Back in February, the Chinese state appeared to be in trouble. A terrifying virus had infected thousands of people and the country’s social media exploded in anger against the authorities faster than Chinese censors could scrub away the critical comments. Like governments elsewhere, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) turned to the emergency analogy of choice, the second world war. Channelling Mao Zedong’s guerrilla campaign against the Japanese in the 1930s, state media declared that China was fighting a ‘people’s war’ against the virus.
As in that earlier war, China’s conflict with the virus has shifted from a defiant retreat to a declaration of victory. Nor is this just bluster. The latest economic figures suggest its economy is the only one in the world that will make a full recovery from the virus — growing by 2 per cent while America’s falls by 5 per cent, the eurozone by 8 per cent and Britain by 10 per cent. Justin Yifu Lin, former chief economist of the World Bank, thinks China is on track to become the world’s biggest economy by 2030. Beijing can now look forward, while other major economies are still working out how to manage the damage while racking up staggering amounts of debt.
None of this could have happened had China not dealt so swiftly (often brutally) with Covid-19. This week, Chinese media has been full of images of people queuing for the new anti-viral vaccine — it feels there that the crisis is genuinely over.