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Economic immunity boosters will ensure epidemic not chronic illness: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-02-18 19:28

A staff member checks product quality at an auto parts manufacturing company in Beijing on Feb 10, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

On Tuesday, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council urged State-owned enterprises to tap their potential to hedge against the losses caused by the novel coronavirus epidemic and prepare to "lead an austere life".

Although it is too early to fathom the full impacts of the epidemic on the economy, the State-owned assets watchdog's rare warning of the difficulties that have been brewing, and the uncertainties ahead for SOEs — whose risk resistance ability dwarfs their private counterparts — has unequivocally revealed the downward pressure that is mounting on the economy.

The economic struggle, particularly to help medium and small-sized enterprises weather the storm, has always been an invisible, but integral, part of the fight against the virus.

To resume industrial production not only concerns whether enough medical materials can be manufactured to back the worst-affected regions, and sufficient life necessities can be produced to satisfy the basic needs of the nation that has been forced to a virtual standstill for almost a month, but also whether jobs and growth can be maintained to sustain social stability at home and international supply chains abroad.

That's why all the central departments related to the economy, trade, industry, finance and social security have been pressing local governments to get their production lines running again as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, commercial rents have been reduced, pro-startup and pro-innovation loans have become easier to obtain; expressway tolls are being waived; business and industrial taxes and fees have been cut to an unprecedented level or even exempted; commodity prices are being kept steady and consumption subsidies offered in some places to purchase such things as automobiles or property.

Put in place quickly, these combined efforts aim to stop as many businesses as possible from being pushed to the edge of the cliff by the epidemic.

Nor will China allow the fight against the virus to be a chain around its feet, hindering the progress it is making toward restructuring the economy and upgrading its industry. China has already found the path to maintain epidemic control and industrial development at the same time. With the most difficult part of the battle to contain the virus set to be won — with the daily number of infections falling even in Hubei province, the heartland of the epidemic — the world's second-largest economy is already preparing to proceed on its charted cause after the epidemic ebbs.

Although the novel coronavirus epidemic will probably shave some fraction of a percent off China's annual growth, the quality of its economic growth and the rate of its transformation will ultimately be raised by the outbreak.

The bleak and empty city streets although a visible sign of lost consumption power will not be like that for ever, when spring begins to turn to summer, life will soon return and consumption will again gain momentum. The epidemic is a setback, but one that will be slight and temporary.

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