Dec 21, 2022 - Economy

China faces COVID conundrum

Illustration of a person trapped inside a COVID-19 shaped maze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Beijing's stance on COVID is swinging from one extreme to the other.

The latest: Some cities are now letting people go back to work even if they have mild cases — a sharp contrast from the restrictive (and at times life-threatening) measures that had been in place over the past three years.

  • The flip suggests that officials are now more worried about the economic impact of previous policies than about a record number of cases.

State of play: Despite the accepted trade-off, there's been little to ease strained business operations.

  • "Companies really have to figure out some basic stuff — getting health kits to employees, including antigen tests and masks and medicines and so forth," Eric Zheng, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, told WSJ.

Between the lines: The now rapid spread of COVID is what the country's government had been trying to avoid and why it had been resistant to lifting its COVID protocols.

The big picture: The current stasis between economic recovery and the ongoing pandemic is why investors have little to cheer as China reopens.

  • China's COVID death toll could reach almost 1 million people as it reopens, CNN estimates, and it's a concern to the rest of the world given the size of the country's GDP and economy, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said this week.
  • Meanwhile, international companies doing business in China have lost trust in local policies, and investors have been left playing a guessing game.

Our thought bubble: The pandemic crippled one of China's — and the world's — greatest sources of economic strength: its vast and healthy population.

Go deeper

Go deeper