed police in the province of Guangxi parading four people who were alleged to have violated the pandemic restrictions imposed in the region.
The four individuals were charged with transporting migrants to China even though borders were shut down. They were wearing hazmat suits and each one carried a placard that displayed their photo and name.
In an interview with DW, Chunhuei Chi, a public health professor at the Oregon State University in the U.S., says that one of the biggest political reasons why the Chinese regime wants to maintain a COVID Zero policy is to make sure that the Winter Olympics in February won’t be comprised due to any sudden outbreaks in the country.
“Additionally, the Chinese government needs to maintain its legitimacy to rule the country both at home and abroad. Domestically, they need to keep domestic outbreaks under control to showcase their governance. Internationally, they need to prove that China is the savior rather than the initiator of the global pandemic. The way to achieve these goals is to show how well Beijing can stick to the goal of zero COVID,” he said.
According to Wang Yaqiu, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), local authorities also have good reason to aggressively implement COVID Zero policies as doing so opens up chances of career advancement in case they succeed in meeting government goals. Even if people’s rights are violated, it won’t matter to these authorities as they won’t be held accountable for such incidents.
Guan Yi, a virologist at Hong Kong University, thinks it might be impossible to keep the COVID-19 virus out for long. The virus has become permanent like influenza that circulates among human beings for a long time. Since Chinese local governments show zero tolerance to even individual cases of infections, he believes that the country’s economy might soon collapse.