Optimized COVID response speeds up recovery of China's industrial economy

Factories across China have resumed busy operations after the country's latest optimization of COVID-19 response and a series of measures to accelerate production resumption.

With production lines humming and machines running in full swing, factories across China have resumed busy operations after the country's latest optimization of COVID-19 response and a series of measures to accelerate production resumption.

To better coordinate anti-virus efforts and economic development, China has been optimizing its COVID-19 response policies dynamically. On December 7, 2022, China adjusted its virus prevention and control policies with 10 new measures, shifting the policy focus from infection prevention to severe cases prevention.

In its latest move, the country announced it will downgrade the management of COVID-19 from Class A to Class B starting from January 8 this year.

Targeted and efficient policy adjustments have pressed the fast-forward button for the resumption of industrial production, with factories nationwide racing against the clock to make up for COVID-induced disruptions.

Sufficient medical supplies

Facing rising demand for key medicines and medical supplies, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and relevant departments have established emergency collaboration mechanisms with local authorities and rolled out medicine-specific plans to help pharmaceutical enterprises expand their capacity.

"Relevant companies and key supporting firms have all been incorporated on a 'white list' to get support and achieve cooperation in production factors," said Zhou Jian, an official with the ministry.

In a production base of Buchang Pharmaceuticals, a company based in east China's Shandong Province that makes three types of COVID-related medicines, eight production lines are operating around the clock to make tablets.

To help enterprises run at full capacity, local authorities across the country have rolled out a slew of measures to boost the output of medical supplies, including ensuring the supply of raw materials and energy, establishing new production lines and smoothening logistics.

Hubei Biocause Heilen Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, a pharmaceutical company based in central China's Hubei Province, said all its production lines for ibuprofen, a fever and pain reliever, have reached the maximum possible output, with the daily output of raw material for ibuprofen hitting 10 to 13 tons.

As China strives to expand its anti-COVID medical supply, the country's daily production capacity of ibuprofen and paracetamol has exceeded 200 million tablets, with the daily output reaching 190 million tablets.

The daily output of the two medicines had increased by more than four times in late December compared with early December, Wang Jiangping, vice minister of the ministry, said at a press conference last week.

The daily production capacity of COVID-19 antigen test kits had expanded from about 60 million in early December to some 110 million, and that of finger-clip pulse oximeters has more than doubled since early December, reaching over 250,000 units in late December.

On Tuesday, a State Council executive meeting underscored that supplies of medical and anti-epidemic goods should be scaled up with all efforts possible, urging efforts to address difficulties in the supply of raw and auxiliary materials, labor and funds to ensure uninterrupted production and supply of businesses.

Accelerated production

To restore bustling activities in factories, local governments have rolled out various measures to support industrial production.

For instance, Beijing established a "white list" for personnel at key posts of enterprises to ensure their timely attendance at work. Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality introduced 16 measures to boost financial support for key industries, including encouraging banks and financial institutions to increase credit loan issuance for enterprises to support their full-capacity production.

Northwest China's Gansu Province is also on the move to get rid of supply-chain bottlenecks in order to help enterprises resume operations at full capacity.

Gong Hongquan, manager of a chemical enterprise in Gansu, said positive changes have taken place in the company's operation since the release of the 10 new measures in December. "The efficiency of logistics has enhanced, and marked improvements were seen in the company's production and sales," he said.

Surging logistics and transportation demand also mirror the rapid recovery of China's industrial sector. Data from the on-demand delivery service provider Lalamove, also known as Huolala, showed that from December 7 to 25, orders for freight transportation in two of Beijing's wholesale markets surged 50 percent and 21 percent, respectively, compared with the same period last month.

Over the past year, the country's industrial sector has continued to serve as the "ballast stone" of its economy. In the first 11 months of 2022, the total output of major industrial enterprises rose 3.8 percent, with that of high-tech manufacturing climbing 8 percent from a year ago.

Despite the current difficulties with operations, China's industrial economy's advantages of a complete industrial system and strong domestic demand are still prominent, Jin Zhuanglong, minister of the MIIT, said in an interview with Xinhua.

He said the optimized COVID-19 response, combined with existing and incremental policies, will boost market confidence, with the vitality of market entities, consumption potential, and the driving force of industrial upgrading effectively released.

"We have the confidence, conditions and capability to promote a stable recovery of the industrial economy," Jin said.

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