Why is this topic relevant? These days, protests are spreading through China against the strict and prolonged covid measures that are being implemented under the zero tolerance policy against covid. Tens of millions of the population are in lockdown, and while some are forbidden to go to work, thus losing their financial income, others are forced to sleep in factories and work in quarantine. One of the most striking examples of the latter is the case of Foxconn, which faced mass escapes in early November after it attempted to lock up around 200 000 workers on its premises. Despite the radical measures, however, the number of infected is still rising, as is the discontent of the Chinese population.
One reason for the increasing infections could be the low effectiveness of the Chinese vaccines Sinovac and Sinopharm against the omicron variant, which is now the most widely used. Western countries have already offered more effective vaccines to China, but it has refused them without giving a reason.
Why should the EU offer China help? The Czech Republic could initiate a meeting of health ministers under its EU presidency to formulate a concrete offer of the range of vaccine supplies that the EU would offer to China as a whole.
A further offer of assistance would not only be a gesture of goodwill, but also an opportunity for the EU to show the people of China the willingness of the democratic world to help them return to normal life and thus contribute to improving its image in contrast to the Chinese government structures. Indeed, it is precisely this willingness to return people to normal life that many frustrated Chinese protesters do not currently see in their government. Yet even the World Health Organisation has already called on China to change its approach to dealing with covid.
However, in addition to the above, it is also in the EU’s economic interest for China to deal with covid-19 as soon as possible. The current restrictions are not only having a negative impact on the Chinese population and the Chinese economy, but because of their interdependence, the whole world, including the EU, will feel their impact.