An elderly woman wearing a protective face mask prays while waiting in a queue to visit a bank in Wuhan EPA/Roman Pilipey

OPINION – China’s strategy of lifting lockdown and resuming production

While many cities in the world are engulfed in the combat against COVID-19, the Chinese government has partially lifted its lockdown on Wuhan and formulated a comprehensive plan of resuming economic production in various places.
On April 8, after three months of experiencing the lockdown imposed by Beijing, the city of Wuhan witnessed a gradual lifting process. First, 22,000 non-residents of Wuhan were permitted to take trains back to their hometowns and workplaces. About 40 percent were heading toward the Pearl River Delta. On the other hand, 45 Wuhan districts that showed no new cases of infection with COVID-19 were excluded from the list of infected areas. Third, all the travelers from Wuhan to other places needed to undergo very strict quarantine measures in various checkpoints, including their need to demonstrate their green color health barcode, the necessity of testing their body temperatures, and the continued requirement of wearing masks. Fourth, for mainland residents entering Wuhan, strict quarantines persist. For instance, a family of thirteen household members went to visit their relatives in Wuhan immediately after the lifting of the lockdown, but all of them need to stay in a hotel for 78 days for quarantine and safety. Their stay in the hotel needs Renminbi 70,000, although the hotel has reportedly reduced rental charges. Fifth, civil service examinations in the mainland had to be postponed for a month. Sixth, students in secondary schools between levels 1 and 3 were permitted to return to classes on April 7. These schools covered nine provinces, including Heilongjiang, Jilin, Henan, Anhui, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hainan, Guangxi and Hunan.
However, the lifting of the Wuhan lockdown is partial and gradual. Workers who are allowed to resume work and production must show their green health barcodes to leave their homes for their workplace. Many residents continue to stay in their homes, partly because of their fear and partly because many shops have not yet been reopened. Basically, those shops that are reopened embrace supermarkets, pharmacies and telecommunication stores. All residents who return to work adopt a cautious attitude, wearing masks and goggles, and many with raincoats and gloves.
The return of some Hubei residents to their workplaces in other provinces and cities has been met with resistance from some localities, leading to disputes and conflicts. In view of this situation, Guo Linmao, a director of the society and law office under the Legal Work Committee of the National People’s Congress, told the media on April 10 that the central and local governments must inspect and correct the behavior of rejecting the employment of the residents from Hubei. His remarks were targeted at those localities that have refused to employ Hubei residents, a kind of job discrimination that has to be avoided. Guo added that China’s employment law does not allow such discrimination and that localities should stick to fairness in work employment. He urged the local governments to expand the channels of employment and that their human resources and social welfare departments should supervise the implementation of the employment law. Guo added that, in some places, Hubei residents were dismissed without justifications. He firstly appealed to the need for all localities to stick to the request of the party at the central level, creating “good and fair employment conditions.” Secondly, the employment law has to be strictly observed. Thirdly, the publicity and propaganda work on the employment law must be enhanced.
The Chinese government’s strategy of lifting partial lockdown on Wuhan and resuming economic production in all places was marked by President Xi Jinping’s important speech as reported by the mainland media. At the Standing Committee of the Politburo on April 8, President Xi made several points. First, he said that the control over COVID-19 was effective and consolidated and that there was progress in resuming economic production. However, due to the continuation of COVID-19 internationally and the increasing risks of economic decline globally, the uncertainties in the external environment would be the major challenge. As such, China must guard against the import of infected COVID-19 cases while planning comprehensively on its own economic production. The central government and the localities, according to Xi, cannot be relaxed on two fronts: the prevention of importing infected cases and the prevention of increasing infected cases internally while forging ahead with economic work and production. Second, he urged the provincial and local governments to grasp the difficulties and challenges of economic re-production, minimizing all the risks, insisting on the need to achieve China’s target of becoming a fully affluent society and decisively combating the problem of poverty. Clearly, President Xi is eager to see China’s ability to resume faster economic production for the sake of achieving his Chinese dream in the coming years.
President Xi said that Hubei and Wuhan must perform well in dealing with the infected patients, managing all districts, and consolidating quarantine work. At the same time, the provinces near Hubei must exchange information on the cases of infection and quarantine measures so that standardization of quarantine work can be achieved. He implied that there were some discrepancies in the provincial criteria of conducting quarantine work on mainland citizens. Xi added that the 14-day self-quarantine requirement has to be strictly implemented while enhancing international cooperation on how to contain COVID-19.
He also asked all party-secretaries of various provinces and cities to create the necessary conditions for economic re-production, including the need to assist small and medium enterprises, to enhance the market for internal consumption, to promote the gradual resumption of market operations, and to accelerate investment in projects.
President Xi urged all the localities to provide necessary subsidies for the needy, to safeguard agricultural production, to supervise food prices, to ensure smoothness in food supplies, and to take care of those unemployed people. Finally, the Standing Committee meeting asked all localities to observe work safety and to prevent other disasters such as forest fires, flooding, and fire accidents because public health is on top of the priority of the central government.
On April 10, the central authorities transferred the instructions of President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang to all localities. Namely, better governance must be observed in all localities, including the management of dangerous chemical goods, mines, transport, industrial parks, waste materials, and urban development.
In conclusion, China is adopting a two-pronged strategy in containing COVID-19 while resuming economic production. The two main measures are to prevent the importation of infected cases externally and to prevent an increase in infected cases internally during the combined processes of relaxing the lockdown of cities gradually and resuming economic production by localities under the guiding principle of safeguarding public health and safety.