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The coronavirus outbreak started as a propaganda disaster for the Chinese government. But now — with the number of new cases falling sharply in China and rising quickly in the US and Europe — Beijing has reframed the narrative. China’s new story points to the Communist party’s success in taking draconian measures to control the disease and contrasts that with the chaotic response of the US and much of Europe.
This version of events is designed for both domestic Chinese and international consumption. If it gains traction, the geopolitical effects of the coronavirus will linger — even after a vaccine has been found for the disease. The belief that China is on the rise and the west is in inexorable decline will gain new adherents. And arguments for authoritarianism and against democracy will be made with increased boldness — in both China and the west.