CAMILLE BRYAN WRITES — It is the most basic of diplomatic issues between the People’s Republic of China and the United States: Misconceptions and fears over each country’s motives, especially in a time of global crisis, bring nerves over the pandemic to a dangerous level.
Many people in the United States hold a negative perception of China as a Communist country with an overreaching authoritarian government looking to take over the world (or at least replace the US as world leader). That erroneous assumption represents a dangerous mindset, especially in a time of panic. What we lack in a global sense, and which is accentuated during times such as these, is a calculated and informed notion of precisely what is happening – including fair, unbiased analyses of each country’s response and how they differ.
I have heard my peers say recently that we need to follow China by having a complete lockdown to quell the spread of the virus. What they fail to understand is the essential difference in political systems of these two countries, including, but not limited to, the social histories of government reach and intervention as well as the public’s response to said government action. During government lockdown in Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, residents were forbidden from leaving the city, all means of public transportation closed, and eventually people were barred from stepping out their front door without permission from the police. Neighbors kept close watch over one another and reported illicit behavior, even for those who, let’s say, went to buy cold medicine from the pharmacy.
Is this exactly the life Americans want? Perhaps not, even if it is the way to stop this incredible pandemic. To compare any other country, with its differing populace and political system, to China is irresponsible. That kind of police action in the United States has a very slim chance of being accepted. China has a long history of repressive government and involvement in its citizens’ lives. Meanwhile, the US has systematically rejected that kind of intervention. The way in which the Chinese government and Communist Party restrict internet access, political speech and even family planning is something most Americans could never imagine, much less support.
This fundamental historical and political difference is why the Chinese approach to the coronavirus cannot be applied in the U.S. The government, especially the Trump administration, could not just command its citizens to remain in their homes as they did in Hubei province. What, then, can be reasonably done in the coming months to help Americans protect themselves? Listen. Follow the suggestions of leading national public health institutes like the Center for Disease Control. Wash your hands. Stay inside if you can. Avoid close contact with people outside of your immediate, and small, social circle.
Is that too much to ask?
LMU’s Camille Bryan is an International Relations major and a Chinese minor graduating in May. She is proficient in Mandarin and Spanish, and includes courses such as ‘China Looks at the U.S./U.S. Looks at China’ in her successful undergraduate portfolio.