ON 7th DECEMBER China reversed its zero-Covid policy following protests by Chinese citizens who, frankly, were weary of being locked in their homes after almost 2 years. The result is, inevitably, a sudden surge in Covid cases and of deaths from Covid. There is a mismatch between the figures that the Chinese authorities are reporting and those that countries in the west are estimating.

Whilst China has declared 10 deaths since 7th December, Airfinity, a British based predictive science company, has estimated 176,500 deaths since 1st December. We need to be aware that there is some element of anti-China bias likely in the reporting. The west did not like China’s success at keeping Covid at bay and is now crowing as China’s Communist leadership has been forced into a U-turn.

The Economist, on Monday, gave away the real reason why the west was so determined to see the end of the zero-Covid policy. Forget any concerns about the human rights of Chinese citizens. Most western leaders are more than happy to see those same citizens exposed to the same level of risk from Covid that they have allowed for their own citizens. The true issue was always: the economy.

As the Economist (2nd January) notes:

“Zero-covid kept a lid on China’s demand for global goods, services and commodities. During the lockdown of Shanghai in the first half of last year, for instance, the country’s oil demand fell by 2m barrels per day.”

Ironically, it may be so-called Communist China which saves western capitalism. The truth is, of course, that China is Communist in name only and has been for a considerable time. It is more appropriate to think of China plc in the economic context. 

Whilst the western media have been quick to point out the damage done to world supply chains by the Russian invasion of Ukraine (in fact most supply lines have been kept open from Russia and Ukraine), they have been quieter about the effect of the virtual withdrawal of China from international markets since 2020. Of course, for much of that period, the entire world economy was put on ice as governments tried to cope with Covid. But, since the reopening of the economy in 2021, it is clear that the capitalist global economy is in recession, a recession most keenly felt by ordinary citizens whose ability to afford life’s necessaries has been severely restricted by runaway inflation and below par wage increases.

The Economist calculates that China alone could be responsible for two-thirds of global growth in the first quarter of 2023. It was estimated that, prior to the pandemic, China was responsible for one-eighth of world trade, making it the biggest trader on the global market and pushing the United States into second place. Hence the trade wars that were developing prior to Covid.

Whether the resumption of Chinese markets can offset the terminal decline of the world’s economy we will have to wait and see. But the price of recovery, as always, will be the deaths of ordinary people, this time possibly millions of Chinese citizens who will die from Covid.

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