Hanoi [Vietnam], February 6 (ANI): China has gone to great lengths to keep the coronavirus out of its borders. It has screened mail and tested thousands of packages of fruit and frozen foods despite little evidence that the virus can be transmitted through such products. It has locked down entire cities, leaving Chinese citizens stranded without medicine or food, according to New York Times.
That strict coronavirus policy has also had alarming consequences well beyond China. Southeast Asian fruit farmers are especially vulnerable because so much of the region's exports are directed toward the country. In 2020, the total fruit exports from Southeast Asia to China stood at roughly USD 6 billion.
Long lines of trucks arriving from Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos are now backed up on China's border crossings. Dragon fruit farmers in Vietnam, who export mostly to China, have been pushed heavily into debt, according to New York Times.
In Myanmar, watermelon exporters are dumping their fruit on the border because truck drivers have been told to quarantine for 15 days before they can bring the goods into China.
The restrictions appear to have especially hurt Vietnam's dragon fruit farmers. After nine cities in China said they had detected the coronavirus on dragon fruit imported from Vietnam, the authorities shut down supermarkets selling the fruit, forced at least 1,000 people who had come into contact with the fruit to quarantine, and ordered customers to be tested, according to New York Times.
Then, in late December, China closed its border with Vietnam for the first time during the pandemic.
"China did not tell Vietnam anything in advance," said Dang Phuc Nguyen, general secretary of the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association.
China accounts for more than 55 percent of Vietnam's USD 3.2 billion in fruit and vegetable exports, chief of which is the dragon fruit.
The ripple effects of China's zero-Covid policy have accelerated discussions about Southeast Asia's dependence on the world's second-largest economy. They have also coincided with growing anxiety in the region over Beijing's presence in the South China Sea, disputed waters that many Southeast Asian nations claim as their own, as noted by New York Times. (ANI)