Global supply chain problems and inflation could be much worse if China, the world’s factory, hadn’t taken a sweeping approach to COVID-19, according to a U.S. media report.
China’s zero-tolerance policy for COVID has worked exceptionally well at avoiding mass infection and deaths, an article published on Wednesday in Bloomberg Businessweek said.
“Why the World Needs China’s Covid-Zero Policy” was written by James Mayger, a Bloomberg reporter in Beijing. Mayger wrote that China’s zero-tolerance approach－relying on lockdowns, mass testing and strict border quarantines over the past two years－”has prevented a huge number of deaths at home and ensured that everything from iPhones and Teslas to fertilizer and car parts continues to flow to the rest of the world”.
He rebutted critics of Beijing’s determination who claim the policy harmed China’s economy and posed risks to global supply chains and even to Olympic athletes’ human rights.
If consumers and businesses want to continue to buy goods made in China without having to endure shortages and further price hikes, they should want China to stick with its zero-tolerance policy, Mayger wrote.
On Jan 14, China’s General Administration of Customs released data on the country’s imports and exports in December 2021. The total value reached $586.5 billion, with an export value of $340.5 billion, a 20.9 percent year-on-year rise, and a total import value of $246 billion, a 19.5 percent year-on-year increase.
China’s total imports and exports for 2021 reached a new level, exceeding $6 trillion for the first time. Exports to the U.S. rose 21.2 percent year-on-year.
Mayger wrote that while restrictions under the policy have led to temporary shutdowns of ports and factories, China’s industries have so far “come through the pandemic remarkably unscathed”.
“Exports hit records in 2020 and then again in 2021, and if it had not been for that constant stream of goods, prices of U.S. imports would have risen even faster, and shortages of products, both essential and luxury, would have been even more pronounced,” wrote Mayger.
“That steady supply may be difficult to maintain when China does eventually reopen its borders and gets rid of internal COVID controls,” he said.
Mayger offered a further explanation on Twitter.
After saying that it looked clear that China is sticking with its zero-tolerance policy, he asked, why should you care?
“Well, if they were to stop, a lot of what you buy might get a lot more expensive or scarce,” he wrote, adding “this doesn’t mean that China will never open up, but the government thinks the benefits still outweigh the costs”.
The “benefits” probably include saving lives.
According to Johns Hopkins University, China’s COVID-19 death toll is 4,636, a number that has barely changed over time.
In the U.S., the deaths attributed to COVID-19 surpassed 900,000 on Feb 4.
A Chinese study estimated that had China not implemented its zero-tolerance policy, there would have been more than 234 million infections in a year, including 64 million symptomatic COVID-19 cases and 2 million deaths, China CDC Weekly reported.
A team of Chinese scientists used studies from Chile (Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine) and Britain (the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines) to calculate the “baseline efficacy “of current vaccines.
They found that the vaccines were not effective enough against infection to lower the incidence of the coronavirus to the levels of influenza.
“The key to controlling COVID-19 lies in the development and widespread use of vaccines that are more effective at preventing infection,” the researchers said in a paper published on Feb 4 in the weekly bulletin of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an NGO focusing on dealing with major health affairs, said at a think tank event in December that China is doing a better job than the U.S. of controlling the pandemic, and that the U.S. should admit it.
“We have to really recognize both the tremendous success that China has done controlling COVID－it’s remarkable－and we have to recognize that the U.S. is dealing with a very fragmented polity, where, you know, there is a disagreement about everything from where the sun rises and sets, to the gravity now in the U.S.,” Frieden said.