Balancing growth with pandemic control
Editor's note: The latest wave of infections and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have created new challenges for China's economy. How will China overcome the challenges? Three experts share their views on the issue with China Daily.
With the number of COVID-19 cases rising in major cities, China is facing the most serious wave of sporadic outbreaks since the lockdown of Wuhan was lifted in April 2020.
The resurgence of infections has underscored, once again, why it is important for China to adhere to its dynamic clearing policy which, instead of trying to realize zero-infection, is aimed at stamping out local outbreaks through early detection, swift response, targeted containment and effective treatment.
The highly transmissible and insidious nature of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus requires the government and the public to react even more quickly to any signs or symptoms of infection, in order to halt the spread of the virus and prevent the medical system from being overstretched and the death toll from increasing. As a country with a population of more than 1.4 billion, of which more than 18 percent are aged 60 or above, China cannot afford to let its guard down, because that could lead to many deaths.
The Chinese government prioritizes human life. And the pandemic has prompted it to make greater efforts to safeguard human health and life. Indeed, it was due to its effective prevention and control measures that China hosted a "simple, safe and splendid" Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in February-March. The closed-loop system introduced in late January helped maintain the infection rate at the Winter Olympics at just 0.01 percent, an incredible feat which was lauded by the International Olympic Committee and sports federations around the world.
To ensure the success of the national campaign to stamp out new outbreaks, local governments are required to rigorously follow the mass testing, quarantine and treatment protocols. However, these strict control and prevention measures must be implemented and targeted in a way that causes the least inconvenience to residents.
There is also a need to find more sustainable ways to address the challenge, including by providing home test kits and antiviral pills for residents, and further strengthening healthcare services so they can deal with bigger emergencies. Fortunately, the national health authority announced recently that five COVID-19 antigen test kits can be used as a supplementary diagnosis tools to the nucleic acid test to improve early detection capability.
The public has been complying with the anti-pandemic strategy, strictly following the prevention and control measures, for example, by scanning the health code before visiting facilities such as malls, supermarkets and restaurants, as well as wearing face masks, and maintaining social distancing.
In the cities witnessing a resurgence in cases, people have been cooperating with the government by undergoing mass nucleic acid tests and welcoming closed-loop management for residential communities.
The authorities believe that protecting people's lives and promoting economic development are mutually reinforcing. In fact, China's policy to coordinate pandemic control measures with economic growth activities is best suited to the country's real conditions and most beneficial to the world. For example, by keeping the numbers of infections and deaths extremely low, compared with other countries, China has helped keep the global supply chains running despite the obvious disruptions.
Also, China was the only major economy to achieve positive growth in 2020－and rebound strongly with 8.1 percent growth in 2021. And China's GDP growth was better than expected in the first two months of this year, which bodes well for its steady recovery in the first quarter.
To be sure, China has a good chance of keeping its growth within a reasonable range in 2022, according to analysts. But the analysts have also warned that the Chinese economy faces new downward pressures due to the fluid global environment and the pandemic. So we can expect more supportive fiscal and monetary policies to achieve the annual growth target of around 5.5 percent.
China's top leadership has stressed the need to coordinate COVID-19 prevention and control measures with economic and social development, and accord increasing importance to ensuring steady growth.
Acknowledging that the economy faces new challenges, including downward pressure, the government has reiterated that it will make more efforts to boost domestic demand, unleash consumption potential and increase investment, and introduce tax refunds and cuts to maintain stable macroeconomic performance.
All these indicate that it is difficult to maintain normal economic activities amid strict anti-pandemic measures, but China has to navigate the choppy seas to achieve high-quality economic development and maintain its global competitiveness.
The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.
The author is a writer with China Daily.
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