Xi Jinping has called on officials to promote the image of a ‘lovable’ China, a word that in Chinese literally means ‘cute’. And cuteness does have universal reach, as cat lovers and Western media outlets following the adventures of 15 Chinese elephants can attest to.
A hierarchical political system promotes efficiency by empowering officials to implement policies, while allowing other experts to deal with problems in different areas. But it must ideally make space for challenges to authority.
Out of the ashes of infection and death come fresh calls for freedom of speech, real pressure to cut bureaucracy and formalism, a will to fix problems rather than scapegoat outsiders, and the precious discovery that China has friends in its hour of need.