What’s going to happen when China lifts its zero covid policy?

ThirstyBarbarian

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Throughout the pandemic, China has had a “zero covid” policy, meaning that they have been aggressive about testing, and at the first sign of infection, entire communities have gone in to lockdown. And not the kinds of so-called “lockdowns” we had in the US, where certain kinds of businesses were ordered to close, there were mask mandates, and people were encouraged to follow safety guidelines. China really put the “lock” in “lockdown”, and sometimes literally locked people in their homes, erected barricades and checkpoints, and arrested people who were out without permission. And infected people or exposed people could be forcibly locked up in quarantine facilities.

Those extreme measures worked to keep the infection rates low, but what’s the end game?

Some other countries had aggressive zero covid policies too (though not quite as heavy handed with the literal locking up of communities), and they’ve managed to transition out of them with high-quality, effective vaccinations. I think Australia and New Zealand managed to do that pretty well. They had strict policies to prevent the spread, and when good vaccines became available, they did a good job of getting their populations vaccinated, and they were able to open up once there was a high level of immunity.

Some countries didn’t have effective policies to prevent the spread, and they don’t have great vaccines either, so the pandemic ran its course, or is in the process of doing so, with most people having been infected, and they either died or recovered with some natural immunity. And there are countries like the US where we kind of half-assed the spread prevention, and not everyone was willing to get vaccinated, but one way or another most of the population has some level of immunity from high-quality vaccines or having recovered from a prior infection.

So in most of the world, the virus still circulates, but what we think of as the pandemic, with uncontrolled surges of infections, overwhelmed hospitals, high death rates — most of that is over or winding down due to widespread immunity.

But that’s not the case in China. China does not have good, effective vaccines, and for some reason, they won’t buy good vaccines from countries that have them. So vaccine-based immunity is low. And due to the zero covid policy, few people have acquired immunity from having recovered from a prior infection. So in terms of overall immunity, they are about where the rest of the world was 2 or 3 years ago before the surges, overwhelmed hospitals, and overstuffed morgues.

The problem is the zero covid policy is unsustainable. After nearly 3 years, the people can’t take the draconian lockdowns anymore. People are protesting in the streets, something not seen in 30 years. Considering how protesters in China are treated, you have to be pretty mad to join a protest. The economy is struggling. It can’t go on. And it looks like the authorities are starting to loosen the zero covid policy.

So what’s going to happen when the virus is finally unleashed on a huge population with probably low immunity?

I think they are going to go through what we went through in the US in 2020 and the horrendous delta surge in 2021. They should have used the time of lockdowns to develop or purchase effective vaccines, and they could have been one of the pandemic’s success stories, but they didn’t, and depending on how bad their vaccines are, it could be a disaster. It’s probably going to be an economic disaster too, with effects on the rest of us as the supply chains get scrambled again.
 

cautery

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The Zero COVID policy is just one of a number of calamities China is facing right now.... I am beginning to think we might have come to the end of the CCP... maybe in my lifetime. It will be violent, and the commie tyrants won't let go easily, but the CCP as government of China is simply not going to work long term....
Their economy is already a dumpster fire from COVID, Real Estate crashing ever more catastrophically by the day. And real estate is infecting everything else.

Never mind they have BOTH a water and electricity shortage.... like bad.

Never mind their environment is pretty much toxic.

Yeah, you think WE have it bad until you watchabout 100 hours of videos from the folks that actually lived there for years and are getting info and vids from friends, et al.

We need to disconnect/unwind from China as quickly and completely as possible.
 

ThirstyBarbarian

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The Zero COVID policy is just one of a number of calamities China is facing right now.... I am beginning to think we might have come to the end of the CCP... maybe in my lifetime. It will be violent, and the commie tyrants won't let go easily, but the CCP as government of China is simply not going to work long term....
Their economy is already a dumpster fire from COVID, Real Estate crashing ever more catastrophically by the day. And real estate is infecting everything else.

Never mind they have BOTH a water and electricity shortage.... like bad.

Never mind their environment is pretty much toxic.

Yeah, you think WE have it bad until you watchabout 100 hours of videos from the folks that actually lived there for years and are getting info and vids from friends, et al.

We need to disconnect/unwind from China as quickly and completely as possible.

There’s a pretty high likelihood of political and social instability. We had our own examples of that here, even though it wasn’t as bad here as he zero covid lockdowns in China and the coming surge there.

I got my vaccine here after about 15 months of what seemed like the worst ordeal I had lived through. I was almost at my wits end. But after it all, I felt like what I went through was worth it. I never got sick, and after 15 months of sacrifices for my safety and the safety of others, I felt like the vaccine made me safe to return to mostly normal life again.

Imagine how mad and crazy they must be there after 3 years of much worse sacrifice, and I think they are about to find out the suffering didn‘t earn them anything in return. After all that, they are still going to have to go through the sickness and dying. They might be mad and crazy now, but they are going to be enraged and psychotic when the bodies start piling up.

Plus there’s the anger about all the other things you mentioned.
 

rocket_troy

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It would be hard to topple the CCP IMHO. They have insane surveillance capability and military capability to complement and Xi seems to have his fingers on all the pulses with many tentacles. It would need to be a coup of some kind from within the power structure with much of both the military and intel onside.
They need western vaccines - that's the only out for them that I can see.

It wouldn't be the 1st time in China's history where political stubbornness has cost of the lives of 10s of millions... alas

TP
 
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cwbullet

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It would be hard to topple the CCP IMHO. They have insane surveillance capability and military capability to complement and Xi seems to have his fingers on all the pulses with many tentacles. It would need to be a coup of some kind from within the power structure with much of both the military and intel onside.
They need western vaccines - that's the only out for them that I can see.

It wouldn't be the 1st time in China's history where political stubbornness has cost of the lives of 10s of millions... alas

TP
This is probably true, but the power of the billion-plus is pretty scary. If 1/8-1/4 rises up, that would be a huge force to overcome.
 

rocket_troy

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This is probably true, but the power of the billion-plus is pretty scary. If 1/8-1/4 rises up, that would be a huge force to overcome.
You need to mobilise them in a covert way - not an easy task on that scale eg. even if you did manage to somehow coordinate a mass uprising over a large area underneath the watch of digital/electronic surveillance networks, you're bound to have significant numbers of CCP sympathises hidden within that mobilisation. Those all too willing to rat out the organisers and uprisers. Remember that over the last 40-50 years, China has experienced a significant increase in the standard of living for the majorities and provided the country as a military, manufacturing and economic superpower - something not lost in the pride of the majorities.
The CCP have certainly made some PR misjudgements during the COVID situation, but nothing serious enough (yet) to seriously dent that standing ie. not yet seen as an enemy of the people.

TP
 

Marc_G

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In my opinion, the slow vaccination rate in China is inexplicable. It's NOT a cost issue. They can afford it. Maybe it's a national pride issue, preferring their homegrown vaccines over others, but even so, they could have gotten everyone vaccinated by now with their local vaccines which do work, albeit not as well as ours (takes more shots to give similar immunity).

I've heard they are ramping up vaccination, but they have a long row to hoe. I expect there will be significant local outbreak epidemics there over the coming months, with plenty of deaths, many of which will not be reported externally.

I think the loosening up of the restrictions now is a way to tamp down the social unrest, but I'm pretty sure the CCP will weather this storm. Their economy, on the other hand, is going to be a mess for the next year or two, and I agree with prior comments here about doing what we can to unwind our dependence on them, both as suppliers to us, and as consumers of our goods. Easier said then done.
 

cwbullet

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In my opinion, the slow vaccination rate in China is inexplicable. It's NOT a cost issue. They can afford it. Maybe it's a national pride issue, preferring their homegrown vaccines over others, but even so, they could have gotten everyone vaccinated by now with their local vaccines which do work, albeit not as well as ours (takes more shots to give similar immunity).
The could steal ours and replicate it.
 

H_Rocket

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I suspect the only real thing that will happen is companies that are now looking to move sourcing out of China will stop trying as China still provides the lowest cost high volume production.
 

ThirstyBarbarian

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It would be hard to topple the CCP IMHO. They have insane surveillance capability and military capability to complement and Xi seems to have his fingers on all the pulses with many tentacles. It would need to be a coup of some kind from within the power structure with much of both the military and intel onside.
They need western vaccines - that's the only out for them that I can see.

It wouldn't be the 1st time in China's history where political stubbornness has cost of the lives of 10s of millions... alas

TP

I agree it’s not likely that the CCP will be toppled over this. As you said, the surveillance capability is insane. And a LOT of new surveillance capability was added during the pandemic as part of the zero covid policy — lots of cameras to monitor lockdowns and curfews, tracking technology to monitor who is in contact with whom and where they have been for tracing potential covid exposures, etc. All of that can also be used for monitoring dissident activity.

To me, the remarkable thing is that people are still turning out to protest despite all the monitoring, and that shows how frustrated they must be. But I still think overthrowing the CCP is pretty unlikely.
 

ThirstyBarbarian

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In my opinion, the slow vaccination rate in China is inexplicable. It's NOT a cost issue. They can afford it. Maybe it's a national pride issue, preferring their homegrown vaccines over others, but even so, they could have gotten everyone vaccinated by now with their local vaccines which do work, albeit not as well as ours (takes more shots to give similar immunity).

I've heard they are ramping up vaccination, but they have a long row to hoe. I expect there will be significant local outbreak epidemics there over the coming months, with plenty of deaths, many of which will not be reported externally.

I think the loosening up of the restrictions now is a way to tamp down the social unrest, but I'm pretty sure the CCP will weather this storm. Their economy, on the other hand, is going to be a mess for the next year or two, and I agree with prior comments here about doing what we can to unwind our dependence on them, both as suppliers to us, and as consumers of our goods. Easier said then done.

This is the thing most baffling to me. Why have they not developed, stolen, licensed, or purchased western vaccines. They aren’t stupid, and they can afford it, so what’s going on? They must have understood they would eventually need to end zero covid, so why aren’t they ready? Maybe their vaccines work better than we think, or maybe they’ve decided they are going to be good enough. I guess we will find out.
 
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ThirstyBarbarian

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I suspect the only real thing that will happen is companies that are now looking to move sourcing out of China will stop trying as China still provides the lowest cost high volume production.

Do you mean they will figure the end of the production problems will be near? Lockdowns have definitely been a major cause of production trouble. But I think they are going to have another year or two of serious problems with disease hampering production. I think they are probably still a year or two away from “normal” production in China.
 

Marc_G

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Another angle is:

Are we concerned about infected Chinese folks continuing to spread disease, causing point outbreaks when Chinese people travel abroad?

My view: from the perspective of the US, I'm not worried about it (but interested in Chuck's opinion as a doctor!). My view comes from the reality that COVID is ALL OVER THE PLACE here; any additional seeding of cases by a relatively small number of travelers (from any country) would be insignificant. And we have a fairly high "herd immunity" (from vaccines and prior infections) which is somewhat reducing spread here and greatly reducing severity, to the point where most infections here are not reported (and thus don't become "cases"). Also, most Chinese that would travel abroad have probably been vaxxed, and this may be a requirement for entry anyway.

There are something like 300 people per day still dying in the US due to COVID, but for perspective, that's similar to the historically typical number of deaths per day due to flu during flu season (typical flu deaths per year ~45k over a six month flu season gives you something like 250 deaths per day average). But the point is that covid is everywhere around us.



(somewhat off topic rant about people with head in the sand: From a deaths perspective, the current trend of the COVID daily toll is now way lower than heart disease or cancer, so it's easy to write it off as yet another typical health hazard, and like many health hazards it mostly picks off the old and the frail. BUT: this doesn't factor in the impact of LONG COVID, which strikes a high percentage of people that get the infection (even mild infections, though at a lower rate), and impacts those people for months or years, and long covid strikes young and old. It's freaky and still poorly understood, and is the focus of a lot of research now. Don't ignore it!)
 

ThirstyBarbarian

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Another angle is:

Are we concerned about infected Chinese folks continuing to spread disease, causing point outbreaks when Chinese people travel abroad?

My view: from the perspective of the US, I'm not worried about it (but interested in Chuck's opinion as a doctor!). My view comes from the reality that COVID is ALL OVER THE PLACE here; any additional seeding of cases by a relatively small number of travelers (from any country) would be insignificant. And we have a fairly high "herd immunity" (from vaccines and prior infections) which is somewhat reducing spread here and greatly reducing severity, to the point where most infections here are not reported (and thus don't become "cases"). Also, most Chinese that would travel abroad have probably been vaxxed, and this may be a requirement for entry anyway.

There are something like 300 people per day still dying in the US due to COVID, but for perspective, that's similar to the historically typical number of deaths per day due to flu during flu season (typical flu deaths per year ~45k over a six month flu season gives you something like 250 deaths per day average). But the point is that covid is everywhere around us.



(somewhat off topic rant about people with head in the sand: From a deaths perspective, the current trend of the COVID daily toll is now way lower than heart disease or cancer, so it's easy to write it off as yet another typical health hazard, and like many health hazards it mostly picks off the old and the frail. BUT: this doesn't factor in the impact of LONG COVID, which strikes a high percentage of people that get the infection (even mild infections, though at a lower rate), and impacts those people for months or years, and long covid strikes young and old. It's freaky and still poorly understood, and is the focus of a lot of research now. Don't ignore it!)

I don’t think we need to worry about it anymore. Like you said, covid is everywhere already. After the final surges of 2021 and early 2022, I gave up worrying about my fellow Americans who remain unvaccinated for the same reason — it’s an endemic virus now, and we are going to just have to rely on the vaccines and our own individual behaviors to stay safe and not worry about the other guy. I’d say traveling Chinese visitors and unvaccinated Americans are kind of in the same class now.

The one thing I think maybe could be a concern is new variants. China offers over a billion incubators for new variants. But because they are a unique population that is not using our vaccines and does not have the same natural immunity to the variants we have been exposed to, it doesn’t seem like there will be the selection pressure to overcome the defenses we have here. They don’t have those defenses there, and the virus won’t need to mutate in response to them.
 

rocket_troy

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To me, the remarkable thing is that people are still turning out to protest despite all the monitoring, and that shows how frustrated they must be. But I still think overthrowing the CCP is pretty unlikely.
Yeah, on the flip side, I can imagine (for the CCP) handling a situation of widespread protests would be a bit like juggling a bunch of grenades with the pins pulled ie. with a PR disaster just waiting to happen.

TP
 

teepot

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I've been saying for years, that we need to stop buying stuff made in China. All the cheap stuff they make and sell is the fuel for their military expansion. And having all our eggs in one Chinese's basket is why we are having supply chain issues. But to bring jobs back to US is going to take Government incentives.
 

H_Rocket

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I've been saying for years, that we need to stop buying stuff made in China. All the cheap stuff they make and sell is the fuel for their military expansion. And having all our eggs in one Chinese's basket is why we are having supply chain issues. But to bring jobs back to US is going to take Government incentives.
It's going to take way more than that. Over the past few decades we have made it difficult to impossible for large scale manufacturing of consumer items. The regulatory hoops alone can stop any building. We have shot ourselves in the foot here. Yes, it is nice to preserve eco-systems and have little to no air pollution. That comes at a cost of stymieing industry. Our last president said (I think) he was going to bring back steel production as part of an economic plan. It would take the better part of a decade to get past the environmental hurdles to build a steel mill and that's not counting the lawsuits by folks who are devoted to protecting the environment. Add to that the idea that we don't want to pay (for the most part) what built in America consumer commodities would cost and there is no incentive for businesses to relocate domestically. I predict that, at best, companies will locate other inexpensive and lightly regulated countries should China become truly untenable.
 

ThirstyBarbarian

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The pandemic (and war in Ukraine) have reminded us again how dependent we are on other countries for certain vital goods and commodities and how dependent they are on us.

I hope we do take more steps toward resiliency, alternate sources for vital goods, and self sufficiency. We’ve been able to strangle Russia’s economy by cutting off their supply of certain things they need from us, and the pandemic has shown China could potentially do the same to us if they wanted to. It’s something to consider for our long-term economic and national security.

It’s an interesting topic, but let’s not get too far off the original topic of what’s going to happen when China lifts its zero covid policy.
 
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They have already loosened some restrictions in response to the protests.
They are anticipating a surge of hospitalizations and deaths.
An article I read quoted a forecast from a study:
15X increase in hospitalizations.
1.6 million deaths.
We shall see.
 

SolarYellow

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Back when we were having our financial crisis in 2008, I read about how leveraged China's economy was then, and expected it to be on a slow fuse to implosion. We are only rushing toward that faster.

As stated above, the world desperately needs to get away from China being the world's factory. When China goes down, it will really suck for everybody if most things are still made there. China already is not the low-cost labor leader, because its work force is mostly middle-aged, experienced, and expecting more compensation. The synergies of everything in the supply chain being there are holding it together. (Try making auto parts on the west coast rather than in the rust belt and you'll quickly learn what that means.) If we can't bring jobs back to the West, we need actual globalization, not Chinafication.
 

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[minor tangent] I find it really frustrating when I see people saying that we all need to stop buying from China while also saying that they shop at Wal-Mart. If you think it's important, then do it. Wal-Mart and their buying strategies are a major reason why American jobs were outsourced to China. So don't support them.

Me, I start with buying socks from American factories. Yes, they cost 5 times as much. They also are better and last 10 times as long.
 

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Lock downs has prevented some natural immunity by letting people get the weaker strains of Covid. The West didn't turn the corner on progressing the pandemic to an endemic until poltical pressure forced a loosening of Covid restrictions. Hopefully the same will happen to the Chinese population. Zero covid is not a path to zero covid.
 
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The West didn't turn the corner on progressing the pandemic to an endemic until poltical pressure forced a loosening of Covid restrictions.

America turned the corner on Covid when vaccines became readily available and the majority of the population chose to be vaccinated.
Period.
 
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