What should we learn from China

Combating Corona Can we learn from China after all?

1. China reported 23 new cases within a week. Are they better at fighting the virus?

After an initial paralysis, China built a strategy on existing structures relatively quickly, explains Nis Grünberg from the think tank Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies in Berlin. An important factor is the enormous mobilizing power of the party state. “You are not afraid to use large resources in a campaign style. This includes material resources, but also the existing administrative and monitoring structures. Structures that were used had already been created up to the block warden level. The China system has a clear advantage due to the enormous human resource factor, ”emphasizes Grünberg. A large part of the success is also due to digitization, which has penetrated closer to the citizens and is more effective than here, but in this country it would at least pose a data protection problem. The Stop Corona app is mandatory in order to be able to leave the house at all. A risk assessment then allows or prohibits activities - such as travel. In addition, there is no fruit from cordoning off entire areas and quarantining millions of people in just a few cases.

2. Can we learn from it?

"The Chinese system cannot be implemented one-to-one, but there are core elements that also work in other Asian countries that can be learned from," explains Grünberg. For example: “The consequent and rigorous tracing of contacts and testing what it takes. Small cities need to be able to perform around two million tests a day. This is essential if you want to find out quickly where the sources of the fire are. In addition, a quarantine that is strictly adhered to, ”says Grünberg. All of this with the support of digital solutions.

On January 31, 2020, after a home vacation in Austria, I flew via Paris to Beijing, with the last Air France plane before the temporary suspension of air traffic. When I arrived in China, there was a state of emergency with a severe lockdown. Only one person per household was allowed to go shopping; when leaving and entering the residential complexes, personal details were recorded and a fever was measured. Information about the state of health and uploading the measured body temperature to an app were the order of the day.
Today the “digital health code” is ubiquitous, everyone has it with them on their mobile phones. It shows whether or not people have been in crisis areas in the past 14 days - this is tracked via the mobile phone number. The code must be shown when entering shops, airports, etc. It is practically the entrance ticket to be allowed to participate in public life.

The fight against Covid-19 is seen in China as a collective responsibility: Orders of the state are supported, personal data is willingly uploaded via app. The collective responsibility puts enormous pressure on the individual, since infected people are threatened with "blame and shame". It is not uncommon for contact follow-ups to close schools or factories or even isolate entire cities. This leads many to extreme caution in order not to be publicly pilloried.

Gerhard Teschl, a native of Styria, lives and works in Nanjing, 600 kilometers from Wuhan.

3. But what do we not want to learn?

The People's Republic has a mode of crisis that can only be replicated in Europe to a limited extent. “In China there is a learned greater acceptance of interventions by the state in personal life. In addition, citizens would be monitored by digital components that are unthinkable in Europe, ”emphasizes the China expert.

4. And how is the vaccination going?

Immunization is progressing rapidly in China, with around 2.17 percent of the population already vaccinated. That corresponds to around 31 million vaccinations. For comparison: In Israel, almost 48 percent of the population has already been immunized - at least with the first dose. In absolute numbers, China is at the top. The People's Republic mainly inoculates its own vaccine. However, there is also a cooperation with Biontech. One advantage for the Chinese is that production facilities and structures already existed, explains Grünberg. The lack of structures is widely criticized in Europe.

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