After China’s 20th National Party Congress, there was a lot of heated talk about the Zero-COVID policy. 

When will Beijing ease this costly COVID approach that has lasted since the beginning of the pandemic? This is the question that intellectuals and experts from all over the world are asking. 

Robin Xing, the chief China economist at Morgan Stanley, offers his view. He said that the world should keep a close eye on these three signs over the next three to five months. 

The first sign is the speed at which China vaccinates its elderly. According to China’s health authorities, by July 23, among those aged 60 and older, 85% had received two shots, up from 82% in May. 

But among those aged 80 and older, only 61% had received two doses, and less than 40% had a booster shot. 

This makes many analysts worry that China won’t be able to reopen soon because there might occur a highly likely surge in deaths among the elderly – the most vulnerable group.

The second sign to watch is China’s vaccine approvals. So far, Chinese regulators have not approved any mRNA vaccine for use in mainland China. And its domestic vaccine lagged behind the foreign mRNA vaccine in terms of effectiveness.

And finally, the third sign to watch is how Chinese authorities and state media described the threat of COVID. A shift could happen if they downplay the tone and the danger involved with COVID.

Robin Xing, the chief China economist at Morgan Stanley, said there hadn’t been much progress yet in these three fields. But China’s health experts understand that they need to make progress so that a full reopening could be possible at the earliest by next spring.

Still, there are predictions about a longer timeline.

Julian Evans-Pritchard is a senior China economist at Capital Economics – a London-based independent economic research business. He said China won’t end its zero-COVID policy in any meaningful way before 2024. 

Fear is rising among the investing community as China showcased its top governing body last weekend. With his unprecedented third term, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to insist on the Zero-COVID policy, even at the cost of the economy.

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