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Interview: China moves quickly in fight against COVID-19, says renowned British economist

Interview: China moves quickly in fight against COVID-19, says renowned British economist

London – Jim O’Neill, coiner of the acronym BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), believes that China has moved quickly in the fight against Corona Virus as soon as the country’s central government
realized the problem.

He said that China may get the Corona Virus under control. “As has often been the case in the past 30 years, once Beijing realizes there is a problem, they deal with it, whether it’s house prices, crisis risks, a global financial contagion or this,” the economist said. “Evidence is emerging that once China realizes the scale of a challenge, it moves quickly. “However, he also stressed that more flexibility should be built into the Chinese system so it “has to somehow encourage a culture of taking more initiative.”

“For four weeks I have been tracking the daily recovery rates by province in China and for the past two weeks it has been very clear to me – if you take the data at face value- that, ahead of opening the economy up again completely, China has got it under control,” O’Neill told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

“Contrary to the mood of four weeks ago, the question might emerge what can China do to help everybody else,” O’Neill said. O’Neill has worked for nearly 40 years in international finance as an economist, working for several international financial corporations before joining Goldman Sachs, where he was chief economist. He currently chairs the London-based geopolitical think tank Chatham House. While O’Neill was buoyed by a detailed examination of data, an area where he has several decades of number crunching experience at the most complex level to guide him, he was also cautious. Available data now refer to events as they have happened and are happening, yet they can give only indications of what might happen.

O’Neill has warned against believing that the Corona Virus crisis is anywhere near being contained globally and against underestimating it or being complacent in any way. On a qualitative level, O’Neill, who has business interests in China, says he has noticed through those interests that the country is starting a return to normality, and that its economy is moving again. “I’m hoping and presuming and my intelligence suggests that … Beijing’s central policy is deliberately now encouraging people to start moving back towards normality,” said O’Neill.


But O’Neill placed the coronavirus in the context of a significant global economic setback. “The timing is so unfortunate because the world economy had already been slowing sharply around the second half of 2019.” And the irony was that it was showing signs of stabilizing and this has obviously destroyed that. So the timing is very unfortunate.”

O’Neill has also worked in the British government, serving as treasury minister from 2014 until 2016. O’Neill’s experiences and knowledge gained from producing an antimicrobial resistance (AMR) report, which was delivered to the leaders of the G20 goup of countries at their summit in China in September 2016, has given him insights into the Corona Virus problem.

“One of the things is that I’ve been able to think about this very quickly, because of all that work, this sort of thing isn’t that surprising to me.

“And in a way, it isn’t a bacterial infection, because if it was, the problem would be much bigger,” said O’Neill. “Because to develop a new antibiotic, you know, we are all hoping that we’ll get a vaccine within the next year (for Corona Virus) but to get a new antibiotic – it’s a 10-year wait probably,” O’Neill added.

The coronavirus is becoming a global problem that will also serve as a warning for potentially more serious health threats in coming decades around bacteria becoming increasingly more resistant to antibiotics, O’Neill said. “This highlights exactly the kind of issue that I’ve been talking about on
antibiotics, because as we showed, if we run out of them all, by 2050 we will be close to having 10 million people a year dying around the world, with one million of those in China.”

In comparison, the current extent of the outbreak in China, where O’Neill believed the government has gained control and where death rates attributable to the virus are decreasing, is less frightening.

“So this is a tiny sign of the sort of thing that could happen if we don’t start developing more antibiotics by ourselves,”said O’Neill. “This is a good opportunity to raise awareness, and after 40 years in finance one of the things I learned was never let a crisis go to waste.” (By Gui Tao, Peter Barker).

Caption: BEIJING – A staff member (R) checks a worker’s body temperature at a logistics center in Beijing, capital of China, 12 March. The logistics center handles some 50,000 orders daily as it resumes operation amid epidemic prevention and control efforts. (Xinhua/Ju Huanzong)


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