TRENDING My 2020: Daniel Bell’s thoughts on China’s success in containing COVID-19


My 2020: Daniel Bell’s thoughts on China’s success in containing COVID-19

People's Daily app

18:43, December 11, 2020

In 2019, no one would expect 2020 to be the one we have experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, interrupting everyone’s normal life and taking more than 15 million lives.

As we are about to bid fare well to year 2020, People’s Daily app interviewed a variety of people with different occupations and at different locations and rolled out the video series “My 2020”. The year of 2020 may not be delightful but it is definitely memorable.

As a political theorist focusing on Confucianism and political meritocracy and the author of the best seller The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, Daniel Bell has been working and teaching in China for 24 years.

In 2020, Bell had both bad and good memories. His mother contracted COVID-19 in Montreal, Canada while he was in China. Hearing mother’s infection, he was deeply worried. Luckily and miraculously, his mother showed no symptoms despite the pre-existing conditions and went back to normal after tested three times negative for the virus.

Bell’s best memory in 2020 is when he and his wife were not able to travel around the world, they adopted a baby kitten from a pet store in Shanghai. While the COVID-19 pandemic restricted people’s outdoor activities, the kitten is a lightener for their moods.

As the Dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration, Shandong University, Bell is a witness of China’s success of containing the COVID-19 epidemic. He attributes the success to China’s experience in dealing with the SARS in 2003 and the Chinese people’s trust in scientific expertise and the government.

Countries don’t have those elements or traditions may not do as well. Bell take the US as an example that on one hand Americans blame President Trump for his policies which are not informed by science and his skeptical or hostile attitude to science. On the other hand, “people are the problems sometimes,” Bell said that Americans lack trust in scientific expertise and political rulers that are supposed to implement policies for their benefits. “My current freedom matters more than my desire to protect my own life and to protect the life of other people”, Bell believes if people hold this kind of opinion, any kind of government will not end well.

Chinese people’s reaction to the country's top respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan’s remarks impressed Bell very much that when Zhong sounded the alarm that the coronavirus could transmit from human to human in January, immediately the whole country mobilized and agreed to follow the epidemic control and prevention measures.

In contrast, the anti-elite tradition is wide spread in the US whereas not at all wide spread in China, that explains the different epidemic situations in the two countries.

In Bell and Wang Pei’s new book Just Hierarchy: Why Social Hierarchies Matter in China and the Rest of the World, they argued what would justify a hierarchy between the rulers and the ruled. The two main traditions in China are Confucianism and legalism. All Chinese Confucianists agree the purpose of the government is to serve the people and there has to be a strong trust between rulers and the ruled. The legalist tradition justifies harsh measures when it comes to national emergencies and threats to social order like warfare and pandemics. They argued that China has both Confucianism and legalism tradition merged, which also explains the country’s success of dealing with COVID-19 pandemic.

(Produced by Qiao Wai, Ni Tao, Liang Peiyu, Zhao Dantong, Yan Yiqiao and Wang Xiangyu)

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