Publication date: Jun 26, 2023
After three years of global rampage, the COVID-19 epidemic, the most serious infectious disease to occur worldwide since the 1918 influenza pandemic, is nearing its end. From the global experience, medical control and social control are the two main dimensions in the prevention and control of COVID-19. From the perspective of “two types of control”, namely medical control and social control, this paper finds that the political system, economic structure, and cultural values of the United States greatly limit the government’s ability to impose social control, forcing it to adopt medical control to fight the virus in a single dimension. In contrast, China’s political system, economic structure, and cultural values allow its government to adopt stringent, extensive, and frequent social control, as well as medical control to fight the virus. This approach departs from the traditional pathway of fighting the epidemic, i. e., “infection-treatment-immunization”, thereby outpacing the evolution of the virus and controlling its spread more rapidly. This finding helps explain why the Chinese government adopted a strict “zeroing” and “dynamic zeroing” policy during the first three years, at the cost of enormous economic, social, and even political legitimacy. It was not until late 2022, when the Omicron variant with the waning virulence became prevalent, that China chose to “coexist” with the virus, thus avoiding a massive epidemic-related death. While the United States adopted a pulsed-style strategy at the beginning of the epidemic, i. e., “relaxation-suppression-relaxation-suppression”, and began to “coexist” with the virus in just one year, resulting in a large number of excess deaths associated with the epidemic. The study contributes to explaining the difference in the interplay between public health priorities and COVID-19 response strategies in China and the United States, based on the specific public health context and the perspective of “medical control” and “social control”.
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