Now it’s official: China has deceived us twice on Covid. The first by hiding its origin and its spread, the second by telling us to have defeated it and to have developed effective vaccines. Already denied on the first lie, China is now dealing with the second great lie. But this second stumbling block, predictable in light of Beijing’s own admissions about the poor efficacy of its vaccines, could prove even more complicated. Not only in terms of image and political credibility, but also in terms of structural and economic damage. The pandemic is, in fact, re-exploding in the heart of Guangzhou, the old Canton, capital of the Guangdong province, the most populous and highest industrial development in the country, where many of the products destined for international markets are produced. As always, the Chinese authorities are trying to reduce and contain the alarm. But the version of events, however sweetened, is not enough to conceal the gravity of the situation.
According to the provincial authorities cited by the Global Times – a strictly aligned English newspaper – the contagion spreads in a “strong and fast” way. And the prevention measures put in place to contain it are there to confirm it. The Global Times reports on a press conference in which Shen Ying, head of municipal transportation, announced the closure of seven subway stations, 177 bus stations and the cancellation of 83 bus lines. All while the closure of schools and non-outdoor restaurants was ordered and the inhabitants of four city districts were segregated at home. And all this for the discovery of just five manifest cases and 15 asymptomatic cases. All officially because of the usual foreigners. In fact, at the origin of the infection there would be a 75-year-old who returned from abroad after having been in contact with an Indian variant.
But the habit of scaling down the extent of the infection and attributing it to infections developed in the rest of the world clashes with the information reported to Il Giornale by Western entrepreneurs operating in Guangdong province. The first signal of a much wider alarm than that reported by Chinese government sources is contained in a dispatch from Maersk. In the dispatch, addressed on Friday to all its operators, the Danish company, world leader in container handling, explains that in the port of Yantian “the situation continues to worsen after the confirmation of new positive cases from Covid” and “all operations in the western area of the Yantian International Container Terminals have been suspended ». This is not a temporary closure. “We expect – underlines the dispatch – a continuous congestion of the terminal with delays of more than five days within a few weeks”. A nightmare scenario from both a health and an economic point of view. The 155 kilometers of distance between the port of Yantian and Guangzhou are enough to make it clear that the spread of the infection is much wider and more extensive than the authorities admit. A thrilling element for a province where the merger project of the Guangzhou agglomeration with that of nine other cities, including Hong Kong and Macao, has given rise to a megalopolis of over 70 million inhabitants that is now in danger of becoming epicenter of a contagion that is difficult to contain. And the economic consequences risk being no less devastating. Guangdong, the starting point of the reforms launched by Deng Xiaoping in 1978, now contributes about 12 percent to China’s total economic output and is home to the manufacturing facilities and offices of thousands of Chinese and foreign companies. Blocking it to contain the virus would be tantamount to paralyzing the Chinese economy with financial consequences tens of times worse than those suffered when the virus hit Wuhan and the province of Hubei.