China’s Covid triumphalism could be premature

China’s Covid triumphalism could be premature

In 2009, Martin Jacques, a British author, published a bestselling book, When China Rules the World. Mr Jacques is now running a victory lap. He recently proclaimed that “we will remember 2020 as the moment of the Great Transition. The year when China replaced the US as the world’s leading power.”

Believers in a “great transition” see Covid-19 as the handmaiden of history. The pandemic started in China. But the Chinese government has done a much better job of containing the disease than the US. According to Johns Hopkins University, the total number of US deaths from Covid-19 stood at over 223,000 at the end of last week compared with 4,379 in China. With the disease contained, the Chinese economy is rebounding and looks set to grow by 2 per cent this year, making it the only G20 economy to expand. By contrast, the US economy is likely to shrink by 3-5 per cent and the major European economies are in trouble.

China’s ability to enforce quarantines and test widely is generally seen as crucial to the country’s success. At a recent ceremony, handing out medals to Chinese citizens for their work on Covid-19, President Xi Jinping announced that “the pandemic once again proves the supremacy of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics”.