The "zero corona policy" is putting an extreme strain on the Chinese economy. Because the government is relaxing measures against the virus, foreign trade is also recovering somewhat. But much is still uncertain.
Against the background of relaxed corona measures, China's exports increased significantly in June. As reported by the Beijing Customs Administration, exports from the second largest economy rose by 17.9 percent year-on-year. However, imports increased only modestly by one percent. Foreign trade growth has "increased significantly," said Li Kuiwen, spokesman for the customs agency. In particular, companies in the Yangtze Delta around Shanghai experienced a "rapid recovery" due to a more relaxed pandemic situation and thus made a particularly strong contribution to the increase in foreign trade.
"The foreign trade figures paint a mixed picture. Exports are continuing to recover as logistics are working better again. However, the very low import growth again points to a weakening economy," commented Jens Hildebrandt, executive board member of the German Chamber of Commerce in China (AHK). the data of the customs administration. The Chinese government's fight against the pandemic is causing comparatively high unemployment and weak consumer confidence.
China has been pursuing a strict "zero corona policy" since the beginning of the pandemic, which aims to nip any outbreak in the bud. Unlike virtually the rest of the world, the government in Beijing is unwilling to "live with the virus." Numerous megacities in China had imposed tough corona measures, especially in spring, to prevent the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant.
Shanghai, China's main economic hub, had to spend two months in a tough lockdown in April and May, which hit the economy hard. The port of the metropolis, the most important transhipment point in trade with China, only functioned to a limited extent.
Despite the positive development of foreign trade, business representatives continued to speak of a situation that was difficult to calculate. The authorities were still taking drastic measures against every corona outbreak. In fact, only a few infections can lead to entire districts being cordoned off, as was the case again last week in the central Chinese metropolis of Xi'an. Infections are also repeatedly found in Beijing, Shanghai and the southern Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen, the three most important economic centers, which then lead to renewed restrictions.
As a sign of a possible easing of its strict policy, China noticeably relaxed the quarantine regulations when entering the country two weeks ago. In the future, travelers will have to spend seven days in a central hotel quarantine after their arrival. This is followed by a three-day "health monitoring" in your own home. Previously, 14 days of quarantine and a further seven days of home isolation were usually required after entry.
Foreign chambers of commerce have long been demanding that China relax its strict measures because they weigh heavily on the economy. The long quarantine times are not the only problem for business travellers. In order to prevent the virus from spreading, only a few international flights are allowed into the country.
China's growth figures for the second quarter are eagerly awaited this Friday. Analysts assumed in advance that the economy could have grown more slowly than it has since the outbreak of the corona pandemic.