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Shanghai locked down worse than Wuhan as President Xi Jinping doubles down

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fight for food

In early April, households complained online that they were running out of food due to the closure of the city’s logistics networks. The poor, the elderly and the sick suffered the most. Amid the suffering, there were also positive stories of communities and neighbors sharing food and caring for each other.

It was worse than Wuhan, says a Shanghai resident who wants to be identified as Ms Mei. She lived in the central Chinese city where the pandemic began in early 2020, and was the first in the world to be locked down, before moving to Shanghai. The virus was deadlier then, but at least no one had to fight for food, and the logistics still worked,

The Shanghai lockdown has drawn an unprecedented level of public dissent in China since the pandemic began in Wuhan. Voices of April, an online video containing audio of Shanghai residents describing their ordeal, went viral on Chinese social media last month.

The lockdown has only underscored the flaws in President Xi Jinping’s resolve to pursue a zero COVID-19 policy at a time when the rest of the world is living with the virus.

But Chinese leaders vowed Thursday night to double down on their zero-case strategy. Xi’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee has pledged to resolutely fight any speech that distorts, questions or rejects this policy, according to state television. There was no mention of the economy.

Full or partial shutdowns in Shanghai, Beijing and 42 other Chinese cities are also crippling global supply chains. Shanghai is a major shipping hub and its factories produce key components used in cars, cellphones and other consumer goods. It’s bad news for the global economy, and economists have warned the world to brace for continued lockdowns in China for months.

Echo of the Cultural Revolution

Zero COVID-19 in China will have disastrous consequences for the global economy and the markets do not yet realize it, said independent economist Andy Xie, who has not left his residential compound in Shanghai for five years. weeks. FRG weekend. Right now we have an echo of the Cultural Revolution going on. We know that China will not change its policies and that blockages can happen again and again.

He says the shockwaves from disruptions in China’s supply of components used in automobiles, cellphones, chemicals and other industries are just beginning to be felt, compounding existing shortages caused by the global pandemic. While China’s economy will likely experience the storm, the ramifications for the global economy are more serious, he said.

Some factories have employees living on site and the local government is encouraging key businesses to resume operations, but the reality is that most businesses in Shanghai are crippled by measures that make it almost impossible for truckers, factory workers or anyone to leave their home.

Arjan Jansen, a Dutch citizen who works for a Shanghai-based company that rents construction equipment and trucks, says the lockdown has crippled his operations. Our company has had no income since March 28. We have to send construction equipment and spare parts, but we can’t find any trucks or drivers. The industrial park from which we operate is closed. They won’t allow a truck to drive there, he said.

There seems to be absolutely no plan for the economy. People can survive on cabbage donations, but not businesses. I’ve been in China for 20 years, and it was all about GDP, growth and improving living standards. This no longer seems to be the case.

Compensation Challenges

Jansens’ story highlights the challenges faced by thousands of Chinese companies who are not compensated for lost income or do not receive tax or rent relief, or social security payment deferrals like they did so during China’s milder lockdowns in early 2020. Chinese workers who are typically paid basic wages supplemented by bonuses are bearing the brunt of the extended lockdown.

We live day to day. I didn’t get a salary in April, but luckily my boss is paying for our rent and food, says Lei Guoqiang, a barber assistant in his 20s who moved to Shanghai from the countryside earlier this year to earn a living. He shares a three-bedroom apartment in Shanghai with nine friends. He and six of his housemates tested positive for COVID-19 last month and were taken to a government quarantine center at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai.

The worst was the constant noise because there were so many people, two or three hundred, in the room with you, says Lei FRG weekend. The food was okay, however.

In Shanghai, positive cases are taken to quarantine centers for isolation even if they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

Chinese state media say the city is slowly winning the fight against COVID-19. Reported figures suggest numbers are falling to levels that could allow health authorities to ease restrictions and restart activities. The city reported 34 new infections in the community on Wednesday, representing people outside quarantine centers or hospitals. The total number of daily cases is below 5,000 from 27,605 at the peak in mid-April.

People with mild and asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 have been quarantined at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai.PA

Beijing also appears to have avoided a citywide lockdown for now, with cases at a minimum as residents returned to work after a five-day break. But many public places have been closed and more than 20 million people tested.

While Shanghai authorities say two-thirds of the population are now free to go out, anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. Dozens of Shanghai residents said FRG weekend overzealous security guards and health officials would not let them venture outside even though there had been no cases in their compound for two weeks. Others were allowed outside, but their movements were limited to short distances from their homes.

Australians living in Shanghai have had varied experiences, with some being so anxious and frustrated over the past six weeks that they want to leave. Others tell FRG weekend they have plenty of food and are impressed by the solidarity shown by their neighbors.

It is remarkable that China’s economy has weathered the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 governments so well, says Peter Arkell, a recruiter and former president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. When the restrictions are eased and the industry is less constrained, I expect there will be a strong reaction from the economy which will be very positive for businesses.

Not all Chinese-based Australians share his sentiments. Many are packing their bags, devastated by 2 years of border closures and fear that life will become more difficult under Xi’s authoritarian rule.

Everyone we talk to is looking for a way out, it’s really sad, says an Australian working in the car industry.

Heavy economic price

In a survey by the European Chamber of Commerce in China released on Thursday, 23% of the 372 companies that responded were looking to shift their operations to other markets due to China’s strict COVID-19 policies.

Chinese governments’ battle against omicron means the country is paying a heavy economic price, and economists now doubt it can meet its 5.5% GDP growth target this year.

Measures aimed at tackling the indebted real estate sector are suspended. While Beijing last week announced plans to spend heavily on transport, energy and water infrastructure, continued lockdowns mean many construction sites in China are idle.

We believe it is unrealistic to expect much faster growth in infrastructure investment, and real (GDP) growth of 5% would only fill a small part of the gap left by the slowdown in export growth, the sharp contraction in the real estate sector and the rising costs of the pandemic, economists at Nomura warned.

The Caixin Services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a measure of service sector activity, fell to 36.2 in April, the second lowest since the survey began in November 2005, according to data released Thursday.

As Xi is caught between maintaining his commitment to defeating COVID-19 and ensuring economic stability, he will come under increasing pressure ahead of the Party Congress meeting later this year, which is expected to nominate him. in charge for a third term.

China has vaccinated more than 88% of its 1.4 billion people against COVID-19 with mRNA-free vaccines, but a large portion of the elderly are not fully vaccinated. It has not approved any foreign vaccines, although it is working on locally made vaccines targeting the omicron variant.

A more sinister view is that Beijing takes advantage of outbreaks to instill fear in its citizens to ensure better control. While Shanghai residents have voiced their criticism, the rest of the country is still broadly supportive of measures that could stop the spread of a virus that many consider deadly.

Economist Xie said: The government is returning to direct control and putting fear back into your mind and heart. We’ve been on this path for a while, but now, with zero COVID-19, we’re at something of a crescendo.

Sources

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