This study examines the effects of China's zero-covid policy on its economy and investigates whether the policy reflects a broader shift in the country's development paradigm. Employing a mixed-methods approach, we analyze key macroeconomic indicators, conduct case studies of strict lockdowns, perform textual analysis of official documents, and apply the concept of fragmented authoritarianism to explore the relationship between central and local governments. The findings indicate that while the zero-covid policy has had negative economic repercussions, China's response does not signify a major departure from its pre-pandemic development paradigm. The initial success of the policy in curbing the spread of the virus attracted foreign investment, but prolonged restrictions led to increasing uncertainty and economic costs. The textual analysis reveals no significant decline in focus on economic performance, suggesting that the pandemic has not markedly shifted the importance of economic growth in China's development paradigm. However, the examination of the fragmented authoritarianism network indicates that the policy may have served as a tool for reinforcing the central party's control over local governments. Overall, this research offers a comprehensive understanding of the implications of the zero-covid policy for China's economy and development trajectory, highlighting the need for a nuanced analysis of the policy's consequences in the context of a changing global landscape.


Amsden, A. (2001) The Rise of “The Rest”: Challenges to the West From Late-Industrializing Economies. New York; online edn, Oxford Academic, 1 Nov. 2003), https://doi.org/10.1093/0195139690.001.0001

Beeson, M. (2008). Developmental State in East Asia: A Comparison of the Japanese and Chinese Experiences, Asian Perspective, 33(2): 5-39

Bloom, David E. and Jeffrey G. Williamson. (1998). “Demographic Transitions and Economic Miracles in Emerging Asia.” World Bank Economic Review. 12(3), pp. 419–456.

Chen, L. & Naughton, B. (2017) A Dynamic China Model: The Co-Evolution of Economics and Politics in China, Journal of Contemporary China, 26:103, 18-34, DOI: 10.1080/10670564.2016.1206278

Christensen, T., Lisheng, D., & Painter, M. (2008). Administrative reform in China’s central government — how much `learning from the West’? International Review of Administrative Sciences, 74(3), 351–371. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020852308095308

Cai, Hongbin, & Treisman, Daniel. (2006). Did government decentralization cause China's economic miracle? World Politics 58(04), 505-535.

Ding, Y., McQuoid, A. F., & Karayalçin, C. (2019). “Fiscal decentralization, fiscal reform, and economic growth in China”. China Economic Review 53, 152-167.

Dominguez, G. (2022). China seeks to address FDI concerns as foreign investors look for alternatives, The Japan Times. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/10/05/business/china-foreign-direct-investment-flight/

Economist Intelligence Unit (2022) What does zero-covid mean for foreign investment in China? EIU website http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=72172790

Feng, W. (2011). The Future of a Demographic Overachiever: Long-Term Implications of the Demographic Transition in China. Population and Development Review, 37, 173–190. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41762404

Gao, X. (2017). Promotion prospects and career paths of local party-government leaders in China, Journal of Chinese Governance, DOI: 10.1080/23812346.2017.1311510

Jing, Y. (2010). “History and context of Chinese public administration”, In Handbook of Public Administration in East Asia: Mainland China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, Taylor & Francis LLC. pp: 33-53.

Jing, Y. & Liu, X. (2009). “Intergovernmental fiscal relations in China: An assessment”, In Local Governance under Press: Fiscal Retrenchment and Expanding Public Demands on Government, pp.73-93.

Jing, Y. (2017). “The Transformation of Chinese Governance: Pragmatism and Incremental Adaption.” Governance 30 (1): 37–43. doi:10.1111/gove.12231.

Jing, Y., & Zhu, Q. (2012). Civil Service Reform in China: An Unfinished Task of Value Balancing. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 32(2), 134–148. https://doi.org/10.1177/0734371X12438243

Johnson, C. (1982). Miti and the Japanese miracle: The growth of industrial policy, 1925-1975. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Kingdon, J. (1995). Agendas, alternatives, and public policies / (2nd ed.). New York: Harper Collins College.

Hanemann, T., Witzke, M. and Yu, Y. (2022) Cutting Through the Fog: FDI in China Since COVID-19. Rhodium Group. https://rhg.com/research/cutting-through-the-fog/

Huang, Z. (2022). China’s ‘Fragmented Authoritar­ianism’ During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Diplomat, https://thediplomat.com/2022/06/chinas-fragmented-authoritarianism-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Li, H. and Zhou, L. (2005). Political turnover and economic performance: The Incentive Role of Personnel Control in China. Journal of Public Economics, 89(9-10), 1743-1762. doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2004.06.009

Lieberthal, K. and Oksenberg, M. (1988) Policy Making in China: Leaders, Structures, and Processes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lieberthal, K. G. (1992). Introduction: The 'Fragmented Authoritarianism' Model and its Limitations, in Lieberthal and David M. Lampton, eds., Bureaucracy, Politics, and Decision Making in Post-Mao China (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press), pp. 1-30.

Lim, J. (2021). The end of fragmented authoritarianism? evidence from military-civil fusion policy under Xi Jinping: The Japan Forum on International Relations. https://www.jfir.or.jp/en/studygroup_article/3519/

Lin, Y. & Liu, Z. (2000). “Fiscal Decentralization and Economic Growth in China”. Economic Development & Cultural Change 49(1), 1-21.

Mertha, A. (2009). “Fragmented Authoritarianism 2.0”: Political Pluralization in the Chinese Policy Process. The China Quarterly, 200, 995-1012. doi:10.1017/S0305741009990592

Montinola, G., Qian, Y., & Weingast, B. R. (1995). Federalism, Chinese Style: The Political Basis for Economic Success in China. World Politics, 48(1), 50–81. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25053952

Ngok, K. and Zhu, G. (2007) ‘Marketization, Globalization and Administrative Reform in China — A Zigzag Road to a Promising Future’, International Review of Administrative Sciences 73(2): 217–33.

National Congress of the Communist Party of China (NCCPC) reports :

-- Jinping, X. (2022) 20th NCCPC report.

-- Jinping, X (2017) 19th NCCPC report.

-- Jintao, H. (2012) 18th NCCPC report.

-- Jintao, H. (2007) 17th NCCPC report.

-- Zemin, J. (2002) 16th NCCPC report.

OECD (Sept. 2022) G20 GDP Growth - Second quarter of 2022, OECD Website. https://www.oecd.org/newsroom/g20-gdp-growth-second-quarter-2022-oecd.htm

OECD data (2022) FDI flows - OECD Data website, https://data.oecd.org/fdi/fdi-flows.htm

Oi, J. (1992). Fiscal Reform and the Economic Foundations of Local State Corporatism in China, World Politics 45(1), 99-126.

People’s Republic of China State Council (2021) As largest FDI recipient, China improves business climate for investors, PRC State Council website http://english.www.gov.cn/news/topnews/202101/27/content_WS6010b9cac6d0f72576944937.html

Peters, T. (2021). New Zealand government abandons elimination policy for COVID-19. World Socialist Web Site. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/10/06/elim-o06.html

Poenisch, H. (2022) China renews its pitch to foreign investors, Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum. https://www.omfif.org/2022/12/china-renews-its-pitch-to-foreign-investors/

Ray, A. (2002). The Chinese Economic Miracle: Lessons to Be Learnt. Economic and Political Weekly, 37(37), 3835–3848. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4412606

So, A.Y., (2002), Guest Editor's Introduction, Chinese Economy, 35, issue 3, p. 3-25, https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:mes:chinec:v:35:y:2002:i:3:p:3-25

Tseng, W. and Zebregs, H. (2002) Foreign Direct Investment in China: Some Lessons for Other Countries. IMF Policy Discussion Paper.

VOA News (2022), What Is China's 'Zero-COVID' Policy? VOA News website (November 28, 2022) https://www.voanews.com/a/what-is-china-s-zero-covid-policy-/6854291.html

Wade, R.H. (2018), The Developmental State: Dead or Alive?. Development and Change, 49: 518-546.https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12381

Wang, F. and Mason, A. (2008). The Demographic Factor in China’s Transition. In Loren Brandt, and Thomas G. Rawski (Eds.) China’s Great Economic Transformation. Cambridge University Press.

World Bank Group. (2022, April 01). Lifting 800 million people out of poverty – new report looks at lessons from China's experience. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2022/04/01/lifting-800-million-people-out-of-poverty-new-report-looks-at-lessons-from-china-s-experience

World Bank (2022a). GDP Growth (annual %), World Bank national accounts data, and OECD National Accounts data files.

World Bank (2022b). Chapter 1, The economic impacts of the pandemic and emerging risks to the recovery, in World Development Report 2022: Finance for an Equitable Recovery. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-1730-4.

Yang, D. (2004). Remaking the Chinese Leviathan: Market Transition and the Politics of Governance in China. Redwood City: Stanford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781503619449



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.