In the Second Wave

In the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, politicians and businessmen speak of defeat in China's favor in the "competition of the systems."

BERLIN (Own report) - Under the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic's second wave, politicians and business representatives in Berlin concede defeat in the "competition of the systems" in China's favor. "In the fight against the pandemic, Europeans and Americans have not made a good impression so far," noted CSU General Secretary Markus Blume. It is becoming evident "that, in fighting the crisis, the Chinese system was superior to western systems," acknowledged Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser. US media refer to a new "divide" between the transatlantic West, on the one hand, and East and Southeast Asia on the other. Whereas infection rates have remained rather low, for example, in Japan, South Korea and Singapore for quite some time, even tending to zero in China, they are again surging in Europe and North America. Germany's former President Horst Köhler reported back in February that Europe's haphazard handling of the pandemic has provoked "amazement" in African countries. Recent surveys show that the EU's fight against the pandemic is also viewed as a failure in East Asia and is tarnishing the image of the mighty West.

The Pandemic in East and Southeast Asia

Nearly ten months after the Covid-19 pandemic emerged, life in most countries in East and Southeast Asia has mostly returned to normal. Together, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and the People's Republic of China (with Hong Kong) have never recorded more than 1,000 new infections a day since September, according to a recent US media report. Thus, bars and restaurants are bustling, concerts and sport events attract large crowds.[1] In the above mentioned four countries with their total population of nearly 1,6 billion, the pandemic is still under control. In fact, relevant surveys show infection rates of only three persons per 100,000 inhabitants in Japan, one person in South Korea and Singapore and 103 throughout China over the past week. The latest outbreak in the Chinese city of Qingdao has been successfully contained by testing all inhabitants within a very short time. East and South East Asia, where roughly a third of the world’s population resides - often in extreme densely populated areas - account for less than a fifth of the global Covid-19 casualties. In addition, the economy of several countries in that region is recovering rapidly. China, for example, recorded a growth of 4.9 percent in the third quarter and according to its central bank's recent estimates can expect a plus of 2 percent for the whole year, following the slump of 6.8 percent in the first quarter.[2]

The Pandemic in the Transatlantic West

The countries in Europe and North America, however, are currently being overtaken by a second wave of the pandemic. While Japan, South Korea, Singapore and China combined, have been recording fewer than 1,000 infections a day since September, nearly 7,000 in Germany, more than 13,000 in France, almost 19,000 in Great Britain and more than 56,000 cases in the USA have been counted as of Monday. The West has not had a weekly infection rate of three per 100,000 inhabitants. The lowest rate was recorded in Estonia (15), Germany had 52, the USA 122, and France nearly 250. Successively, new restrictions to daily life have to be imposed, chains of infections are no longer traceable, the situation is getting out of control. Europe (including Russia and Turkey) with nearly 250,000 and North America with nearly 230,000 are today already accounting for nearly half the global Covid-19 casualties. Their share could still grow. Media reports have already diagnosed a new "divide" between the West and East and Southeast Asia.[3] That divide has been evident since some time as shown by relevant economic data. According to the latest predictions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United States may possibly be able to limit its economic slump to 4.3 percent, whereas Germany will suffer a 6 percent economic slump, the euro zone 8.3 percent and Great Britain even 9.8 percent. Also in the coming year, according to the IMF, the western industrialized nations will have less growth (3.9 percent) than China (8.2 percent) - without including the consequences of this second wave.[4]

Self-Perception and the Perception by Others

The West's lack of success in fighting the pandemic has not only led to the fact that China could accelerate its rise to become the world's leading economy. It is also being accompanied by a massive loss of prestige for Europe and the United States. Even today, Germany's self-perception is very little in tune with the way others perceive of how the West had handled the pandemic. Germany has "so far ... mastered the crisis quite well," claimed, quite typically, CSU Secretary General Markus Blume recently. "The world is viewing us with appreciation,"[5] reported Germany's former President Horst Köhler, during the meeting of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). Köhler described how already in mid-February the African Union's (AU) ministers of health had "agreed on a common strategy," which included "the development of a pan-African Virus-Tracking-App." "Conversely, they were astonished at how uncoordinated Europe was behaving, and how presidents of larger nations" - implying the US president - "were even denying a pandemic problem."[6] In September, a survey by the Pew Research Center disclosed that only 34 percent of the Japanese and only 19 percent of the South Koreans view the EU's efforts in fighting the pandemic positively. Only the United States rates lower (Japan: 15 percent and South Korea: 6 percent).[7] In China as well, the transatlantic West's Covid-19 policy is considered miserable. The People's Republic's success in combating the pandemic has "transformed the way many Chinese view their country," it was reported,[8] the image of the mighty, capable West has been accordingly relativized.

"Competition of the Systems"

In Germany, with the beginning of the second wave, not only is the realization beginning to sink in that the West is not only economically losing ground faster to China, but also that, in the meantime, outside of Europe, Germany is losing its image as a role model. "The fact is, in combating the pandemic, Europeans and Americans have not made a good impression so far," admitted CSU Secretary General Blume, recently. Blume declared that "the fight against Corona" is "also a competition of the systems;" "the way things look" China will certainly "come out the winner" of the competition.[9] "It is indeed the case" confirmed Minister of the Economy Peter Altmeier, Monday, at this year's Asia-Pacific Conference of German Business (apk) - held online - that those countries "that had been particularly consistent in combating the Corona crisis, will also be the first to get back on their feet, economically."[10] Also at the Asia-Pacific Conference, Joe Kaeser, Siemens CEO and Chair of the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business, noted "that in terms of crisis management, the Chinese system was superior to western systems."[11]

"Western Values"

In reference to the global loss of prestige of Germany, the EU and the West, Economics Minister, Altmeier told the Asia-Pacific Conference on Monday, "We must prove that we can be just as effective in fighting the Corona crisis."[12] CSU Secretary General Blume had previously stated, "The western, liberal system must prove that it also can deal with this kind of pandemic."[13] How that is supposed to be done - given the current development of the pandemic in Germany - is not quite clear. Siemens CEO Kaeser, on the other hand, argued that, given the obvious defeat, in the fight against the pandemic, it is that much more important to stand up for "western values."[14] This means that, to the extent that Germany sinks deeper into the second wave of infections, the greater the crescendo of agitation around anti-Chinese "values" can be expected.


[1] Margherita Stancati, Dasl Yoon: Covid-19's Global Divide: As West Reels, Asia Keeps Virus at Bay. 20.10.2020.

[2] CX Daily: China's Economy Grows 4.9% in Third Quarter. 20.10.2020.

[3] Margherita Stancati, Dasl Yoon: Covid-19's Global Divide: As West Reels, Asia Keeps Virus at Bay. 20.10.2020.

[4] International Monetary Fund: Wold Economic Outlook, October 2020. A Long and Difficult Ascent. Washington, October 2020.

[5] Markus Blume: Corona ist ein Charaktertest für den Westen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.10.2020.

[6] "Afrika und Europa. Chance auf einen Neubeginn?" 30.09.2020.

[7] Richard Wike, Janell Fetterolf, Mara Mordecai: U.S. Image Plummets Internationally as Most Say Country Has Handled Coronavirus Badly. 15.09.2020.

[8] Friederike Böge: Es darf wieder gefeiert werden. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 20.10.2020.

[9] Markus Blume: Corona ist ein Charaktertest für den Westen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.10.2020.

[10] Julia Löhr: China ist nicht alles. 19.10.2020.

[11] Deutsche Wirtschaft soll in Asien Alternativen zu China suchen. 19.10.2020.

[12] Julia Löhr: China ist nicht alles. 19.10.2020.

[13] Markus Blume: Corona ist ein Charaktertest für den Westen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.10.2020.

[14] Deutsche Wirtschaft soll in Asien Alternativen zu China suchen. 19.10.2020.