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Fears mount for China’s economy

BEIJING (AFP) – Mass testing of China’s vast population could bring fresh misery to the economy, experts warned yesterday, after Beijing vowed to regain control of the narrative around a zero-COVID policy that has strangled growth and fanned anger across the country.

Leaders have taken a hardline approach to stamping out virus outbreaks, locking down Shanghai – the country’s economic dynamo and biggest city – and slowly restricting movement in Beijing over dozens of new cases.

Authorities have refused to bend to mounting public outcry at food shortages and spartan quarantine conditions in Shanghai, with top officials on Thursday pledging to “unwaveringly adhere” to zero-COVID and “fight against” criticism of the policy.

China’s government has brandished the strategy as proof that it values human life above material concerns and can avert the public health crises seen in other countries.

But the approach is hammering the economy and posing a sharp political challenge to President Xi Jinping. He now has to convince an increasingly unsettled public, which has cascaded its anger at lockdowns onto social media, that the trade-off between the economy and lives is sustainable.

At Thursday’s meeting – attended by Xi – the nation’s top brass pledged to “resolutely fight against all words and deeds that distort, question or reject our nation’s disease control policies”.

Experts fear Beijing’s game plan will weigh heavily on the world’s second-largest economy.

Analysts at Nomura yesterday predicted that mass testing mandates alone could cost up to 2.3 per cent of annual gross domestic product.

Residents pose for a selfie near a cafe in Beijing. PHOTO: AP
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