Walmart’s China branch announced at an investment conference hosted by the Wuhan city government on Wednesday that it was committing 3 billion yuan ($425 million) to expand its presence in the origin point of the coronavirus pandemic over the next five years.
According to Walmart China, the company will be putting up at least four new Sam’s Club stores, 15 additional shopping malls, and more community stores in the capital of China’s Hubei province. The U.S.-based retailer already has 34 stores and two distribution centers in the city, where the global coronavirus pandemic first emerged in December.
Wern-Yuen Tan, President and CEO of Walmart China, announced the decision in collaboration with Wuhan’s municipal government, saying “the framework marks a new milestone between the two parties and a new beginning for a win-win situation.”
Wuhan ended its city-wide lockdown on Wednesday, after 76 days of mandatory shutdown, despite fears that the city was still hosting many asymptomatic cases. City residents have dismissed the official death toll of approximately 2,500, while U.S. intelligence concluded last week that the city has been lying about its number of cases.
The corporate response to China’s handling of the coronavirus has been mixed. The American Chamber of Commerce polled 119 companies last month on their China outlook, with 40 percent saying they would maintain their planned levels of investment in China this year, while 24 percent said they plan to cut investment. A third said it was too early to determine coronavirus’s impact.
U.S. lawmakers have grown increasingly critical of the U.S.’s over reliance on China in recent months, especially relating to medical supplies — with experts suggesting that “thousands” of basic pharmaceuticals are sourced in China.
Last month, Representative Jim Banks (R., Ind.) warned that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposed stimulus package did not address U.S. dependence on Chinese supply chains, despite bipartisan concerns about the issue.
Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) also proposed a phase-four relief package last week that promoted bringing “critical supply chains back to this country from China and elsewhere and to encourage domestic production.”