China might not make major changes to its Covid policy any time soon, despite weekend protests

A couple carries essentials over a COVID lockdown barrier in downtown Guangzhou on November 17, 2022.

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BEIJING – China will not make major changes to its COVID policy in the near future despite protests this weekend, analysts said.

He said that one of the reasons for the public unrest was the local implementation of the recent central government policy.

“Without clear guidance from the top, local authorities are keen to play it safe by sticking to the current zero-Covid stance,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie. “It bothers many who expect[ed] Further easing follows the ’20 measures’ announced earlier this month.

group of people in china hit the streets on the weekend To vent his frustration, which has built up from nearly three years of tight Covid controls. Local infections have increased, leading to more lockdowns in the past week.

Although protests were rare, it was not immediately clear on what scale the demonstrations were organized.

Earlier this month, the central government signaled a move towards reopening by announcing “20 measures” Trim Quarantine Time And generally make Covid controls more targeted.

However, Hu said it was unclear whether the measures are aimed at substantially reducing new infections – possibly necessitating a tougher lockdown – or slowing the growth with less disruption to the economy and hospitals.

“The week ahead could be crucial, as reports of social unrest over the weekend have increased the sense of urgency for more policy clarification and guidance from the top,” he added.

In Beijing over the weekend, unverified social media videos showed 20 residents pointing to the measures and assuring their community management that there was no legal basis for closing their apartment complex.

an implementation gap

On Saturday, a publication seen by the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, said that based on 20 measures, only officials at the county level or above can make calls for Covid control, and that school or traffic should not be closed arbitrarily.

Separately, the People’s Daily on Monday ran a front page op-ed on the need to make Covid controls more targeted and effective, while removing those who should be removed.

Qin Gang, Beijing-based executive director of research institute ICR, said it would take a month for the 20 measures to be fully implemented, after which policy makers could make further changes.

Especially before the measures, “it is clear that we have highly controlled the virus,” Qin said in Mandarin, according to a CNBC translation. “Because it is excessive, it has brought many problems.”

He noted how accepting continued Covid controls is no longer sustainable for China’s economy and society.

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China’s GDP barely grew in the second quarter, pulled down by a tight lockdown in Shanghai. As of the third quarter, growth for the year so far stands at 3%, well below the official target of around 5.5% announced in March.

“In the short term, Covid policy will do just fine without moving the needle,” said Bruce Pang, chief economist and head of research for Greater China at JLL. “The focus of the narrative is expected to shift back and forth between eliminating cases and taking more precise measures.”

“Officials are sending signals of a more pragmatic approach to economic roadmaps, COVID policy and geopolitical relations, all of which will help deliver a gradual economic recovery for China,” he said.

mostly asymptomatic cases