Government Legitimacy and International Image: Why Variations Occurred in China's Responses to COVID-19

  • Shaoyu Yuan (Rutgers University of the State University of New Jersey)
  • Published : 2023.12.31


This paper examines the Chinese government's response to four epidemic crises, including COVID-19, and analyzes the similarities and differences in these responses. It argues that while the Chinese government learned from previous epidemics and improved its handling of subsequent outbreaks, a significant variation occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a detrimental impact globally. Existing scholarly research on China's epidemic responses has often been limited in scope, focusing on individual crises and neglecting the central-local government relationship in crisis decision-making. By adopting a comprehensive approach, this paper delves into the nuanced dynamics of China's responses to these epidemics. It highlights the variations in responses, attributing them to the Chinese government's fear of undermined legitimacy and its consideration of its international image. The government's recognition of the importance of public perception and trust, both domestically and globally, has shaped its crisis management strategies. Through a detailed analysis of these factors, this paper contributes to a deeper understanding of the variations observed in China's epidemic responses. It emphasizes the significance of the central-local government relationship and the government's international image in determining its actions during epidemics. Recognizing these factors can provide policymakers and researchers with insights to shape future epidemic response strategies and foster effective global health governance.



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