China censors Beijing-based think-tank’s warning that Covid policies are hurting economy

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China has allegedly censored a report criticising the ruling Communist party’s severe zero-Covid policy and the ongoing use of strict lockdowns by the Xi Jinping administration.

The report, published by Beijing-based think tank Anbound Research Centre, warned the authorities that the curbs — including shutting cities and disrupting trade, travel and industry — must change to prevent an “economic stall”.

Titled “It’s Time for China to Adjust Its Virus Control and Prevention Policies”, the report published on Sunday said preventing the risk of economic stall should be the priority task.

The report was widely shared including on the think-tank’s social media pages on WeChat and Sina Weibo, but had vanished by Monday afternoon – less than a day after being released.

Officials working at Anbound said they have been “forbidden” from publicising the original report and declined to share it, reported Indian newspaper Hindustan Times.

The research centre did not share details of the forewarned “economic stall” and the possible changes, but added that Beijing must focus on shoring up sinking growth numbers.

Western countries like the US, European countries and China’s eastern neighbour Japan are all recovering economically after easing anti-disease curbs, the report had pointed out.

China’s economy is facing the risk of stalling due to the “impact of epidemic prevention and control policies,” the think tank warned.

The country has for decades been one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but is under pressure from a slump in real estate activity after Beijing tightened controls on the industry’s use of debt.

Economists and analysts have warned that China needs to amp up its growth, which plummeted to 2.5 per cent over a year earlier in the first half of 2022 — down from less than half the official annual 5.5 per cent target.

This was less than what Shanghai and other industrial centres reported after shutting down in late March to fight the rising Omicron variant surge.

While the rest of the world has moved to open up travel and workplaces and reduce pandemic-era restrictions, the Chinese authorities have persisted with stringent lockdown guidelines, and these are widely expected to be in force at least until an upcoming Communist Party meeting in October and November.

At the same meeting, Mr Xi is expected to announce that he will continue as Chinese premier for a third five-year stint.