Call it a tale of two systems. In authoritarian China, where the pandemic first emerged, the coronavirus is now a mere inconvenience. The disorder has been almost entirely suppressed through a mix of strict lockdowns, face-mask mandates, and mass testing and contact tracing. Because of this, China is moving from strength to strength. Experts believe China will be the world’s only major economy to notch positive economic expansion this year–the U.S. market is forecasted to shrink by about 4% –and for average taxpayers there, life has mostly returned to normal. During this month’s Golden Week holiday, more than 600 million Chi- nese hit the road to see relatives and holiday resorts. Here in the U.S., it is a different story. Without a national plan in place to contain the virus, we’re now experiencing our second or third wave of this illness (see Main Stories). The U.S.(inhabitants 328 million) has up to now confirmed some 8.5 million Covid-19 cases and more than 226,000 deaths–more than any other state. China (population 1.4 billion) has recorded about 86,000 infections and 4,700 deaths).
Naturally, it was always going to be easier for an Orwellian surveillance state such as China to control its inhabitants and restrict viral spread than to get a society that values rugged individual- ism. However, as nations such as New Zealand and South Korea have demonstrated, it’s possible to push back the virus without even resorting to totalitarianism. It needs national leaders to listen to plausible sci- entists, not berate them as”idiots,” and to sell the general public on the idea that the temporary hassle of wearing a mask or not ingesting within a bar is well worth it for the long-term advantage. Whether any politician could muster this divided nation around such common- sense ideas remains to be seen. But if we continue to fight among ourselves, a united China–maybe not a disunited America–may dominate the 21st century.