March 31, 2020 by Dymphna

Corona has become an epic test for democracy

China says they’ve won the war on Corona. Does that mean the Chinese model is better?

The theatre of the Coronavirus has shifted squarely to America now…

… and the future of liberal democracy hangs in the balance.

That’s my take on it. Look, I know you’ve probably got enough to worry about right now. I know a lot of people are doing it tough. (Single-mothers stuck at home with the kids right now – sending heart-beams and a pack of crayons your way.)

But the tectonic plates of geo-politics are shifting, and I’m not sure we’re going to end up on the side we want to end up on.

Because right now, China is all but declaring victory over Covid-19. They’re lifting cities and regions out of lockdown, and they appear to have successfully ‘flattened the curve’.

Not only that, they’re not positioning themselves as global leaders in the virus response. Not only are they proactively sharing lessons learnt with other countries, they’re pumping out the face-masks, respirators and ventilators.

When the rest of Europe refused or was unable to come to Italy’s aid, it was China who committed to deliver a huge amount of the necessary supplies.

In and of itself, this would be great. I am genuinely happy for the people of China that lives are no longer at risk.

But this all comes with a slowly building case for the “Chinese way of doing things” – that only a centralised, tightly-controlled one-party state could achieve such a victory.

And so all eyes look to America. America has increasingly retreated from roles of global coordination and leadership (remember how they banned travel from Europe without talking to a single European leader about it?), and it’s that vacuum that China is trying to fill.

But this philosophy of “putting America first” must be good for Americans, right? America’s still going to win the gold medal for Corona-combat right?

Well, the outlook isn’t great. Look at the data:

Macintosh HD:Users:tomkeily:Dropbox:Screenshots:Screenshot 2020-03-29 19.45.27.png

The US has blown through 120,000 confirmed cases, eclipsing China’s case-load with a bullet.

(That’s not a competition you want to be winning.)

And unless America pulls something miraculous out of the hat, it’s really going to struggle to flatten the curve the way China has.

And remember, China achieved its curve flattening with some pretty Big-Brother-esque mechanisms. Surveillance, lock-downs, digital pass-outs just to get out of your compound. Scomo reckons they were welding doors shut in some places.

I don’t see that America is in the position, or has the inclination, to do anything like that.

So what do you have?


The price of freedom is responsibility.

Just like Australia, America has to rely on the responsibility of its citizens, and their willingness to do the right things.

And this is the real contest now. The real proof-of-concept. Can a responsible and free citizenry achieve willingly what an authoritarian state can only achieve with force?

(We can do this right? We can do the right thing without being told, right?)

In the coming weeks, both here and in America, democracy and freedom will face one of their biggest tests.

Tell me we’re up for the job.