The first country to raise the alarm about COVID, China has been a focal point for the world throughout the pandemic. This has chiefly been for health-related reasons.
It began, of course, in Wuhan, where various theories about the origin of the virus still circulate but where – nonetheless – the virus is widely acknowledged to have originated.
The first confirmed death from COVID was in January 2020 in China, and Wuhan locked down days later. China took some weeks to close its borders to travellers leaving the country, which has attracted some criticism, but this eventually happened in March 2020.
It was China where we saw images on the news of COVID-positive cases being confined to their homes, with those around them in full protective clothing in order to care for them. It was also China who released celebratory images of Wuhan’s recovery from COVID in late 2020, while much of the rest of the world was in lockdown, with full nightclubs in Wuhan and maskless citizens enjoying themselves.
This sparked feelings of both hope and anger from the rest of the world, where restrictions were in full force while common knowledge suggested blaming China entirely for their issues.
But the party was somewhat premature at that point, and China would go on to impose very strict regional lockdowns over the following two years in a bid for ‘zero COVID’ .
This is where the economic impact of China’s succumbing to COVID made itself known. The manufacturing giant of a country had its output strangled by shutdowns, and the rest of the world felt the effect China manufactures everything from parts for manufacturers overseas to entire consumer products, and without this flow of exports there have been entire industries that have slowed to a trickle or even a halt as a result.
We will never know what finally convinced Chinese authorities to drop their zero COVID approach in December 2022. There had been visible and much-covered public protests in the country with citizens vocally critical of being locked in their homes periodically.
But there may also have been other forces at work to lift the lockdowns. There will be as many relieved members of international business community as there are Chinese citizens right now, as the titan of the global consumer products supply chain rumbles back into action.