|China balancing COVID-19 control, economic growth|
As the Omicron variant has caused COVID-19 resurgences in many parts of China, the country is meeting the challenge with swift and solid action.
President Xi Jinping is directing the latest COVID-19 response with a people-centered philosophy and science-based and targeted approaches. The aim is to rein in the outbreak quickly, while keeping the economy steady and sound.
People-centered, targeted control
In the face of the recent flare-ups, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee convened a meeting on March 17 to arrange for better epidemic control.
All local authorities and government departments should "always put people and their lives first, adhere to the dynamic zero-COVID approach with science-based and targeted measures, and contain the spread of the virus as soon as possible," Xi, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said at the meeting.
China has made people's lives a top priority and kept its COVID-19 infections, severe cases and deaths at a comparatively low level.
Aerial photo taken on March 15, 2022 shows the interior of a makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province. (XINHUA)
Adopting "targeted measures" in COVID-19 control, a requirement laid down by Xi as early as in January 2020, is a key element in China's effective anti-epidemic efforts.
To stop the spread of the virus at the border, the country has adopted differentiated measures from port to port, which include setting up buffer zones and conducting non-contact cargo delivery.
Research and development of vaccines, rapid-testing reagents and medicines advanced steadily. So far, 29 vaccines have entered clinical trials, accounting for 19 percent of the world's total.
A "Great Wall of Immunity" has been built. By March 24, around 1.24 billion people, or nearly 90 percent of the country's total population, had been fully vaccinated in a mass rollout larger and faster than any other country in the world.
To cut transmission chains fast, every provincial-level region is required to have two or three makeshift hospitals that can be erected and put into service in two days.
From diagnosis and treatment protocols to nucleic acid tests, China's response is constantly adjusted to new situations.
A resident receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Xingye County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on January 18, 2022. (XINHUA)
The hard efforts make China's dynamic zero-COVID approach, which features "early detection, reporting, quarantine and treatment," possible and effective.
"With early detection and action, we can nip the epidemic in the bud," said Liang Wannian, head of the COVID-19 response expert panel under the National Health Commission.
A balancing act
Frequent COVID-19 infection clusters have complicated the environment of the Chinese economy, which is already under the triple pressure of shrinking demand, supply impact and weakening expectations.
While presiding over the meeting on March 17, Xi said more effective measures should be taken to achieve maximum effect in prevention and control with minimum cost, and to reduce the impact on economic and social development as much as possible.
To complete the task, coordinated efforts on multiple economic fronts from farmland to factories are needed.
The central government has granted farmers 20 billion yuan ($3.14 billion) of subsidies and unleashed 1 million tonnes of potash fertilizer reserves to reduce the impact of the epidemic on spring farming.
"Food security is among a country's most fundamental interests," Xi said in March at the annual "two sessions," vowing to keep the annual grain output above 650 million tonnes this year.
Aerial photo taken on February 12, 2022 shows farmers fertilizing the farmland in Youyang Tujia and Miao Autonomous County in southwest China's Chongqing. (XINHUA)
Local authorities have rolled out measures to reduce the burdens on businesses and guarantee disruption-free supply chains to bolster the industrial recovery.
In Suzhou, an east China manufacturing hub with over 12 million people, more than 99 percent of major industrial enterprises have resumed operations amid ongoing epidemic control measures, an example of striking a balance between containing the virus and supporting the economy.
The broader economy registered a sound recovery in the first two months of this year, with upbeat readings in major indicators, including industrial output and retail sales.
As the economic outlook stabilizes, foreign businesses remain optimistic. Shanghai, a city with over 60,000 foreign-funded firms, reported a faster pace in attracting exhibitors for the fifth China International Import Expo (CIIE) this year.
While some traditional sectors have been hit hard by COVID-19, innovation-powered industries are burgeoning.
In the first two months, the value-added industrial output of the high-tech manufacturing sector jumped 14.4 percent year on year, 6.9 percentage points faster than the average for all industries.
Smart robots work at a monocrystalline silicon solar cell factory of LONGi Green Energy Technology Co., Ltd. in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on March 25, 2022. (XINHUA)
Two years ago, during an inspection tour in east China's Zhejiang Province, Xi encouraged enterprises to actively seize the opportunity for technological innovation and industrial upgrading.
"The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis but it also, in a way, breeds new opportunities," Xi said at a meeting with national political advisors from the economic sector during the "two sessions" in 2020.