Epidemic shows room to better China’s mega-city governance

By Shi Tian Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/30 23:03:41

A staff member disinfects garbage bins at a community in Haidian District in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 29, 2020. Haidian District of Beijing has carried out disinfection work with the help of professional staff at residential communities to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Xinhua/Ren Chao)

Over the past week or so, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has been affecting every level of China's governing system. In particular, it has posed a major test of the country's capability to govern large cities.

China has already entered a stage of overall development of urbanization. The superiority of the country's system is prominent - It can always mobilize the whole nation and concentrate on moving forward.

For example, by the end of 2018, China's urbanization rate reached 59.58 percent, an increase of 48.94 percentage points from the end of 1949. The country's investment in infrastructure each year is more than North America and Western Europe combined. China's urbanization and infrastructure development is obvious to the world.

Due to such superiority regarding the Chinese system, China's cities have been growing at a breathtaking pace and have become closely linked with each other. Take Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province and the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The city has a population of over 10 million, even more than that of New York. If there were no coronavirus, it is estimated that the population flow to Wuhan during the Spring Festival would be around 30 million.

With such progress in urban development, the country has accumulated some experiences in managing big cities in terms of daily administration and services supply, and the people have benefited from various conveniences brought by such experiences. 

But the outbreak of 2019-nCoV has made us realize that there are still difficulties and challenges in the governance of mega-cities.

Undoubtedly, the rapid expansion of the epidemic is closely related to the high-speed development of Chinese cities and the quick flow of factors in the whole society. Is the country's governance capable of keeping up with the high level of development? Can our disease control mechanisms cope with the huge challenges imposed? These questions are thought-provoking.

The large public health crisis concerns not only disease control, but also the overall quality of residents and related laws and regulations. In the face of such a crisis, the government must put in place more comprehensive mechanisms. And most importantly, governments at all levels must respect science. 

The governance of large cities is a complex scientific picture, and it requires research and analysis by departments at all levels. To tackle infectious diseases, much work must be done, including timely, effective and accurate information release, daily preparations for large disease outbreaks, ensuring city supplies, the comprehensive popularization of basic medical knowledge, training of volunteers, and arrangements for foreigners.

Disease control is only one example. To govern large cities well, especially to manage public crises in mega-cities well, a long road is ahead of us. No country in the world can offer China systematic experiences in this regard, as China's development and size are incomparable. We can only explore our own ways. It is hoped that China can learn from this crisis and open up new paths for its metropolitan governance.

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