After the outbreak of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Chinese government and people have made great efforts to fight the epidemic and made huge sacrifices, which were widely praised by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international community.
China has made substantial progress in the fight against the disease, with the number of newly diagnosed cases in mainland China outside Hubei province falling to five on 25 February from the peak of 390 on 3 February. For China, dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak is not only a battle against an epidemic, but also a struggle of economic defence.
With its remarkable performance in the prevention and control of the epidemic, China is now endeavouring to resume its economic and social activities in an orderly manner. As an important participant in economic globalisation, and the world's second largest economy, China has long been an indispensable part of the global industrial chain.
China’s resumption of production and construction has provided strong support for the steady development of the world economy and boosted confidence and given impetus to high-level economic and trade operations between China and Egypt.
Industrial enterprises in China are sounding the "back to work" horn. By 12pm on 20 February, over 97.08 percent of China ’s top 500 manufacturing companies had resumed production, and the rate of back-to-work enterprises in Zhejiang province, dominated by SMEs, is over 90 percent.
Railways, civil aviation, ports and water transport across the country are all operating normally. Foreign enterprises in China have also joined in the recovery of production on the premise of effective disease prevention and control.
Priority has been given to accelerating the supply of medical resources in order to meet the demand of epidemic control and enterprises restarting work. China has taken measures of maintaining supply while resuming and expanding production. Production capacity of medical materials has been increased continuously.
As of 22 February, the daily production of face masks in China had reached 54.77 million masks, with capacity expected to reach 180 million per day by the end of February. Daily production of medical protective suits has risen from less than 10,000 pieces on 28 January to more than 330,000 pieces.
Overall, China has a large economy that is resilient and resistant to pressure. The impact of the new coronavirus epidemic is short-term and generally manageable. The fundamentals of the Chinese economy remain sound in the long run.
Both the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have issued statements in support of China's responses and measures to prevent and control the epidemic, and are "full of confidence" in China's economic resilience. With the emerging effectiveness of epidemic prevention and control measures, China has the confidence, ability and prerequisites to minimise the economic impact of the outbreak via effective hedging of policies and measures.
Small fluctuations in bilateral trade are caused by the dual factors of epidemic and seasonal adjustment. China's exports data in the first quarter are usually the lowest in the whole year due to the lunar New Year holiday. This year, affected by the epidemic, foreign trade enterprises postponed the resumption of work, and the delivery of orders would be adjusted.
WHO stated that there is no reason to take unnecessary measures to interfere with international travel and trade, and WHO does not recommend restricting trade and personnel movements. The introduction of relevant measures must be scientifically based. Regarding the rumours spreading on the internet about not accepting Chinese goods or packages, WHO experts point out that that would be totally unnecessary.
Resumption of production will accelerate China-Egypt trade cooperation back to its normal track. China's foreign trade enterprises have taken the initiative to prevent epidemics and resume production under the strong support and assistance of the government. Therefore, we have every reason to believe that bilateral trade between China and Egypt will soon return to a normal level.
And as always, China welcomes Egyptian goods into its domestic market. China will host the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) in 2020 and welcomes more Egyptian businessmen to participate in this global event.
Chinese companies are still interested in the Egyptian market and will continue to expand investment after the epidemic. China's investment in Egypt has exceeded $7 billion. From January to November 2019, direct investment from Chinese companies in Egypt increased by $88.89 million, according to the official statistics of MOFCOM, China.
The new investment goes to home appliance manufacturing, motorcycle production, the agricultural economy and other fields. The investment plans established by Chinese companies will not undergo major adjustments, and there will be no large-scale shutdowns or withdrawals. Investment projects in Egypt can basically maintain normal production operations.
New investment projects, which are still in the stage of feasibility study and marketing, have been put on hold and will continue to be promoted after the outbreak is over. We will work together with the Egyptian government to provide a convenient and efficient business environment for both Chinese and Egyptian companies.
TEDA Zone epidemic prevention measures are applauded for their effectiveness. The China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone (referred to as TEDA Zone), an industrial park with the best comprehensive environment, the highest investment density and the highest output per unit in Egypt, is the zone with the highest concentration of Chinese enterprises in Egypt.
Right after the outbreak, TEDA took strict anti-epidemic measures in the park to guarantee a safe environment for business operation while protecting the health of local employees, as unanimously recognised by the Egyptian government and health experts. On 2 February, a joint investigation team from the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone, the Ministry of Health and Suez governorate inspected TEDA Zone and concluded that the industrial park is completely safe.
Chinese enterprises are implementing construction projects while taking effective epidemic control measures. The construction sites of major projects in Egypt undertaken by Chinese companies, such as the 10 Ramadan City light rail project, and the CBD of the new capital, have attracted much attention as thousands of Chinese and Egyptian workers are working together.
During the outbreak, the project sites are under closed-door construction with regular disinfection measures and daily monitoring of body temperatures. Chinese enterprises are trying their best to maximise the protection of the health of Chinese and Egyptian workers and to minimise the impact of the outbreak on the construction period. At present, all projects are under normal progress and there is no risk related to the outbreak.
Egyptian and Chinese companies have taken proactive prevention and control measures to ensure smooth cooperation. Chinese enterprises in Egypt are highly conscious and meticulous in their work, and have taken appropriate measures to carry out normal business in Egypt, proving their successful experience in the prevention and control of the epidemic, and giving great confidence to our joint efforts to combat the epidemic and deepen cooperation.
We will never forget the understanding and valuable support for China from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the Egyptian government and all sectors of society in Egypt in various forms at the most difficult moment of China's fight against the epidemic.
We are ready to work with Egypt in preventing and controlling the outbreak, minimising the impact of the outbreak on bilateral economic and trade cooperation, to speed up the implementation of Chinese investments and projects in Egypt, to promote the resumption of normal personnel exchanges and economic and trade exchanges.
We will jointly usher in even greater China-Egypt economic and trade cooperation after the end of the outbreak.
*The writer is minister counsellor for economic and commercial affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Cairo.