Beijing's strict COVID-19 policy is weighing on consumption and rattling foreign firms, but its effectiveness and the imperative to sustain stability in the past week's sensitive year mean Beijing will stick to its approach.
With two COVID-19 deaths this year, China has also remained a tough line, even though a large number of other countries eased restrictions, imposing targeted shutdowns and travel bans even when local economies disrupted.
Avoiding major outbreaks is especially important in the year when Beijing hosts the winter Olympics and the once-five-years Communist Party Congress, where President Xi Jinping would likely clinch a third term as party secretary.
Beijing keenly screamed out its record in tackling COVID-19, which in a government white paper as one of the "most important achievements" of its governance model - - and often noted the high death tolls of people in different countries, especially in the United States.
"Stability is the number one priority next year," said Dan Wang, head economist at Hang Seng Bank (China). "Relaxing the zero tolerance policy won't help that goal."
With the rapid emergence of the Omicron variant already causing many countries to backtrack or pause reopening plans, Beijing will highly likely confirm Beijing's position. China has reported several imports of Omicron cases and a local transmission case.
China can't let its guard down, even in the slightest, against the new variant, said Lei Zhenglong, an official at the National Health Commission (NHC), on Monday.
Beijing's international spotlight will be on its tidbit before Winter Games begin on Feb. 4; the September Party Congress represents the last of the year's political achievements.
ESPN reported Tuesday that the National Hockey League won't send its players to the men's ice hockey tournament at the Olympics due to COVID concerns.
As a result, experts in the country's economy have expressed concern over the number of older people who remain unvaccinated, and the efficacy of the vaccines employed in the country, which is still not able to approve foreign vaccines like those of Pfizer and Moderna.
Since 1980 80% of people aged over 60 were vaccinated at the end of November, according to Zheng Zhongwei, another NHC official, that about 50 million people left that age bracket - more than the Spanish population - are in this age bracket.
Peter Wang, a Canadian epidemiologist, said the relatively low performance of Chinese vaccines and the uncertainty over how long they are protecting them would turn China into a prank.
For the two major Chinese vaccines manufactured by Sinopharm and Sinovac, the efficacy readings of clinical trials went between 50-83.5% and 90,9%.
Two recent studies showed that the antibodies response from these vaccines was weaker against Omicron than against certain versions of the virus, but it remains unclear how the variant would affect the overall effectiveness of the vaccines.
The COVID-19 policy benefited the sector by preventing large factory shutdowns and keeping the export machine running.
The country's growth started in 2021, the fastest year since 1998, and the soaring imports continue to grow.
However, Louis Kuijs, the head of Asia's economics at Oxford, says that the hit to consumption almost certainly owes a huge profit.
The sales in the hospitality industry is very strong, with a drop of 3,9 % in November.
"Nowaday the approach is a negative for the economy," said Kuijs, in which other highly vaccinated countries switched to a "living with COVID" approach that makes the growth stronger reactable to new outbreaks and variants.
Foreign firms warned that expatriate workers are leaving because of the danger of separation from their families, foreign chambers of commerce reported, and it is hard to make technicians or executives do it to upgrade their plants or cut deals.
In the worst case, we fear that there'll never be meaningful changes until late 2022 or even into 2023," said Joerg Wuttke, director of China's European Chamber of Commerce.
Quarantines require international arrivals, but typically at least two weeks in length, which are often more and more expensive. For example, the northern city of Shenyang requires travelers to spend four weeks in quarantine and to continue to help themselves with a healthy lifestyle.
On the other side of the equation, an intolerably high number of deaths could result in a gradual end of a life threatening war, said Zheng, an NHC expert.
That country, where the pandemic first occurred in Wuhan, has officially reported only 4 636 deaths, less than many other countries and a small fraction of its population, and relatively few people infected the country infected with 1,41 billion.
The importance of preparing the population for a steep rise is at the time of a pivot when Beijing finally begins to go for the opening of its doors, says su Li Yang, professor of infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore.
If you open up the virus would spread around the country, it's just almost impossible to contain it. Hsu said that action to reduce disease-sluggage, as well as reducing bacterial infections will need to be taken into consideration.
This story takes a good break from reading paragraph two (not one) points.