China paving its way to the future Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
The year 2020 can be described as a year of great chaos, exploration and reflection. The novel coronavirus pandemic lasted the entire year, with China being a constant focus of the world. COVID-19’s impact is violent, and it has exposed the true face of every system and every governance model. The public health crisis has tested the driving forces and power of every society.
This is a year full of sadness and dramatic changes. China, the hardest-hit country at the initial stage, successfully reined in the virus, while Europe and the US have become the epicenter. The US has turned out to be the world’s biggest failure in the fight against COVID-19. This is unimaginable and shocking.
China’s comprehensive fight against the epidemic has undoubtedly achieved the best result among major countries. However, the US and the West have intensified their attacks against China over COVID-19 and the related issues. Positive sentiment toward China among Western public opinion declined sharply. This is hard to understand.
In the face of such a huge crisis, some societies are willing to proactively confront it, adjusting through objective self-examination. But some societies are passive, as they reject reality and stick their heads in the sand.
Chinese society has long faced controversies about its “system.” Due to ideological pressure and inducement from the West, no matter what happens in China, even a trivial matter at the basic societal level can easily expand into a debate over systems. There are not many resources that can help Chinese society better understand systems. The materials that Chinese people can refer to are normally about the failure of the Soviet Union, the leading position of the West, results of “color revolutions,” achievements of China’s reform and opening-up, and that the Chinese mainland has quickly caught up with the island of Taiwan in terms of economy. These materials have different sources, backgrounds, and historical conditions, and have their own reasons. Therefore, they testify to different views.
This pandemic has created almost identical shocks and challenges for all countries. Every society has faced the same enemy and endured the same dangers, and they must use all their strength to face the various damages COVID-19 has caused. Therefore, this pandemic has provided unprecedented comparability to test the efficiency of different governance methods.
Indeed, such a test does not explain everything, but it has opened new cognitive room for Chinese society and added to Chinese people’s experience of understanding different political systems. Western movies, books and reports on their advanced technology and strict rule of law, as well as the social scenes seen by Chinese people during their travels to the West, have all shaped our good impression of the Western system. Although there are also some criticisms of the Western system’s weaknesses, they are all at the level of public opinion.
The different performances of the Chinese and Western COVID-19 fight have brought shocks to Chinese people. China is able to control the epidemic, but the West just cannot. This is beyond our expectations. But the US government has passed the buck to China and some Western forces have ridiculously supported Washington. This has further broken the myth that Western public opinion is objective and fair.
It is believed that the US’ national image must have been severely damaged by its failure in the COVID-19 fight. For most Chinese people, the US’ image as an idol of developed countries has been shattered, especially in 2020. The ideology of Chinese society will be affected for a long time.
What is the order of values of a society? The West has always told Chinese people that what they refer to as “democracy” and “freedom” should be at the forefront. But according to the historical experience of Chinese society, national stability is the foundation, and people’s livelihood, including people’s health and safety, is above it. Only when all these are taken as a foundation can other political pursuits be solid and promote people’s happiness. This order of values has been proven to be the most practical and humanitarian in this pandemic.
Since its reform and opening-up, China has achieved rapid development. Many people see only China’s development speed, but they ignore the profound thing behind it – China’s maintenance of national stability and order. In the COVID-19 fight, China first focused on controlling the epidemic, removing the most disruptive factors and restraining turbulence to the greatest extent.
The US has stepped down from the altar, and the Chinese people can see it more clearly. The US has a weak will when it comes to correcting its errors, and this is unexpected. The Chinese system is more capable of doing the right thing at critical moments. This is not a theory. It is the fact and experience gained by Chinese people.
Indeed, the year 2020 is just a turning point in the long river of history. China has done so well this year, and the government has played its role to the fullest. This has made some people worry: When the epidemic eases, will the necessary relaxation of controls happen? In fact, flexibility has played an important role in China’s success since the reform and opening-up.
In our view, the success of China’s COVID-19 fight is not because China is strict when it wants to be strict, but that China can have whatever it needs. China only focuses on actual results.