The vestiges of international travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic will ebb on Jan 8 with China set to open up to the world again. Since the world's second-largest economy and the biggest manufacturing power is essential to global economic stability, the news of China opening up to the world, once again, hit the headlines all over the world.
The news has raised speculation that the world will return to win-win trade and economic development with China returning to full capacity production in the factories, farms and general services.
In the almost three years of travel restrictions, global trade and tourism have suffered immeasurably, making the revival of the global economy a big challenge. But with the main driver of global growth back on the global economic stage, expectations of a full-scale worldwide recovery are rising.
In fact China is still expected to contribute to about 30 percent of the global growth in 2022 and 2023 based on indicators of inflation-adjusted estimates. This shows that China's absence from the global economic stage for a long time has left a yawning vacuum, and its return to the stage has come as a big relief.
In February 2019, The Economist magazine said: "Since 2012 China has been the world's biggest source of tourists. Chinese travellers racked up nearly 150 million trips abroad last year. Their spending — over $250 billion in 2017 — far outstrips that of their American counterparts."
In so many ways, China demonstrated it is committed to protecting people's lives and health by implementing strict measures to contain the pandemic. Even though the pandemic struck without warning, China picked up the gauntlet and fought back courageously. The quick, split-second strategies and steps encouraged the world to fight the virus and, in the end, achieve victory.
China first ordered the lockdown of Wuhan in 2020. The move was followed by the implementation of strict prevention and control measures, including lockdowns, in many places.
The lightning speed at which China built new hospitals, converted facilities into temporary healthcare centers and recruited volunteers, medical experts, military personnel, and others to fight the pandemic was simply amazing.
While the Chinese government stood with the people, encouraging them to keep fighting the virus, many medical experts sacrificed their lives to save those of others.
But after the variants and sub-variants of the novel coronavirus became less lethal — but more infectious, China's central authorities announced that the people need to better balance economic development with anti-pandemic measures.
Despite facing multiple challenges on multiple fronts, China continued working with the international community to contain the virus, and the strategies China worked out to contain the pandemic were later adopted by other countries.
According to the Chinese foreign ministry, the country also sent medical experts to 38 countries to assist them to control the spread of the virus and supported over 180 countries and international organizations with treatment protocols and containment methods. It followed this up with the sending of COVID-19 vaccines (a large percentage for free) and later outsourced the production of Sinovac vaccines to companies in Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Indonesia, Morocco, and Brazil.
In March 2020, China donated $20 million to the World Health Organization, and followed it up with another $30 million in April, and a $2 billion pledge in May. All these were in the face of the US' withdrawal from the WHO and its refusal to assist the agency at such a trying moment. Altogether, the country gave over $2.2 billion doses of vaccines to 120 countries and international bodies, including the WHO.
China has spared no efforts in fighting the virus, and learned that despite the advances made by medical science, human beings have to cohabit with the virus.
China has been at the forefront of scientific and technological development, including in medical equipment production and medical know-how, with the goal of reducing the threat from the pandemic. Since resilience and adaptability are the most potent weapons of conquest at man's disposal, China and the rest of the world will be just fine from Jan 8.
The author is a journalist and editor-in-chief of Africa China Economy Magazine based in Lagos, Nigeria.