White flags are seen at the National Mall in Washington, DC, USA, on September 16, 2021. More than 660,000 white flags were installed here to honor the lives lost to COVID-19 in the United States. Photo: Xinhua
“China’s Zero-Covid ‘policy holds lessons for other nations,” the headline read in an article in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. This surprised many who questioned whether this was the same media that had constantly attacked China on their COVID-19 prevention and control strategy.
Such an “abnormality” can also be seen in a recent Bloomberg article entitled “Why the World Needs China’s Covid-Zero Policy”, which confirms the role that China’s dynamic zero-COVID policy has played in protecting global supply chains.
It seems that some American media, intentionally or not, have finally woken up to reality. According to Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, this is because of the impact that different epidemic reactions in China and the United States have on the economic and social development of each nation. The facts and results of Beijing’s epidemic prevention and control policy are just too hard to deny now.
One example could be how China managed to control the Omicron variant of the new coronavirus in the midst of the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. Before the event began, some Western media and elites kept hyping the theory that China’s zero COVID strategy “will not work” against the highly transferable variant. But now that the games are coming to an end, the situation, both inside and outside the “closed loop” control system, has hit these people in the face.
Yet the existence of these relatively calm voices in American media does not mean that Washington is trying to learn from Beijing’s experience with COVID-19 prevention and control. This is more a way for American elites to reflect on their country’s mistakes through the conflicting realities between China and the United States caused by different COVID-19 strategies.
Of course, even if some in Washington want to learn from Beijing, the former cannot fully learn from the latter’s experiences. Li told the Global Times that this was due in part to cultural and institutional differences. For example, unlike individualism and decentralization in the United States, China’s strong top-down commitment to action and the ability to cooperate demonstrated in the epidemic’s prevention and control process is somewhat difficult for others to learn.
On the other hand, the learning process will be hindered by the disgusting political environment of the United States, including polarization of domestic policy, dysfunction of the political system, and rising anti-China sentiment. Li noted that many opportunistic careerists take advantage of loopholes in the American system. “American politicians are now showing the importance of themselves or their party by attacking their political rivals. They are thinking more about how they can use the chaos at home to increase their own power,” he said.
Against this background, the population’s distrust of the government has also grown. As a result, people in the United States are more likely to disagree with any policy the government has developed. This has actually pushed Washington into a dead end in the fight against the epidemic.
With all these barriers, the West, especially the United States, faces a painful dilemma: Learning from China – too difficult; not to learn from China – more tragedies. Moreover, for some Western elites, learning from the Chinese experience means confirming that China has beaten the West in terms of the COVID-19 strategy. It’s something they do not want to admit. That is why self-reflection from American media came so late.
The new coronavirus has killed more than 920,000 people in the United States, and the number is still rising. People always say, “Better late than never.” But now the question is, how much time is left for American elites to continue to reflect and make changes before the country reaches the disgraceful milestone of one million deaths?
The White House COVID-19 Response Team announced Wednesday that the United States is moving toward “a time when COVID is not a crisis.” But is the crisis really over soon? It is feared that the crisis in American politics and society revealed during the epidemic will still continue.