The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games concluded on Sunday with most of the athletes and officials praising the event. Despite the international community acknowledging the remarkable achievements China has made over the past four decades, the success of the Beijing Winter Games came as a pleasant surprise to the world, not least because it was held amid the COVID-19 pandemic and nullified some Western countries’ efforts to derail the event.
The United States, as the world’s sole superpower, has been using many tricks in the trade to check China’s rise. And the US administration, media, think tanks and scientists and doctors have taken turns to tell China to follow the West and learn to “live with the virus”.
Eurasia Group, a US-based political risk consultancy, has even listed the failure of China’s epidemic response model as the world’s biggest risk in 2022, although the situations in many European countries and the US show the high human and economic cost of “coexisting with the virus”.
More important, the West is aware of the humanitarian disaster “living with the virus” could cause in China given that it is home to more than 260 million people aged 60 or above.
True, the rise of the East and the decline of the West seems an irreversible trend, but it is also true that the soft and hard power of the West is still superior to China’s, and the West is still a strong influence and mesmerizing force for the rest of the world.
Yet China has stuck to its own anti-epidemic policies, which, among other things, have helped it host a “simple, safe and splendid” Winter Olympics. The pandemic and the US-led Western efforts to disrupt the Winter Games were a test for China’s dynamic zero-COVID-19 policy. But in the end, China has proved its anti-pandemic approach is effective.
China’s institutional strengths and strong governance have played a key role in making its pandemic-control policy successful. To be sure, China’s people-centered approach is based not only on its own traditions and experiences but also on the successful practices of other societies. That’s why China’s anti-pandemic policy has provisions for addressing problems and correcting its course, if need be, and cultivating talents. Another reason for its success is that the Chinese government solicits public opinions before finalizing a policy, which is an apt example of good governance.
China is the world’s second-largest economy and its economy is still growing. China’s GDP in 2021 reached $17.7 trillion, up $3.4 trillion compared with 2019, while the US economy increased by only $1.57 trillion in the intervening two years.
To effectively contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and host a successful Winter Olympics, China needed not only strong governance capacity and correct thinking but also a solid material foundation. And the dynamic zero COVID-19 policy, to a large extent, fulfilled that need.
Western countries, too, have a material base but their governments either lack the capacity or don’t have the political will to strongly contain the pandemic. But many developing countries, due to a lack of resources, may find it difficult to follow China’s model. India, for example, could not supply enough oxygen during the second wave of infections and sought the help of the international community to tide over the crisis.
So how could China manage to deal with the public health crisis?
Chinese people cherish collectivism and inherent practical rationality. Unlike Western countries, China attaches importance to practice and problem-solving ability. For example, while China was trying its best to contain the pandemic and save lives, the West was debating which method is democratic, with the question of whether or not to wear face masks dividing many a society.
In fact, the West seemed more concerned about acquiring “herd immunity” and “coexisting with the virus” instead of taking steps to contain the pandemic. No wonder Chinese have worked together to get through difficult times, sometimes even sacrificing their individual interests and taking initiatives to ensure the collective policies of the government are successful. This time they are supporting the government in the hope that once the pandemic is effectively contained, they could regain their collective and individual freedom.
China is confident about the effectiveness of its anti-pandemic model despite some Western countries raising doubts about its prevention and control measures. In fact, it is because of the effectiveness of its anti-pandemic measures that China could hold a spectacular Winter Olympics.
In short, if the Beijing Summer Games 14 years ago were about showing the world what a real China was like, the Winter Games are about telling it what a peacefully rising China can do for the world despite facing multiple challenges.