Foreign Policy Digital

The Real Reason to Panic About China’s Plague Outbreak

It’s not the disease that’s worrisome—it’s the Chinese government’s response to it.

The Chinese government’s response to this month’s outbreak of plague has been marked by temerity and some fear, which history suggests is entirely appropriate. But not all fear is the same, and Beijing seems to be afraid of the wrong things. Rather than being concerned about the germs and their spread, the government seems mostly motivated by a desire to manage public reaction about the disease. Those efforts, however, have failed—and the public’s response is now veering toward a sort of plague-inspired panic that’s not at all justified by the facts.

On Nov. 3, Li Jifeng, a doctor at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, the capital’s key infectious diseases treatment and quarantine center, attended to a middle-aged man who was struggling to breathe and his wife, who was also running a high fever and likewise

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