China eases COVID rules amid skepticism over full reopening | Economy

Beijing, the Chinese capital, was busier on Monday as two districts allowed workers to return to offices, while Shanghai moved closer to officially lifting a two-month lockdown as COVID-19 cases fell across China.

While the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus, China’s adherence to a “zero Covid-19” elimination policy — including repeated lockdowns, border closures and mass testing — has battered the world’s second-largest economy and has seen international caused trouble. Supply chain and trade.

On Monday, Beijing’s Fangshan and Shunyi districts temporarily lifted work-from-home rules and resumed most public transport.

Restrictions were eased on Sunday as libraries, museums, theaters and gyms were allowed to reopen to a limited number of people in areas with no community cases for the past seven days.

Shanghai, China’s commercial capital and largest city, will officially lift a draconian two-month lockdown on Wednesday, even as residents express confusion and doubts about how far the reopening will go.

Businesses have been told they can resume operations, but most residents have not been told when they can leave residential areas, most public transport remains suspended and private cars are not allowed on the road without prior approval.

“A lot of people are skeptical,” Cameron Wilson, a football writer based in Shanghai, told Al Jazeera. “Their fingers were burned because they were talking about opening 6 weeks ago and we arrived. So personally, I’m in a ‘believe it when I see it’ mode.”

Despite increased control over daily life, authorities are desperate to paint the city as back to normal, Wilson said.

“The Chinese media is usually bullshit,” he said. “They’ve been through the whole thing, but they’ll trip themselves up and say everything is normal, but obviously it’s not normal at all, even if the city is open, even if everyone is free Please get out of their yard, it won’t be a normal life here for months or even years.”

“Unreasonable” restrictions

Authorities in Shanghai said on Sunday they would lift “unreasonable” restrictions on businesses resuming operations from Wednesday.

The government has also pledged to take steps to support economic growth, including issuing more government bonds, tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

Retail sales and industrial production in China plunged to their lowest levels since the outbreak began in April. Beijing is targeting growth of about 5.5% in 2022, a target widely seen by economists as unrealistic given the lack of a timetable for a permanent departure from draconian restrictions such as lockdowns.

Gary Ng, a senior economist at Natixis in Hong Kong, described the easing restrictions in Beijing and Shanghai as a positive but ultimately small step toward normalcy.

“What matters, though, is whether China can maintain its path to reopening. If households and businesses continue to face uncertainty about the lockdown, consumption and investment may not rebound as they did in 2020,” Ng told Al Jazeera.

“Due to growth pressures and political realities, we may have to wait until the end of the year to see a dramatic change in China’s zero-coronavirus policy, but other cities are unlikely to repeat Shanghai’s tough measures.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping seeks unprecedented third term later this year exclude Deviating from the “zero COVID” strategy and insisting that the authorities “put people and lives first”.

Mainland China has reported fewer than 5,230 deaths from COVID-19, a figure that health experts believe is widely underestimated given that the country has reported more than 2.5 million cases.

Shanghai officials reported fewer than 100 new COVID infections on May 29, while Beijing recorded 12. China reported 184 new cases nationwide, down from 293.

Wilson said he wasn’t sure how Shanghai would regain its image and prestige after such draconian restrictions were imposed on the population.

“I don’t understand how the city can move forward so quickly. We’ve seen what’s happening in Shanghai, and in a city that really likes to position itself as a major international metropolis, you would never expect this to happen. kind of thing,” he said.

“It’s like people are being physically isolated in their buildings… pets are killed on the street, parents are separated from their children, people are being dragged out of apartments to go to quarantine centers, entire buildings are evacuated because of one person’s case, the entire Villages in some cases. You can’t do all these things, you can’t let everything happen and then act like everything is suddenly back to normal.”

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