China is making a comeback, but at what cost?

China has finally reopened its borders, three years after the initial lockdown of Wuhan, where its 11 million people were suddenly cut off from the rest of the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Endless quarantines for foreign guests have ended since January 8. The Chinese can also travel again, and in a few days, hundreds of millions of people should be able to move freely within and outside the country for the Lunar New Year on January 22. .

Should we be happy or worried about this brutal reopening? That’s the question we’re asking in our file this week. Because China at the beginning of 2023 is no longer the same as 2019. “Three years of “zero Covid” policy has seriously damaged the Chinese economy” explains in the magazine Yazhou Zhoukan Hong Kong journalist. “Everywhere, he writes we witness the loss of faith in the future. The youth unemployment rate is very high. […] And you can’t see the exit from the tunnel. That’s why the attitude of waiting, even inertia among private investors is in order.”

Repeated arrests, mass demonstrations significantly affected the finances of local authorities. Debt crisis, real estate crisis, investment decline, household consumption, export decline: Gao Zhongxiao paints a very gloomy picture.

“Without a real recovery of the economy, the activity of society as a whole, and even the security of the state, will be in danger.”

And growth figures released on January 17 seem to prove him right: China’s GDP grew just 3% last year, the slowest growth since the mid-1970s. Another sign of fragility: 2022- China’s population declined for the first time. in sixty years. This “demographic crisis”, is related “Rapid population aging will undoubtedly have far-reaching economic consequences” record it South China Morning Post, concerned about the impact on the workforce, purchasing power and pensions.

That’s it for the long haul. In the short term, some of the foreign press seems to fear the effects of this brutal rebound. To begin with Economist, for whom “China’s reopening will be the biggest economic event of 2023”. Nothing less. After the complex first quarter for the English weekly “Activity, as well as Chinese demand, could increase dramatically“. With great effects on prices, interest rates, raw materials, oil… It is not certain that the result will be favorable for the country as well as for the whole world. The Economist.

Because everything was going too fast for the newspaper. In the fall, in the 20se The Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, nothing allowed the regime to suddenly abandon the uncompromising policy it advocated. We had to wait for the crippling public demonstrations at the end of November to see Beijing abandon its “zero Covid” strategy without warning.

Coincidence, cynicism or real change? Website Duanchuanmei asked three experts about this turnaround. We publish excerpts from their responses in this dossier. Not a sign of possible fragility, but all of which evokes Xi Jinping’s cynical political calculus, exasperated and deplored by these citizens. “Three years of sacrifices for nothing”.

The health consequences of this decision are quite dramatic: within weeks, the country was plagued with pollution, hospitals and morgues were overwhelmed, medicine was in short supply, and there was no risk of travel to the countryside for Chinese New Year. .

However, it is difficult to obtain reliable results. By January 8th, Beijing had reported 37 deaths in just one month…before 60,000 hospital deaths were reported in the same period. Not enough to end the doubts of the Chinese and the WHO. And that’s the whole problem. China is making a comeback in the world, but at what cost?

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