Why is China the last zero-COVID-19 holdout?
Bradley Blankenship
A medical worker carries out sample collection in Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia, December 1, 2021. /CFP

A medical worker carries out sample collection in Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia, December 1, 2021. /CFP

Editor's note: Bradley Blankenship is a Prague-based American journalist, political analyst and freelance reporter. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Weekly published a paper by Peking University researchers last week evaluating the consequences if pandemic strategies adopted in some Western countries, like the U.S., UK and others, were adopted in China. 

They found that, for example, if China were to follow that strategy, there would be a conservative estimate of 637,155 cases and 22,365 severe cases per day. 

Researchers concluded that the data in the paper shows the "real possibility of a colossal outbreak which would almost certainly induce an unaffordable burden to the medical system." This data provides a clear warning, they added, that pursuing opening-up policies based on the hypothesis of herd immunity through inoculation alone does not make sense at this time.

Further, the researchers said, "More efficient vaccinations or more specific treatment, preferably the combination of both," are needed before entry-exist quarantine measures and other COVID-19 response strategies in China can be safely lifted.

These conclusions, based on straight-forward reasoning and simple arithmetic, paint a clear picture as to why China is wisely remaining a zero-COVID-19 holdout despite recent opinions and reports in Western media, which, in my opinion, have already aged poorly. 

For example, the New York Times published an explainer on "Why China Is the World's Last 'Zero Covid' Holdout," the Financial Times published an opinion titled "China's self-isolation is a global concern" and Bloomberg recently ran a story on a new port quarantine policy in China, which, they say, could worsen the already dismal supply chain crisis.

There are many more pieces in Western media outlets, but most of them quote "experts" who claim, evidence-free, that eliminating COVID-19 is impossible or that "zero-COVID-19" will only isolate China, either diplomatically or economically. 

But none of this is true and, to state the obvious, uninhibited spread of a novel infectious disease is obviously much more damaging to every facet of society. This is true in every single country with uncontrolled spread, without exception, and it should also be understood clearly that the virus is disrupting economic activity right now – not policies aimed at curbing its spread.

Residents wait in line for a nucleic acid test in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, December 2, 2021. /CFP

Residents wait in line for a nucleic acid test in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, December 2, 2021. /CFP

There was much optimism in Western media and governments given the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, with most of them pursuing a policy of vaccines only to address the pandemic. But this has been an objective failure that is fundamentally at odds with basic science.

For one, the vaccines were never designed to provide sterilizing immunity, meaning that it altogether prevents infection. It's also widely understood now and was predicted to be the case that immunity to the virus wanes over time – even from vaccination. Both of these together mean that a vaccine-only strategy would never eliminate the virus.

This then leads to the conclusion that countries would have to learn to live with COVID-19 as an endemic disease, which was an irresponsible policy from the beginning since we hardly know anything about it – or especially its long-term effects. 

For example, there have been countless research papers suggesting that COVID-19 is linked to multi-organ damage, including neurological disorders, none of which have been refuted. Countless "experts" claim that we should learn to live with COVID-19 because of its relatively low mortality rate without any consideration for potential damage to quality of life, which I personally find despicable. 

All of the unknowns and worst-case scenarios that underpin China's policies are, I think, clear enough arguments on their own; however, the emergence of the deeply concerning Omicron variant is another case in point. 

Business interests have been pressing Hong Kong for some time to adopt less strict pandemic control measures out of step with the Chinese mainland, saying that it could damage its reputation as an international business hub. However, Omicron's detection in Hong Kong through its quarantine policy, especially considering the fact that it was detected in vaccinated individuals and in one patient on his fourth Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, is a serious vindication for these strict policies.

Ironically, Israel is going to begin implementing a similar kind of war-like approach to COVID-19 now with the emergence of Omicron and it looks like other governments might do the same. Clearly, this was a good idea all along. 

Personally, I applaud China's efforts to stamp out COVID-19 and I think that choosing not to live with the virus when the risk is so great is extraordinarily humane and responsible. On the contrary, I think the proper question any sane person should be asking is, why are some governments actually choosing to let their people die and suffer? 

That is the real global concern – not China's irrefutably successful public health policies. 

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at

Search Trends