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China and COVID-19: a shock to its economy, a metaphor for its development

First published: LSEIdeas, Strategic Update, February 2020

President Xi Jinping has vowed to wage a ‘people’s
war’ against the COVID-19 epidemic. Judging by the
draconian measures that have been introduced to
quarantine tens of millions of people, restrict the return
to work after the Chinese New Year, and shutter much of
the Chinese economy, he was certainly not understating
his determination.

Yet, while this is unquestionably a serious public health
issue, there are at least three other important issues
related to it. The first is the dire consequences of the
government’s containment measures for the economy, at
least in the early part of 2020. Second, the government’s
conduct unveils significant features about governance in
Xi’s China that can be mapped on to China’s development.
Third, this crisis is almost certainly the biggest challenge
that Xi Jinping has faced since coming to power in 2012.
He will survive it and feel emboldened to continue with
the contours of governance he has asserted. Yet this will
likely prove to be incompatible with China’s economic
development goals. Read on…..