China's economy will again prove Western doubters wrong
Published: Dec 14, 2022 01:42 AM
Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times

Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times

Over the past week or so, under the government's optimized anti-COVID-19 guidelines, Chinese people have been battling the virus head on in what so far has been a calm and orderly manner. Yes, some are understandably nervous for themselves and their loved ones. Some are stocking up on medicine and testing kits in preparation for the eventuality of getting infected. Yes, some have already fallen ill. But many understand the fact that we are at a point where we are best positioned to move forward and support the government's effort in guiding the nation out of the haze of the pandemic.

This new stage in China's battle against COVID-19 may bring new challenges and even some temporary setbacks, but the vast majority of Chinese people can appreciate that and are undeterred. What we don't appreciate though is the Western media's sinister and malign smear campaign against our battle with the virus at this crucial stage. Beyond their viciousness, some Western media outlets' condescending and arrogant tone in criticizing China's efforts has been appalling. Also abhorrent is their complete disregard for the profound ineptitude of their own governments in responding to the pandemic over the past three years, which led to the deaths of millions of their fellow countrymen and the economic crises many still suffer today.

Undoubtedly, no response to a natural disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic is perfect. Certainly, no country was prepared for a crisis of this magnitude. But it is also not hard to tell which countries have essentially given up the fight to protect the public and which ones have tried and are still trying to save as many lives as possible.

Numbers don't lie. As of Monday, a total of 6,633,118 deaths have been reported worldwide, of which 1,074,367 are in the US and 2,142,729 in Europe, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization. The Chinese mainland only reported 5,235 deaths during the period. Essentially, close to half of the global deaths from COVID-19 are in the US and Europe. These figures are readily available on the WHO's website and many other platforms, including the websites and pages of the very Western media outlets that constantly criticize China's efforts to protect its citizens' lives and livelihoods. But these crucial figures are often forgotten or intentionally ignored when Western media outlets try to smear and criticize China's anti-COVID measures.

So where does the Western media find the source for its pride and confidence in criticizing China's anti-epidemic efforts in such an arrogant manner as if they are the winners? Certainly, the number of deaths - no matter how small - shouldn't be anyone's source of pride. But constantly and unreasonably criticizing others' utmost efforts to keep the cost to the minimum is also repugnant. You have your right to disregard the loss of others' lives, but don't then criticize others for trying to save lives. That is just unprofessional, disrespectful and unacceptable.

The fact is that even these Western media outlets know that they can't get around China's success so far in saving as many lives as possible. They tried to discredit that too by all kinds of tricks, including questioning the accuracy of the numbers as they often do on every set of Chinese data that shows any achievement by the country. However, such a trick of self-deception hasn't worked before, and it doesn't work now. So, they instead focus on a more complex aspect - the economic costs of China's anti-epidemic measures.

Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous damage and still poses great challenges for the Chinese economy. But no country has been spared such challenges and losses. And in terms of minimizing economic losses and protecting people's livelihoods, China has arguably done one of the best jobs over the past three years.

Again, numbers don't lie. In 2020, when the world started to grapple with the pandemic, China's economy grew 2.3 percent, compared to a 3.27 percent global contraction, a 3.4-percent fall in the US and a 6.4 percent drop in the eurozone. In 2021, the second year of the pandemic, China's GDP growth further outpaced other major economies, with a whopping 8.1 percent growth, 2.1 percentage points higher than the global growth. Going into 2022, many major economies had basically given up on efforts to contain the virus and focused on the economy, but that hasn't seemed to give their economies much advantage, if any, over the Chinese economy, despite China's strict efforts to protect its people.

According to the Internal Monetary Fund (IMF), China's economy is expected to grow 3.2 percent in 2022, which is still faster than the growth rate of many major economies. And while the US and the eurozone could see further contraction in 2023 and even face the risk of recession, China's economy is expected to grow 4.4 percent, according to the IMF. Many Chinese and global economists expect even higher growth for the Chinese economy in 2023, especially as many expect a rapid economic recovery following the optimized anti-COVID measures. For example, some prominent Chinese economists have suggested the official GDP growth target could be set above 5 percent.

Again, all this economic data is readily available for all to see. Sure, these are headline numbers that don't fully reflect the tremendous economic hardship many in China are facing, and there is a lot of serious economic hardship. But this is not exclusive to China. What about the cost-of-living crisis in the US and Europe? The only difference between the economic challenges in China and the West is that the latter is mostly a man-made disaster - i.e., their botched COVID response and reckless economic policies. Moreover, whereas many Western countries lack the effective monetary and other policy tools to address their economic woes, China's toolbox is full of effective tools to tackle the challenges.

That is not to say the path ahead for China will be smooth sailing. But with all things considered, we Chinese people have reasons to believe we are well positioned to move into a new chapter. When we eventually emerge from the cloud of COVID-19 stronger, all the Western media headlines desperately wishing for a "China collapse" will again just look foolish.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.