Beijing: Anti-virus controls that shut down some of China’s biggest cities and fueled public irritation are spreading as infections rise, hurting a vulnerable economy and warning of potential global shockwaves. Shanghai is easing rules that confined most of its 25 million people to their homes after complaints they had trouble getting food. But most of its businesses are still closed. Access to Guangzhou, an industrial hub of 19 million people near Hong Kong, was suspended this week. Other cities are closing or closing access to factories and schools.
Spring planting could be disrupted by Chinese farmers feeding 1.4 billion people, Nomura economists warned on Thursday. This could increase demand for imported wheat and other food items, which could exacerbate already high global prices. The shutdown is an embarrassment for the ruling Communist Party and a blow to official efforts to reverse the slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy. They come during a sensitive year when President Xi Jinping is expected to try to break with tradition and give himself a third five-year term as leader.
Beijing has promised to reduce the human and economic costs of its “zero-Covid” strategy, but Xi on Wednesday refused to join the United States and other governments that are lifting sanctions and living with the virus. are trying. “The prevention and control work cannot be relaxed,” Xi said, according to official Xinhua news agency. “Perseverance is victory.” Nomura’s Ting Lu, Jing Wang and Harrison Zhang warned in a report that China was at increased risk of a recession. “The logistics crunch is worsening,” he said. “Markets should also be concerned about delayed spring planting of cereals in China.”
The government on Thursday reported 29,411 new cases, all except 3,020 without any symptoms. Shanghai accounted for 95% of that total, or 27,719 cases. All except 2,573 had no symptoms. A health official warned on Wednesday that the virus was not under control in Shanghai despite the easing of restrictions. About 6.6 million people were allowed to leave their homes in areas that had no new cases for at least a week. But at least 15 million others have still been barred from going out. Most have obeyed despite complaints about the lack of food, medicine and access to elderly relatives in need of help. But videos on the popular Sina Weibo social media service show some business punches with police.
Grape Chen, a data analyst in Shanghai, said she was nervous about taking medicines for her father, who is recovering from a stroke. She called the police after receiving no response from an official hotline, but was told that the quarantine rules bar officers from helping. “We are ready to cooperate with the country,” Chen said. “But we also hope that our lives can be respected.” The city government of Suzhou, the center of smartphone manufacturing and other high-tech industry west of Shanghai, told its 18 million people to stay home whenever possible. Taiyuan, a blue-collar city of 4 million in central China, suspended inter-city bus service, according to the official China News Service. Ningde to the southeast blocked residents from leaving.
The cook at a restaurant in Taiyuan said his family has been confined to their apartment complex since April 3 after cases were found in a neighboring compound. “Our lives will be seriously affected if the ban goes on for a long time,” said the cook, who would only give his surname Chen. “My wife and I are earning nothing,” Chen said. “We have three kids to support.” All 13 of China’s 100 largest cities by economic output have some form of restriction, according to Gawekal Dragonomics, a research firm. “The intensity is increasing,” Gavekal said in a report this week.
According to an estimate by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, the volume of cargo from Shanghai Port, the world’s busiest port, declined by 40%. Automakers have suspended production due to supply disruptions. Restrictions on sectors that produce the world’s smartphones, consumer electronics and other goods are prompting expectations for this year’s economic growth to shrink sharply to 5% from an 8.1% expansion last year. The ruling party’s target is 5.5%. Growth fell to 4% in the last quarter of 2021 from a year earlier after tighter official controls on debt led to a decline in home sales and construction, industries that support millions of jobs.
Even before the latest shutdown, the ruling party was promising tax refunds and other help for entrepreneurs creating wealth and jobs. 2 leader and top economic official, Premier Li Keqiang this week called for a “quick rollout” of aid for businesses that face a “critical turning point for survival”, China News Service reports. Under a strategy called “dynamic clearing,” officials are trying to use more targeted measures to isolate neighborhoods rather than entire cities with large populations from some countries. But some local leaders are imposing more extensive controls. Shanghai’s leaders have been criticized for trying to cushion the economic damage by ordering tests, but there has been no closure since the cases surfaced last month. A citywide shutdown was ordered with only a few hours’ warning as the case numbers rose.
This was in contrast to Shenzhen, a tech and finance hub of 17.5 million people near Hong Kong, which on March 13 closed the city after an outbreak and ordered mass testing. A week later it reopened and business was back to normal. Guangzhou has copied Shenzhen. Most access to the city of 19 million was suspended on Monday and mass testing was ordered after 27 were found to have infections. Li Guanyu, a 31-year-old woman in Guangzhou, said residents can only step out of their apartment complex to buy food once every other day, but the stores are well stocked. “It happened a little suddenly,” Lee said. “Perhaps the situation in Shanghai is so bad that Guangzhou started mass testing and went into lockdown as soon as cases were detected.”