A big screen on a building says: Fight On Wuhan, a day before the city reopened on April 8. China is emerging from lockdown ahead of other countries. Photo: Simon Song
by Daniel Wagner and Jonathan‌ ‌Rogers‌
by Daniel Wagner and Jonathan‌ ‌Rogers‌

China’s coronavirus success shows up poor pandemic preparedness in the rest of the world

  • The rest of the world had up to two months’ notice of the coronavirus but few governments took even basic steps to prepare for it. China, in contrast, took swift, bold steps, and may be rewarded economically when the looming depression is over
‌During‌ ‌the‌ ‌depths‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌ Great‌ ‌Recession, China‌ ‌was a ‌bastion‌ ‌of‌ ‌fiscal‌ ‌conservatism. Its‌ ‌currency‌ ‌did‌ ‌not‌ ‌free‌ ‌fall‌ (as so‌ ‌many‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌world‌’‌s‌ ‌major‌ ‌currencies‌ ‌did), its‌ companies‌ ‌did‌ ‌not‌ ‌collapse‌ ‌en‌ ‌masse‌ (as so‌ ‌many‌ ‌Western‌ ‌firms‌ ‌did), ‌and‌ ‌it‌ ‌ended‌ ‌up‌ ‌in‌ ‌relatively‌ ‌good‌ ‌shape.
Although‌ ‌it‌ ‌is‌ ‌too‌ ‌early‌ ‌to‌ ‌say‌ ‌if China will emerge similarly from ‌the‌ ‌global‌ ‌economic‌ ‌ depression‌ ‌unfolding‌ ‌because of Covid-19, what‌ ‌is‌ ‌certain ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌once‌ ‌Beijing‌ ‌decided‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌serious‌ ‌about‌ ‌containing‌ ‌the‌ virus, it‌ ‌did‌ ‌so‌ ‌with‌ ‌gusto‌ ‌and‌ ‌significant‌ ‌positive‌ ‌results.
Beijing‌ ‌should‌ ‌be‌ ‌criticised‌ ‌for‌ ‌its‌ ‌initial‌ ‌slow‌ ‌response, ‌ lack‌ ‌of‌ ‌transparency, ‌and‌ ‌ punishment‌ ‌of‌ ‌whistle‌-blowers‌ ‌and‌ ‌truth‌ ‌tellers. Had‌ ‌it‌ ‌responded‌ ‌differently, the‌ ‌world ‌would‌ ‌have‌ ‌had‌ ‌even‌ ‌more‌ ‌time‌ ‌to‌ ‌anticipate‌ ‌the‌ ‌arrival‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌virus‌ ‌and‌ ‌act‌ ‌more‌ ‌expeditiously‌ ‌to‌ ‌thwart‌ ‌its‌ ‌spread‌.

But‌ it‌ ‌should‌ ‌also be‌ acknowledged‌ ‌that‌ ‌during‌ ‌a‌ ‌pandemic‌ ‌with‌ ‌profound‌ ‌economic, social and‌ ‌health‌ ‌impacts, there‌ ‌really‌ ‌is‌ ‌no‌ ‌room‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌lot‌ ‌of‌ ‌discussion, worrying‌ ‌about‌ ‌political‌ ‌correctness, ‌or‌ ‌walking‌ ‌on‌ ‌eggshells‌ ‌for fear of offending‌ ‌individuals‌ ‌or‌ ‌businesses.

What‌ ‌is‌ ‌required‌ ‌is‌ ‌swift, ‌bold‌ ‌action. The ‌Chinese‌ ‌government‌ ‌had a‌ ‌ tremendous‌ ‌advantage‌ ‌in‌ implementing‌ ‌its action ‌plan‌, in its capability‌ and willingness‌ ‌to‌ ‌devote‌ ‌vast‌ ‌resources‌ ‌and‌ ‌use a‌ ‌draconian‌ ‌approach‌ ‌when‌ ‌necessary to solve ‌a ‌problem.
Although‌ we‌ ‌remain at‌ ‌the‌ ‌beginning‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌process‌ ‌of‌ ‌addressing‌ ‌Covid-19‌ ‌in‌ ‌most‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌rest‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌world, several‌ ‌things‌ ‌are‌ ‌clear: many‌ ‌governments‌ ‌are‌ ‌ poorly‌ ‌prepared‌ ‌to‌ ‌address‌ ‌a‌ ‌pandemic, too‌ ‌few‌ ‌had‌ ‌resources‌ ‌specifically‌ ‌earmarked‌ ‌for ‌pandemics, many‌ ‌have‌ ‌been‌ ‌too‌ ‌slow‌ ‌to‌ ‌address‌ ‌the‌ ‌virus, ‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌have‌ ‌performed‌ ‌poorly‌ ‌in‌ ‌mobilising‌ ‌resources.

Although‌ ‌the‌ ‌rest‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌world‌ ‌had‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌two ‌months‌’‌ ‌‌notice‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌virus‌ ‌would‌ ‌come ‌to‌ ‌their‌ ‌shores, too‌ ‌few‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌world’s‌ ‌governments‌ ‌took‌ ‌even‌ ‌rudimentary‌ ‌steps‌ ‌to‌ ‌prepare‌ ‌for‌ ‌its‌ ‌eventuality.

The‌ ‌Chinese‌ ‌government‌ ‌has‌ ‌a‌ ‌real‌ ‌advantage‌ ‌in‌ ‌times‌ ‌of‌ ‌crisis. ‌It‌ ‌can‌ ‌act‌ ‌with‌ ‌force‌ ‌swiftly‌ ‌and‌ ‌effectively; it‌ ‌has‌ ‌the‌ ‌ability‌ ‌to‌ ‌keep‌ ‌track‌ ‌of‌ ‌nearly‌ ‌all‌ ‌of‌ ‌its‌ ‌citizens; as‌ ‌a‌ ‌ leader‌ ‌in‌ ‌artificial intelligence, it‌ ‌can‌ ‌deploy‌ ‌electronic‌ ‌and‌ ‌drone‌ ‌technology‌ ‌to‌ ‌enforce‌ ‌its‌ ‌edicts; and‌ ‌it‌ ‌has‌ ‌proven‌ ‌repeatedly‌ ‌that‌ ‌it‌ ‌has‌ ‌the‌ ‌ability‌ ‌to‌ ‌deploy‌ ‌massive‌ ‌human, monetary ‌and‌ ‌physical‌ ‌resources‌ ‌as‌ ‌no‌ ‌other‌ ‌nation‌ ‌can‌.

Too‌ ‌many‌ ‌other‌ ‌nations‌ ‌cannot‌ ‌say‌ ‌any‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌above. The‌ ‌Chinese‌ ‌government‌ ‌also‌ ‌has‌ ‌the‌ ‌advantage‌ ‌of‌ ‌having‌ ‌practised‌ ‌long-term‌ ‌planning‌ ‌for‌ ‌decades, which‌ ‌makes‌ ‌preparedness‌ ‌for‌ ‌natural‌ ‌disasters‌ ‌much‌ ‌easier‌ ‌to‌ ‌achieve. China‌’‌s‌ ‌technology-based‌ ‌approach‌ ‌to‌ ‌stemming‌ ‌the‌ ‌spread‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌virus‌ ‌worked‌ ‌very‌ ‌effectively.

As‌ ‌Hubei‌ ‌province‌ ‌ begins‌ ‌to‌ ‌lift‌ ‌its‌ ‌lockdown‌ ‌and‌ ‌travel‌ ‌restrictions, it‌ ‌appears‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌worst‌ ‌may be over‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌ – at‌ ‌least, for‌ ‌this‌ ‌first‌ ‌wave‌ ‌of‌ ‌infections.
Notably, ‌China‌’‌s‌ ‌financial‌ ‌markets‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌renminbi‌ ‌have‌ ‌shown‌ ‌a‌ ‌resilience‌ ‌in‌ ‌recent‌ ‌trading‌ ‌sessions‌ ‌while‌ ‌other‌ ‌global‌ ‌equity‌ ‌markets‌ ‌have‌ ‌gone‌ ‌into‌ ‌ meltdown, ‌indicating‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌ ‌may‌ ‌be‌ ‌first‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌starting‌ ‌gates‌ ‌economically‌.

The‌ ‌legacy‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌virus, ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌Chinese‌ ‌government‌’‌s‌ ‌reaction‌ ‌to‌ ‌it, represent‌ ‌a‌ ‌stark‌ ‌clash‌ ‌between‌ ‌the‌ ‌Chinese‌ ‌and‌ ‌American‌ ‌systems‌ ‌of‌ ‌government. ‌As‌ ‌was‌ ‌also‌ ‌the‌ ‌case‌ ‌during‌ ‌the‌ ‌Great‌ ‌Recession, China‌ ‌seemed‌ ‌much‌ ‌better‌ ‌prepared‌ ‌to‌ ‌manage‌ ‌the‌ ‌crisis‌ ‌and‌ ‌weather‌ ‌the‌ ‌storm.

In ‌contrast, America’s‌ ‌government‌ ‌appears‌ ‌ feeble‌ ‌and‌ ‌inept, underscoring‌ ‌its‌ ‌woeful‌ ‌unpreparedness‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌viral ‌onslaught‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌enormous‌ ‌challenges‌ ‌it‌ ‌faces‌ ‌in‌ ‌executing‌ ‌its‌ ‌laggard‌ ‌response.
If‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌winner‌ ‌in‌ ‌all‌ ‌this‌, ‌it‌ ‌is‌ ‌President Xi‌ ‌Jinping, who‌ ‌sits‌ ‌unimpeachably‌ ‌astride‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌’‌s‌ ‌machinery‌ ‌of‌ ‌state, ‌ ‌backed‌ ‌by‌ ‌China‌’‌s‌ ‌state-owned‌ ‌enterprises‌ ‌and‌ ‌banking‌ ‌system‌, the ‌core‌ ‌constituents‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌’‌s‌ ‌fight‌ ‌to‌ ‌recover‌ ‌economically. ‌America‌ ‌can‌ ‌only‌ ‌look‌ ‌on‌ ‌in ‌awe‌ ‌at‌ ‌Xi‌’‌s‌ ‌domestic‌ ‌hold‌ ‌on‌ ‌power.
As‌ ‌Xi‌ ‌rides‌ ‌a‌ ‌surge‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌’‌s‌ ‌ soft‌ ‌power, ‌confident‌ ‌that‌ ‌his‌ ‌government’s‌ ‌response‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌virus‌ ‌successfully‌ ‌stopped‌ ‌its‌ ‌march‌ ‌across‌ ‌China, ‌Trump‌ ‌maintains‌ ‌his‌ ‌deluded‌ ‌sense‌ ‌of‌ ‌unreality, ‌ ‌leading‌ ‌America‌ ‌into‌ ‌an‌ ‌economic, ‌social ‌and‌ ‌health‌ ‌abyss.

Jonathan‌ ‌Rogers‌ ‌is‌ ‌CEO‌ ‌of‌ ‌Ostinato‌ ‌Associates. ‌Daniel‌ ‌Wagner‌ ‌is‌ ‌CEO‌ ‌of‌ ‌Country‌ ‌Risk‌ ‌Solutions‌ ‌and‌ ‌author‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌new‌ ‌book‌ ‌‌The‌ ‌America-China‌ ‌Divide‌

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