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China Meets With Foreign Chambers as Lockdowns Hit Business

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Representatives of foreign companies in China were expected to meet the nation’s commerce minister to discuss the impact of Covid controls, as outbreaks and lockdowns spread across the country and damage the economy.

Commerce Minister Wang Wentao will meet representatives from American, European, Japanese and other chambers of commerce Monday, according to Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. The meeting will be a chance for members of the foreign business community to share their concerns with senior Chinese officials and shows the urgency of the current situation, Wuttke said.

“What I care about is that they listen,” Wuttke said.

AmCham Shanghai declined to comment. AmCham China didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment Monday. The Commerce Ministry also didn’t respond to a similar request.

The Chinese government has so far shown no sign of abandoning the strategy championed by President Xi Jinping, even as fresh data showed that the lockdowns have begun to damage the economy. A commentary published on the front page of the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper Monday reaffirmed support for the “correct and effective” policy and urged the country to unite “more closely around the party’s leadership with Xi Jinping as the core.”

Earlier this month, the European Chamber sent a letter to Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua arguing that the omicron variant was “posing new challenges that seemingly cannot be overcome by applying the old toolbox of mass testing.” The letter, which was signed by Wuttke, added that such measures were increasing the social and economic costs of the pandemic.

“This is also having an unfortunate impact on China’s image to the rest of the world while eroding foreign investors’ confidence in the Chinese market,” Wuttke said in the letter.

The party’s Global Times newspaper dismissed the European Chamber’s stance, saying “biased smearing against China’s lifesaving policy is counterproductive.”

Separately, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai issued a report last week, outlining the impact of the Shanghai lockdown on Japanese companies and their staff. That report was accompanied by a letter from Consul General Shuichi Akamatsu, who underscored the impact of the lockdown on the 40,000 Japanese citizens and about 2,300 Japanese firms in the city.

The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said Friday that it would push forward the resumption of production at major factories in Shanghai as it tried to ensure smooth supply chains. The city then announced a plan on Saturday night to allow some closed companies to restart operations, although there was no timetable.

— With assistance by Colum Murphy, Tom Hancock, and James Mayger

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