Covid in China, the consequences of the Shanghai lockdown-chaos
Shanghai has always been the face of China richer, more advanced, more open to the world. Now, however, the very severe lockdown that has been going on for several weeks is changing the perception of the Chinese and the whole world of a megalopolis of almost 25 million inhabitants. The city of Shanghai is the symbol of China’s growth and its openness to the world, an ultramodern metropolis, a showcase for the entire country on a global level. The Shanghai Tower is the tallest skyscraper in the nation, the metro network is the largest in the world, hosts the largest number of foreign investments and is one of the first ports and financial centers in Asia.
For all these reasons, what happens in Shanghai does not remain only in Shanghai. Its interconnection with the rest of China and with the rest of the world is causing the ongoing lockdown to question the effectiveness of the zero Covid strategy applied by the Chinese government since the beginning of the health crisis. The consequences of what is happening in Shanghai in recent weeks could be felt for a long time and in various sectors.
For several days i new cases are over twenty thousand every 24 hours, although the great majority are asymptomatic. The stories of those in quarantine or solitary confinement are often heartbreaking, including several people who struggle to have access to food, medicine and other essentials. Although it is Omicron, and many observers believe that a generalized lockdown is not entirely necessary, the authorities are applying very tough rules that are causing enormous difficulties for a substantial part of its approximately 25 million inhabitants.
How Shanghai’s chaos lockdown works
Positives, including asymptomatic ones, are transferred to centralized isolation fields. Anyone who refuses to go receives a permanent red health code. That is, being unable to lead any kind of social life. Including minors. According to Twitter accounts, a 14-day-old boy who tested positive was separated from his family and taken to the hospital as his grandmother threatened to throw himself off the balcony. There are reports of some suicides. All this is creating discontent (and despair) among the inhabitants of Shanghai, who are trying to organize among themselves to remedy what Caixin calls “chaos”.
Among the most popular episodes on social media, that of Friday in which 39 families were forced to leave their apartments in a residential complex, destined to be transformed into temporary structures where to transfer positives. Several videos show clashes between residents and police, with officers harnessed from head to toe in protective suits dragging heavy citizens, including women and the elderly, away. There are also several unverifiable videos and audios, but what is certain is that the frustration of those who feel imprisoned by the lockdown could lead to new episodes of protests.
The effects will also be relevant from an economic point of view. Estimates from global agencies and institutes predict annual growth of 4.4%, more than one point below the target set during the two sessions last March, set at 5.5%. “The size of the spillover depends on the economic status of the city in lockdown,” writes Caixin. It goes without saying that Shanghai is a key city from an economic and financial point of view for China and beyond, also for Asia and the rest of the world. Based on these factors, Caixin’s prediction is that if the country’s four major economic centers – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – were shut down simultaneously for one month, their real income would decrease by 61%, while real income would drop by 61%. in the same period will decrease by 12% – which would translate into a 1% decline in annual GDP.
SixThe Wuhan lockdown had served the Chinese government to declare “victory” over the virus, the Shanghai one is creating a crack in the zero contagion strategy pursued so far. The discontent of the Chinese but above all of the many foreigners residing in Shanghai are widespread. But as President Xi Jinping himself reiterated in recent days, the situation “is still very serious and the work of prevention and control cannot be relaxed”. Proof, according to various observers, that the government does not trust the strength of its health system and the effectiveness of its vaccines.
The problem is that, as soon as Shanghai reopens (and already in these days the restrictions are gradually loosening), the risk is that it will be abandoned by many.