lørdag 8. februar 2020

Coronavirus and China’s ‘Authoritarian Advantage’

The international media have trumpeted China’s impressive and unprecedented response to the novel coronavirus outbreak that began in late 2019. In addition to taking unprecedented action by locking down over 53 million people (more that the population of South Korea), China has been lauded for its rapid hospital construction. Numerous breathless descriptions can be found in the news of China’s “resolute” and “decisive” actions, with regular assertions that no other country could possibly match China’s actions. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has been publicly fulsome in its praise of Chinese transparency and willingness to act in response to this new global threat.

The state’s ability to take quick and dramatic decisions and then implement them reflects what may be referred to as China’s “authoritarian advantage.” An authoritarian regime may take even controversial, untested policies and quickly implement them in the field. As is regularly noted in the press, no democratic government would dare to take many of the steps China is taking – not just quarantines, dramatic social distancing requirements, and rapid hospital construction, but also control over domestic media, massive mobilization of health workers from across the country, and more.