Air, rail and road routes closed across the country.
Significant production cuts and closures of multinational corporations.
Billions of dollars shaved off of the GDP of the largest economy in the world.
These tragic and devastating outcomes comprise a mere shortlist of the lasting, innumerable repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic on China and its citizens.
In late December 2019, Chinese public health officials informed the World Health Organization (WHO) that an unknown, novel virus was spreading an illness with pneumonia-like symptoms in the Wuhan province of Southeast China. Officials quickly determined that the mysterious virus belonged to the large family of coronaviruses that can infect birds and mammals, including humans. The WHO termed the illness caused by the coronavirus “Covid-19” – “co” and “vi” for coronavirus, “d” for disease, and “19” for the year that the virus emerged. China took aggressive action in response to the Covid-19 outbreak: transportation and public gatherings were suspended, sick individuals were isolated and their contacts diligently tracked, and a dedicated network of hospitals was constructed to test for the virus.
At the beginning of April, the number of new Covid-19 cases in China began to markedly decline, inducing the government to permit the re-opening of popular tourist sites and other public places. Yet, as observed over the course of the following weeks, China’s return to a “new normal” in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic would involve grave challenges both within and beyond its borders. In addition to the resurgence of Covid outbreaks in its northern provinces of Shulan and Jilin as bans were lifted, the contraction of the country’s domestic markets reflected the serious economic repercussions of the virus. As Chinese consumers significantly reduced their purchases across industries, businesses struggled to remain profitable, and China’s nearly 50-year run of economic growth was brought to a halt. In fact, economic analysts indicated that China’s economy shrunk nearly 7% during the first three months of the new year. However, the country’s most critical struggles in the pandemic’s aftermath lay outside its borders: China continued to be under intense global scrutiny for its treatment and reporting of the Covid-19 outbreak, particularly from American officials. Since early February, US intelligence accused China of deliberately misreporting and obscuring important information pertaining to the origin of the virus, the total number of Covid cases and death/recovery rates. US intelligence asserted that China significantly underreported the extent of the pandemic and the number of present cases, thereby criticizing its lifting of isolation bans and opening of public places. Tensions between the US and China came to a head at the recent WHO conference. In response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement that the country would donate $2 billion towards fighting Covid-19 in developing nations, American officials accused China of using this act of generosity to forestall scrutiny of whether it hid its knowledge of the pandemic from the world. Throughout its reopening, China has continued to be portrayed as dishonest and incompetent by the American media. US news agencies persistently insinuate that China’s cooperative efforts (e.g. at the latest WHO conference) are rooted in selfish motivations: the maintenance of China’s role as a world power on the global stage. Consequently, the American media tends to question the validity of virus data from Chinese sources without reflecting on its possible importance to accurately reporting the pandemic’s development.
As American citizens, China’s domestic and international challenges as it returns to a “new normal” foreshadow the difficulties of our days ahead as regions across the US commence the first phase of their reopening. We must be prepared to endure unemployment and contracting markets as well as the personal challenges associated with these economic hardships. Presently, the current death count from Covid in the US stands at 128,000. It is critical that we band together across political, socioeconomic and cultural divisions to rebuild our nation. Furthermore, we ought to cooperate within an international framework by learning from other countries ahead of us in the reopening phase and assist those countries that are struggling. As repeatedly indicated throughout the unfolding of history, the US does not exist in a vacuum from the rest of the world: our response to the Covid-19 pandemic is integrally bound up with our own welfare and those of other nations. Though we may be geographically separated, we are united in a global community that must work together to combat the scourge of disease. Akin to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, Covid-19 did not discriminate amongst its victims by nationality or location: it transcended physical, political, socioeconomic and cultural boundaries. Likewise, we must reflect on our internalized political, socioeconomic, or cultural discriminations and transcend these failings for the well-being of our world, thereby empowering the global community to heal from the loss and destruction induced by the pandemic. Only then will our “new normal” truly become normal.