The arrival of 4000 sheep in the Hubei province of China earlier this month may have passed you by, but the significance of the transfer shouldn’t. Gifted by Mongolian president Battulga Khaltmaagiin, they were a symbol of wealth and health; the offer to send them was first extended in February, when he became the first foreign dignitary to visit a post-Covid-peak China, their final destination the dinner tables of Wuhan.
That the epicentre of the outbreak should now be in a position to celebrate its emergence from the crisis may well feel extraordinary to anyone back in lockdown in Europe right now, but it’s an indicator of the success with which China has dealt with and emerged from the pandemic.
While infection and mortality statistics are hotly debated, there’s little doubt that the dragon economy is now surging again, almost certainly in better shape in global terms than where it was positioned at the start of the year.
“The turnaround has been stunning,” says Bill Russo, CEO of Automobility, a Shanghai-based automotive consultancy. “The moment lockdowns lifted, there was a shift in behaviour – not just to pre-pandemic levels but something else again.”
Analysts have been pouring over the reasons why, looking for clues as to how China has achieved so much so soon. Governments the world over hope that it can provide a blueprint. In the initial months after the peak of the crisis, the recovery looked problematic; heavy industrial investment lifted the economy, but it wasn’t matched by a burst of consumer spending, as effective track-and-trace processes, abundant testing and rigorously enforced quarantines subdued the public mood. Crucially, though, these actions also suppressed the spread of the virus, so before long, even major cities were reporting days, then weeks and then months of no new cases. Then the spending began.
European nations of course experienced similar, with the trough of the first lockdown followed by a summer surge of buying. However, these have now almost universally been cut down by further curbs.