China is on the brink of a Covid-19 catastrophe that could trigger shockwaves across the world. Global concerns have increased since President Xi Jinping shelved his zero-contagion curbs last week after nationwide protests in November.
The decision quickly sparked soaring infection rates in major cities, delivering a hammer blow to the world’s second-largest economy.
As the crisis deepens, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has warned that a surge in Covid cases across China risks “posing a threat to people” across the planet.
“The toll of the virus is of concern to the rest of the world given the size of China’s GDP, given the size of China’s economy,” Price told a news briefing in Washington earlier this week.
- Experts estimate that 60% of China’s 1.4 billion population could be infected in the months ahead.
- That is roughly 10% of the global population.
- More than one million people in China are at risk of dying from Covid this year.
- The projection was released by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle.
Between the lines: “Every new epidemic wave in another country brings the risk of new variants. This risk is higher the bigger the outbreak and the current wave in China is shaping up to be big,” Alex Cook, of the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, told the Reuters news agency.
Delve deeper: The scale and scope of the latest wave of infections are frightening. Zhang Wenhong, a prominent infectious disease doctor in China, told The Economist that Chinese hospitals now face their “darkest hour.”
Policy U-turn: “Beijing championed its zero-Covid policy as a model the world should have emulated – but dismantled it rapidly in recent weeks as the government faced pressure from Chinese citizens and the country’s economy suffered,” China expert Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian wrote in the Axios newsletter.
Big picture: At stake is the Communist Party of China’s right to rule. Mercy A Kuo, of risk intelligence firm Pamir Consulting in Washington, stressed that the country’s future hangs in the balance.
Dreams and nightmares: “The CCP has its dream of total control. The Chinese people have their dream of individual freedom. The zero-Covid protests and the pandemic’s unfolding resurgence have magnified the collision of both dreams,” Kuo wrote in a commentary for The Diplomat.
China Factor comment: What is a dream for some can be a nightmare for others.