Had China taken the more open approach favoured by the US and Europe, the resultant spike in case numbers and mortality would have hurt its economic partners. Any debate on the impact of China’s zero-Covid policy should also recognise how the world has benefited from it.
Hong Kong’s performance in handling the pandemic is admirable on a global scale but anomalous compared to its peers in East Asia. Several factors have been suggested as explaining the city’s unusually high number of deaths, but the evidence points to poor levels of public trust.
From Japan to Singapore, East Asia’s developed economies continue to report remarkably fewer infections and deaths. This is despite the early vaccine advantages of their rich Western peers, and even as milder variants lower death rates globally.
Increasing Chinese aid to Afghanistan and other developing countries could inspire a global effort to reorganise how support gets distributed. A China-led renaissance in development aid would enhance Beijing’s soft power and help manage Covid-19’s global impact.
Many parts of the world are in a vaccine mess. East Asia has the purchasing power to supply vaccines to the developing world, and this would translate into huge cultural and political gains for the region.
The global order led by the US and Europe cannot move as quickly as China, which can ease tensions and earn goodwill in one master stroke, while fulfilling a genuine need. If it provokes the international elite into action, so much the better.
In real numbers, East Asian economies like China and South Korea are handling the crisis better than Western countries, in large part, it would seem, because of their strong traditions of Confucianism and Buddhism and sense of shared responsibility.
While some fear that resurgent communist ideology will undo China’s gains and spark aggression towards other nations, this is unlikely because of how enmeshed China’s economy is with the West.
Owing to Hong Kong’s colonial history and role in global affairs, the city’s relationship with Beijing is vastly different from the equally complex cross-strait relations. Extrapolating from events in Hong Kong to forecast Taiwan’s future is a mistake.