Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic has been China’s top priority since early 2020. The battle continued last year under relatively better conditions. The 2020 experience and massive vaccinations have facilitated the Chinese government’s effort to bring the virus under control and prevent dangerous contractions in the case of new strains like Delta and Omicron. The insistence on the zero-COVID policy combines close monitoring of infections when they flare up alongside putting restrictions in place when they are required. Having already vaccinated more than 85% of its population by the end of 2021, China remains hopeful of being able to obtain collective immunity in 2022.
Despite the enormous challenges caused, among other things, by the pandemic, the Chinese economy remained strong for another year. The World Bank predicts that China’s real GDP will reach 8% in 2021. Throughout the year, foreign companies continued to invest in China. A report from the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) published in July asserted that “China’s global economic decoupling, or as some call it, relocation, is not happening.” Recent data from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce showed that foreign direct investment in China from January to November 2021 increased by 15.9% compared to the same period of 2020, reaching $ 157.2 billion in total.
Trade figures also underscore the resilience of the globalized backbone of the international economy. Eurostat shows that Chinese exports to the EU increased by 18.5% between January and October 2021, and imports by 12.9%. In addition, Bloomberg data estimates that Chinese exports to the United States rose 28.3% in the first 11 months of the year, and imports from the United States jumped 36.9 %. During the same period, the Chinese consumer market grew, and total retail sales of consumer goods rose 13.7% to $ 6.25 trillion.
Although the persistence of the pandemic does not make it possible to make sure predictions towards 2022, Morgan Stanley estimates that China’s growth could be better than expected and reach 5.5%, while the World Bank estimates it at 5% . The Chinese government has already started to take drastic measures to address the debt problem in the real estate market. In addition, it intervened quickly last September to tackle the energy crisis by producing more coal.
In 2021, China announced the elimination of absolute poverty and began its new journey to patiently build a prosperous society. Technological progress is at the heart of this vision, but data governance remains critical. Last year, the Chinese government imposed certain limits on the operation of large technology companies by creating a strict legal framework, elaborating the concept of “common prosperity” and supporting competition according to the standards of the Chinese socialist system. These efforts should be accelerated. China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) identifies the potential of data as a significant contributor to growth.
With continuity being the main feature of China’s history and progress, its metamorphosis will continue to evolve in 2022. This year, however, kicks off with the culmination of the country’s preparations to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing winter. Fourteen years after the successful staging of the Beijing Summer Olympics, the Chinese government, ordinary citizens and volunteers are working hard to achieve success again. New records, safe Games and full stadiums in the COVID-19 era will boost China’s pride and confidence.