Peter Hessler has been in one of the strictest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world: starting in January, he was quarantined with his family in Chengdu, China, presaging what life would soon look like in America. Now, as restrictions lift in China, Hessler says that the experiences of the two countries have diverged. China’s government spent the lockdown setting up systems to check people’s temperatures on a wide scale and do contact tracing when someone becomes ill. But, although China’s response has been effective in containing the virus so far, one scientist told Hessler, “There is no long-term plan. There’s no country that has a long-term plan.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, perhaps the only common ground in the Presidential campaign is to attack China’s handling of the outbreak, which, candidates claim, cost lives around the world. The Trump Administration has implicated China in spreading the virus; Joe Biden’s campaign positions him as the tougher leader to take on China. Evan Osnos, who previously reported from Beijing and is now based in Washington, tells David Remnick that both sides count on the fact that China’s government ignores whatever American politicians say about it during campaign season.