Western democracies may lose the coronavirus propaganda war, but China certainly won’t win it.
- 51.9 Public Health
- 41.9 Financial
- 4 Fact-Based
China’s aggressive lockdowns played a key role in controlling case and death rates. However, its low score is driven by multiple factors, including the country’s minimal financial response and lack of press freedom and fact-based communications. China’s failure to report testing obscures understanding of actual COVID-19 dynamics within the country.
Despite one of the best debt-to-GDP ratios, China’s relative underinvestment in healthcare infrastructure pre-COVID—notably hospital beds—limited its capacity to rapidly respond immediately to the crisis.
- Debt/GDP ratio 50.6%
- GDP/capita $20,984
- Gini coefficient (out of 100) 38.5
- Infant mortality rate (out of 1,000 live births) 7
- Healthcare access score (out of 100) 74.2
- Hospital beds/1,000 People 29.9
Government ResponseSelect a data point for more information
(Data points represent policy level as of Mar 15.)
Public Health Directives
Strict stay-at-home orders issued early in the crisis mitigated the spread of the virus, but weak testing and little emergency healthcare spending keep China near the median on public health policy.
- Stay at home order 1
- Public gathering restrictions 4
- School closings 1
- Public event cancellations 2
- Testing policy 3
- Emergency healthcare investments/capita $14.45
- Travel restrictions 3
- Tests/1,000 people 111.2
- Contact tracing 2
China’s stimulus package was limited and provided minimal income support, resulting in a relatively weak score.
- Financial stimulus as share of GDP 6%
- Income support 1
- Debt forebearance 2
China’s government has promoted factually incorrect information about COVID-19 and has limited press reporting on the pandemic.
- Reliance on science/fact based information 3
- Press freedom 3
COVID-19 Status as of Mar 15
China’s early, restrictive lockdown likely contributed to it having among the lowest death and case rates in the Index, based on CCP reporting. However, China has not reported any official data on testing, and given its limited use of facts and press limitations, it is unclear how reliable these numbers are.
- Total deaths 39
- Death rate per 100K 0
- Total cases 101,421
- Cases per 100K 0
- Percent of positive tests NO DATA
|1||Apr 08||Wuhan lockdown ends||0.06|
|2||Jul 19||Urumqi (Xinjian capital) enters lockdown||0.06|
- Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns: China's vaccine diplomacy has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries, according to the AP. Hesitations over their efficacy and safety, however, are pervasive. Read More
- China launches COVID-19 vaccination certificates for cross-border travel: China has launched a digital COVID-19 vaccination certificate for its citizens who are planning to travel, joining other countries (such as Bahrain and the EU) that are moving in similar directions. It has not yet relaxed quarantine restrictions for people arriving in China who are vaccinated. Read More
- China risks COVID "immunity gap" amid slow vaccine uptake: A year after the pandemic was declared, China has so few cases that people see little need to get vaccinated. Read More
- The Chinese government's cover-up killed health care workers worldwide: Through silencing doctors and a lack of transparency, Beijing not only fueled the pandemic but also compromised the world's ability to spot the next one. Read More
- Wartime Mode in Xinjiang meeting resistance: While much of China has re-opened from COVID-19 lockdowns, the 22 million residents of the Western region of Xinjiang—half of whom are Uighurs—remain under severe lockdown and surveilled by community officials and auxiliary police. Read More
- COVID-19 could worsen inequality: The pandemic is likely to exacerbate inequality in China, which spends just 3 percent of its annual GDP on social welfare programs like unemployment insurance and affordable housing. By comparison, most developed countries spend 12 percent of GDP. Read More
- Limited transparency over data: China has a history of opaque governance that prioritizes stability over transparency, resulting in mutual distrust between the public and authorities, and raising questions about the accuracy of its published COVID-19 data. Read More
Compared with Neighboring Countries
Per 1M 23,578
India scores just above the median, a large drop-off in recent months, keyed by substantial weakening of restrictions and worsening financial support.
Per 1M 1,146
Japan has a strong overall score, driven by its generous financial response and a reliance on facts, although its public health policy is very weak.
62South Korea 96,380
Per 1M 445
South Korea has a relatively strong score, brought down some by its very weak financial policy; its public health score is likely underestimated here, given the data’s limitations to adequately account for the impacts of the country’s advanced contact tracing.
Further Reading From Foreign Policy
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Statistics and government response factors available on each country profile include:
- Debt to GDP ratio
- Infant mortality rates
- Hospital beds per 1,000 people
- Gini coefficients measuring inequality
- Health access and quality
COVID-19 Public Health Directives:
- Stay-at home orders
- School-closing policy
- Public-gathering restrictions
- Cancellation of public events
- Testing policy and rates per 1,000 people
- Emergency healthcare spending per capita
- Travel restrictions
- Contact tracing
COVID-19 Financial Response:
- Stimulus package as a share of GDP
- Income support
- Instances of misinformation by leadership
- Limitations on press freedom, censorship
Current/Historic In-Country COVID-19 Status:
- Death rates per 1 million
- Case rates per 1 million