Illustration: Luo Xuan from Global Times
By Zhou Qing
Facing an escalating coronavirus threat, some countries have imposed harsh lockdowns and border controls, which may cause shortages of daily necessities due to incomplete industrial chains. A global coordination mechanism covering basic necessities among countries is imperative.
While the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world, many countries have been forced to implement tough measures. Some have moved to close their borders or pondered stricter customs controls. More countries and regions have enforced lockdowns or quarantines to control the virus.
Though necessary, these measures inevitably come with side effects. It will be a while before economies worldwide wake up from the shock of the coronavirus.
The economic shock is both foreseeable and unavoidable. Now making sure that basic supplies don’t run short has become the top priority when a growing number of people face intensifying lockdowns that could last for a long time.
Many have been discussing and wondering what is the so-called Chinese way of containing the coronavirus. As a country that was struck by the coronavirus hardest, China managed to control the virus effectively relying on two things. On the one hand, China strictly enforced lockdowns to stop transmission. At the same time, the country maintained adequate supplies of people’s basic living necessities under lockdowns. Even cities like Wuhan, which adopted the harshest stay-at-home orders, guaranteed steady supplies of food, utilities and daily necessities.
What is also worth noting is that China benefited from its long and complete industrial chain, as well as its complete industrial categories.
Unlike China, most countries that have taken strong measures do not have full-scale industrial chains. Many necessities of life such as toilet paper, hand wipes and products made with plastics and rubber are far from self-sufficient, depending on imports. Long-term lockdowns and border controls that affect trade and reduce economic activities will eventually lead to shortages of everyday necessities.
Due to fears of shortages, consumers in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia have reportedly emptied the shelves of grocery stores and stocked up on toilet paper, causing more shortages. Once a vicious cycle of hoarding starts as the coronavirus spreads, it could evolve into chaotic unrest.
The cost for China was huge to contain the coronavirus. The Chinese economy has suffered damage from it, and the impact will not be mitigated in the short term. The country has gained experience and learned lessons from this disaster. Now it is willing to offer advice to other countries that just started their lockdowns. It is time for countries worldwide to build up coordination mechanisms to ward off potential shortages of necessities.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times. email@example.com
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