The war in Ukraine and the pressure on big tech have hardly been left out of talks about our economic prospects in recent months. Both affect people’s lives in very different ways, and both feel very connected.
Much further from home are the mass protests in China over its zero-Covid policy – but what happens in China will potentially have a major impact on Ireland.
Central Bank of Ireland Governor Gabriel Makhlouf told me in an interview late last month (before the protests really got going) that what really matters in Ireland is what happens in China.
“It’s a pretty important variable that people tend to overlook – but what’s happening in the Chinese economy is pretty important to us. And their zero-Covid policy is slowing global growth, affecting the eurozone and affecting us.”
He added that while the war in Ukraine represents an uncertainty, Chinese health policies are another area affecting Ireland’s economic prospects.
China’s President Xi Jinping’s harsh zero-Covid policy now looks like a mistake, though getting a population of 1.4 billion through a pandemic would never be without immense challenges.
As we scramble to get restaurant bookings in Ireland in December and look back in disbelief at recent Christmas lockdowns, many parts of China are still living under the severest of restrictions.
This has hampered the production of goods on which the rest of the world has become dependent, while domestic demand has been dampened as a result.
That South China tomorrow post reported last week that “academics and government advisers say China’s GDP appears to have lost trillions of yuan this year due to Beijing’s disruptive virus control policies.”
The length of the Covid restrictions, as well as the extent of the lockdowns following the identification of Covid cases, have prompted protests across China. While the protests were initially sparked by a fire at an apartment block in the western Xinjiang region that killed 10 people – where emergency services were paralyzed by Covid restrictions – the protests have become increasingly political.
Scenes like this have not happened since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
These protests were extraordinary for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the intensification of public scrutiny under Xi Jinping. Also, the zero-Covid policy has been heavily spearheaded by the President and the ruling Communist Party.
So, unlike other places of civil unrest, the discontent cannot simply be blamed on local officials.
Seasoned observers of Chinese politics were also surprised by the willingness of some protesters to name Xi Jinping in their chants. Impact is a major risk for those identified by Chinese authorities.
As for China’s zero-Covid policy?
There have been signs in recent days that authorities will ease some restrictions despite high daily case numbers.
However, in a huge country with relatively low vaccination rates, completing zero Covid will be a precarious balancing act – and the impact on the global economy is still unknown.
Ní Rathallaigh will be hoping for stars to align at RTÉ
Siún Ní Rathallaigh, the new Chair of RTÉ, will bring a wealth of experience to the national broadcaster.
She grew up in Donegal and has worked for the Irish media in a variety of ways. One of her early jobs was in the newspaper industry, where she worked at Sunday grandstand.
She played a key role in the early days of TG4, taking on a finance role at the channel, later becoming chair of the TG4 board. She later became CEO of Tyrone Productions, owned by her RTÉ predecessors Moya Doherty and John McColgan, before starting her own production company.
In conversation with the Sunday independent In 2020 she spoke about her entrepreneurial streak. “I’m not afraid to jump in,” she said. “I would be cautious, of course – but I wouldn’t necessarily hold back.”
She also said that every time a major film or television production comes together and is made, it’s like a little bit of magic is at work.
“Every film or work that is made is a perfect storm. It’s like magic that it happens. Because everything has to be right.”
The former chief executive of Ardmore and Troy Studios will no doubt be hoping things will finally straighten out for RTÉ, which has been seeking an overhaul of its royalty collection for many years.
https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/why-ireland-needs-to-keep-an-eye-on-chinas-zero-covid-protests-42193026.html Why Ireland must keep an eye on China’s zero Covid protests