March 20, 2020
It should be obvious that China and it’s 1400 million people have managed this grave challenge in a way that should make every thinking human curious.
However a large segment of the Western politicians – Trump in particular – and media have shown no particular curiosity whereas much has been presented about authoritarian methods, repressing truthtellers in Wuhan and a considerable amount of racist comments – from the Danish newspaper’s Chinese corona flag to Wall Street Journal’s calling China a “sick man” and, latest, Trump insisting on calling the COVID-19 “the Chinese virus”.
Few have asked and investigated answers to questions such as:
• Which factors and societal features can explain that such a huge society got on top of the problem and now seems to have it under control?
• What were the immediate political measures and policies at various government levels?
• How did people and authorities cooperate? How were citizens informed and mobilized?
• How will the dissatisfaction expressed by citizens be used constructively by the Party to learn and listen in the future?
• What individual and national fears versus “the people’s war against the virus” played out?
• Are there specific cultural factors – say, Confucianism or traditions – that can explain it?
• How did the Chinese react to the surprise? How did they keep calm? What role did the Party leadership play psychologically?
• To say the least, it must have been a gigantic management problem beyond the ordinary routines. How did the Chinese manage a huge national emergency, make decisions and coordinate from the national leadership to the single health worker, or agricultural workers – everybody doing something they never did under normal circumstances? The balance between hierarchy and voluntarism?
• How do the Chinese define “security” and how had China prepared itself for such an emergency?
• Which new and innovative ways were developed by modern (communication) technology in combating the problem?
• What role did solidarity – people-to-people cooperation – play? Was there hoarding, panic or a “stand with your neighbour” attitude.
• How did various sectors – business, culture, education – cope with it and contribute creatively to the solution?
Perhaps because I am educated as a sociologist, I find such questions immensely interesting. They are also fundamentally important if we in the West want to control the Coronavirus before it spreads exponentially.
In other words, what can we in the West learn from the Chinese and how they pulled through (that is, if the declining West does not play too proud to learn anything at all)?
In times of crisis a lot of real “truths” are revealed about the individuals, groups and institutions, including governments, that will teach us new things about the identity and quality of society.
It will also be a unique opportunity to make – perceptional, not necessarily scientific – comparative studies: We have seen how the leader of the Orient handled the corona crisis; now we shall see how the leader of the Occident (and its friends and allies in Europe) handle it.
Much remains still to be seen. I thought I would share just a few videos rather than long texts that I have come across. Find a few videos below. More to come – also good articles – as I find them.
Just as an inspiration for my readers – both in terms of sociological observations and also containing here and there some tips about how to behave yourself.
They are quite illustrative, I think, and one aspect of it them all is the – simple – emphasis on face masks and other individual protection gear.
Perhaps I notice this because in Sweden where I live, there are no face masks available since around March 1 and because I have lived in Japan for long periods of time and seen how everybody protects others by wearing masks when they themselves have just an ordinary flue.
That sort of protection is about you protecting others, not just yourself. A first hint of collective thinking and solidarity – a sociological or socio-psychological observation of some importance.
These first videos are produced in China. If you feel you cannot trust anything official from that country, you’ll miss a lot of important information. I myself trust these reports more than 90% of what I have seen recently in the Western press – for reasons I spelled out in the introduction.
The West would do wise in not only continuing to teach everybody else – with a Bible and also with Sword – but to learn. COVID-19 will, in my view, be a wake-up call in more than one sense.
• For mine danske læsere vil jeg varmt anbefale Eric Messerschmidt’s rapporter fra Beijing om store og små sider af hverdagslivet – og med mange nyttige fakta. Eric er chef for Dansk Kulturcenter dér og har boet og arbejdet i 18 år i Kina. Du finder dem hér.