While China has more economic and technological ability to treat a disease, it’s more tightly controlled system makes Chinese society less able to counter a controllable outbreak. Despite China’s incredible economic success as of late, it’s important to remember that it is still fundamentally a communist country.
Recent events have been a stern reminder. Freedom can be messy, but it’s nothing like the mess an authoritarian regime creates when it fears losing power. The disturbing outbreak of the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China and the communist government’s response to it should be a reminder of the consequence of a system based on state control, without rule by the people and a vibrant civil society.
Many are impressed by the fact that China built a 1,000-bed hospital in 10 days—by employing about 7,000 people who worked around the clock.
However impressive that feat might be, it’s important to consider how dangerous the virus has become and the lack of communication and coordination that could have taken place to avoid having to take such extreme measures.
The virus initially broke out on Dec. 8 in China’s Wuhan province. Instead of immediately informing the public and bringing awareness to a potential outbreak of a highly contagious disease, the local governmental authorities waited three weeks to inform residents.
The Chinese government also actively attempted to suppress information about the outbreak as it escalated sharply.
“That’s clearly unacceptable, especially in light of the SARS experience, when a Chinese cover-up also occurred, and in light of the high domestic and international travel rates of the Chinese people today,” wrote Peter Brookes, a senior fellow for national security affairs at The Heritage Foundation.
“To minimize the spread of any potential epidemic, a host country must not only respond rapidly, but provide full transparency to advise not only its own citizenry, but the international community as well.”
While these actions (or inactions), so far at least, have mostly affected the people of China alone, a raging pandemic could have global consequences.