China claims to have beaten COVID amidst global scepticism over the data released by it
By the middle of the month, Chinese officials said that the number of COVID patients needing critical care in Chinese hospitals had peaked even as the country readied for the movement of millions of travellers for the Lunar New Year holidays.It claimed that the country’s fatality rate remained the world’s lowest “China has created a miracle in human history.” As far as the CPC is concerned, the exit wave is over, China has won, and there is no room for questions on its handling of the situation. For the world, the positive development has been that no new variant of COVID has surfaced after it rampaged through China. Actually, Beijing would be uncomfortable with a lot of questions. It seems to have forgotten that it took unprecedented ‘White Paper’ protests across the country that compelled the CPC to abandon its draconian Zero-COVID policy. This was a policy which avoided mass deaths but was sustained only by a high social and economic cost. Besides putting hundreds of millions into draconian lockdowns sometime lasting months, it expended a vast amount of resources in COVID containment measures, including a massive US$ 29.2 billion on PCR testing alone. And eventually, the strategy failed to prevent a large number of deaths. Officially, China said that as of 9 February, 83,150 people had died of COVID. But clearly this is a vast undercount. For one, it only includes figures of those who died in hospitals and does not include those who died at home. Then, the Chinese officials counted deaths arising only from respiratory failure leaving out deaths due to other organ failures. But, according to The New York Times, estimates of four separate academic teams converged on the estimate that as many as a million to a million and a half people died. Yanzhong Huang cited Wu Zunyou the chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to note that by 21 January, more than 80 percent of the Chinese population had been infected with COVID. Wu said that the case fatality ratio for winter had been between 0.09 percent and 0.16 percent extrapolating from that it can be surmised that China would have likely suffered a million casualties.
It seems to have forgotten that it took unprecedented ‘White Paper’ protests across the country that compelled the CPC to abandon its draconian Zero-COVID policy.Huang says that other Chinese models, too, have estimated deaths at a million plus. But there was also anecdotal evidence from clinics, hospitals, obituaries published by state-owned institutions to suggest a high death estimate. Whether or not the CPC manages to control the COVID narrative within the country remains to be seen. There has been a severe erosion of trust between the Communist Party and the citizens of the country who have had to suffer from the vagaries of its COVID policy. But on another COVID front, it would seem that Beijing has managed to obtain what it wanted. According to a report in Nature, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that it is too challenging to conduct the studies they needed to do in China to investigate the origins of the virus and was abandoning the second phase of its investigations. Responding to a question on Nature’s report, the foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Webin commented that Chinese policy on investigating the origins of the virus had been consistent. “We always support and participate in science-based global origins-tracing.” But China opposed “all forms of political manipulation.” He said China had cooperated with the WHO and produced a “scientific and authoritative” joint report. Beijing had also participated with the WHO and the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins on Novel Pathogens (SAGO). However, there is been some subsequent confusion with the WHO chief declaring that on COVID origins the organisation will continue to “push until we get the answer” and that he had recently sent a letter to a top official in China “asking for cooperation.”
One area that has been impacted by its COVID policy is that of migrant workers who bore the brunt of the long zero-COVID lockdowns and unemployment far from their homes.Having patted itself on the back for its COVID policy U-turn and blanked out information on the scale of infections and deaths, the CPC is now readying to give a push to turn around the ailing Chinese economy and to deal with the impact of US sanctions. China says it will soon have its economy back on track. But it will not be easy. One area that has been impacted by its COVID policy is that of migrant workers who bore the brunt of the long zero-COVID lockdowns and unemployment far from their homes. They are reluctant, somewhat like Indian workers, to go back to the industrial zones. One area that could see change is the private sector which has been battered by the CPC in the last two years. In an article published in the CPC journal Quishi, Xi Jinping called for expanding domestic demand and taking measures to encourage consumption and investment. In addition to calling for deepening the reform of the state-owned sector, Xi said that there was a need to optimise the environment for private enterprises and “promote the development and growth of the private economy.” He called for equal treatment for state and private enterprises and “to protect the property rights of private enterprises and the rights and interests of entrepreneurs. “
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Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...Read More +