Recent Western media reports on COVID restrictions in Shenzhen focused on their worries over the measures' impacts on the fragile global supply chain and inflation that has been already surging in many parts of the world.
While their worries were understandable given the crucial role Shenzhen plays in supplying goods to the world market, these media organizations have failed to present their audiences the bigger picture: Shenzhen's swift efforts in containing the outbreak caused by the highly contagious virus while maintaining economic development, particularly in safeguarding the industrial and supply chains.
Especially today, the world needs stable and smooth industrial and supply chains to keep the economy running healthily and curb decades-high inflation — caused by the pandemic-induced production disruptions and shipping bottlenecks as well as excessively accommodative monetary policies in many countries, and recently aggravated by the war in Ukraine.
Shenzhen's fight against COVID this year has been a tough one because the Omicron BA.2 subvariant, the culprit for the latest wave, is much "stealthier" than the BA.1 subvariant and previous variants.
Even with the number of local COVID cases dwindling to single digits, because of its special geographical position and its special role in the global industrial and supply chains, Shenzhen has wasted no time in maintaining its fight against COVID while at the same time vigorously boosting economic development.
Shenzhen cannot lose the fight against COVID-19 because it is regarded as the southern gate of the mainland and is a megacity with land, air and sea ports. Any letup or complacency will lead to the virus sneaking back into the city, spreading like wildfires in the densely populated urban areas before finding its way into other parts of the country. With many elderly people not fully vaccinated and a less developed and unequally distributed medical care system compared to developed countries, the pandemic can potentially cause huge human loss in China — and subsequent detrimental disruptions to global industrial and supply chains — if left unchecked.
This is why Shenzhen sees its fight against COVID as more than just a battle for itself.
Shenzhen also sees keeping the economy humming ahead as more than a task just for itself.
With its GDP reaching 3,066.4 billion yuan (US$481.7 billon) in 2021, Shenzhen ranked 4th among Asian cities in terms of the size of the economy. Known as the "Silicon Valley in China," Shenzhen holds a very important position in global industrial chains. Having the world's fourth-busiest container port and ranking first among mainland cities in terms of exports for 29 years running, Shenzhen plays a vital role in global supply chains.
Shenzhen's COVID policy since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic has proved to be conducive to preventing the pandemic from inflicting long-term damage on industrial and supply chains. It has also contributed significantly to the supply of consumer goods and medical products in other parts of the world hit by production disruptions and shipping bottlenecks.
This time, the city also emerged quickly from the one-week restrictions that ended March 20. Shenzhen's total electricity use — a reliable indicator of industrial and commercial activities — rose to 230 million kWh on March 21, an increase of 0.73% year on year.
The latest COVID flare-up has undoubtedly caused pain for businesses in the city. To alleviate the burdens of industrial enterprises and businesses in other sectors, the Shenzhen city government released a package of 30 measures that are expected to save 75 billion yuan in reduced unemployment insurance contributions, rent exemptions and reductions and subsidies for various business entities, among others. Districts have also been rolling out their own stimulus measures.
These new support policies will further beef up the strength of the city's industrial chains. Some policies are also targeted at relieving the burdens of logistics companies.
The city's efforts to keep industrial and supply chains unhindered by the pandemic have paid off. In the first two months of this year, Shenzhen's total imports and exports rose 3.1% year on year to reach 506.78 billion yuan. Every day in March, an average of 132 vessels are berthed at the numerous terminals of Shenzhen Port with about 64,000 TEUs loaded and unloaded. As the city strengthens the resilience and efficiency of the port system and industrial chains with support policies and more targeted COVID measures, we will see a smoother flow of vessels loaded with shipping containers sail from the city's ports to destinations around the world.
Striking a balance in keeping COVID at bay and maintaining economic vitality is no easy job. It requires concerted efforts, and perhaps painful sacrifices, from the government, enterprises and from individuals as well.