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China is trying to jump-start its huge economy without triggering a second wave of coronavirus cases. It's a high-stakes experiment that could provide clues for countries agonizing over how long to keep their shutdowns in place as a global recession begins and millions of jobs are lost.
The country where the pandemic began was almost completely shut down in late January as the number of coronavirus cases mounted. The drastic measures appear to have brought the virus under control: Locally transmitted infections have plummeted, and a lockdown on most of Hubei province — ground zero of the pandemic — is being lifted this week.
But the lockdown also brought activity in much of the world's second biggest economy to a standstill for weeks on end, and is likely to result in China's first contraction in decades. Analysts at Goldman Sachs recently forecast that China's GDP may fall by 9% in the first quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2019. The Chinese government knows that its actions to contain the virus came at the expense of the country's economic health. Now authorities are trying to ensure that those consequences are short lived.
"The economic losses have become intolerable," Xingdong (XD) Chen, chief China economist for BNP Paribas, told CNN Business, adding that the government has to balance resuming work while remaining vigilant. "I don't think it is right to restart business and production only when the virus has totally disappeared."
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