China Economy

China won't have a 'normal' economy without tackling Covid first, senior Chinese official says

Key Points
  • Getting the pandemic under control is a prerequisite for a "normal" functioning economy, a senior Chinese official said Thursday.
  • The official's comments reflect Beijing's emphasis on its zero-Covid control policy even as lockdowns to control the latest outbreak have hit businesses across the country.
  • Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged officials to "resolutely fight" those who questioned the policy.
Shanghai and Beijing have retained, if not tightened, many Covid-related restrictions on business and travel. In this picture, workers disinfect a residential community on May 11, 2022, in Beijing, China.
Beijing Youth Daily | Visual China Group | Getty Images

BEIJING — Getting the pandemic under control is a prerequisite for a "normal" functioning economy, a senior Chinese official said Thursday.

The official's comments reflect Beijing's emphasis on its zero-Covid control policy — officially characterized as "dynamic" to indicate some flexibility — even as lockdowns to control the latest outbreak have hit businesses across the country. Investment banks have cut their forecasts for China's GDP growth this year as a result.

Containing the virus, stabilizing the economy and keeping the country's development secure must all be carried out together — without just targeting one aspect, Han Wenxiu, deputy director at the Chinese Communist Party's central committee office for financial and economic affairs, said at a press conference Thursday.

"The pandemic is a 'stumbling block' for economic and social development," Han said in Chinese, translated by CNBC.

"It is necessary to effectively prevent and control the pandemic with scientific precision," he said, adding that will create a "fundamental prerequisite" for the economy as well as society to operate normally.

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Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged officials to "resolutely fight" those who questioned the zero-Covid policy.

Since March, mainland China has struggled to contain its worst Covid outbreak since the initial shock of the pandemic in early 2020.

The daily case count has fallen significantly in the last week, while in previously locked down areas, schools and businesses have reopened. However, Shanghai and Beijing have retained, if not tightened, many restrictions on business and travel.

Han on Thursday also called for speeding up implementation of economic support policies — ideally all in the first half of the year. He said the country's fiscal and monetary policy, among others, had sufficient space and a variety of tools with which to act. He did not elaborate on specifics.

The country will take another step toward strengthening relevant measures, he said. "We will act when it's time to act."