China is slowly moving away from Covid Zero, says Kevin Rudd

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(Bloomberg) — China is “crawling” towards the end of Covid Zero, said former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who predicted the world’s No. 2 economy will make major changes to strategy by mid-2023.

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“Barring a new variant of the pandemic that we hadn’t dreamed of yet, I think China will be well on track to get out of this by the middle of the year,” he said during a panel discussion on China at the Bloomberg New Economic Forum on Thursday. Singapore.

“That will have a huge positive effect on domestic consumer demand, which has been suppressed for a long time.”

China has been pursuing a zero-tolerance approach to the virus for nearly three years. The closed borders, mass testing and rapid lockdowns have hurt the economy and contributed to rising unemployment, especially among young people.

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The government has recently signaled that restrictions have eased somewhat, cutting quarantine times and withdrawing testing — though Beijing health officials have characterized that revision of the Covid-19 playbook as a refinement of the rules, not a relaxation of controls. Lockdowns and restrictions on movement remain an important part of life for many Chinese as the number of cases rises.

The flagship of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Daily, said in an editorial on Thursday that the government will stick with Covid Zero.

Read more: China’s forgotten Covid Zero Lockdown just passed 100 days

On the same panel of the NEF, Tammy Tam, editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post, said that the legal environment in Hong Kong offers many opportunities for businesses.

Since 2019, when the city was rocked by historic and sometimes violent anti-government protests, China, led by President Xi Jinping, has taken steps to tighten its grip on the city by imposing a national security law and revamping the electoral system.

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“When Xi visited Hong Kong on July 1, he announced that Hong Kong’s common law system will be here to stay,” she said. “Under the common law system, it also offers a lot of opportunity.”

The New Economy Forum is hosted by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

In other comments about China on the NEF:

  • James McGregor, the chairman of APCO Worldwide Greater China, said Beijing needs to do something about dampened consumer confidence amid ongoing Covid outbreaks and lockdowns

  • McGregor added that the government may need to “proceed with some economic reforms that we don’t expect out of necessity”

  • In a separate conversation at the forum conducted via video link, Wang Huiyao, founder of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based policy research group, said the Asian nation is looking for ways to address challenges such as getting more people bringing class into the middle and dealing with the hundreds of millions of migrant workers

  • Wang also called for more dialogue between China and the US following Monday’s meeting between Xi and President Joe Biden at the Group of 20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, predicting that Beijing will send more officials to America as part of that effort. send.

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–With help from Alfred Cang and Rebecca Choong Wilkins.

(Updates with more commentary from other speakers.)

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