A Comparison Between Chinese and American on Perception During COVID-19

By Zichao

As a Chinese student studying in the United States, It is inevitable to encounter various cultural differences almost every day. Such as American people don’t prefer to drink hot water, so restaurants do not provide it; Americans are more likely to shower in the morning rather than do it at night; Many of my classmates drive to school by themselves, although they are only high school students. The radical ideological difference between the Chinese and American people is not expressed until the epidemic’s outbreak.

With the widespread of the Covid-19 in the United States, my relatives and friends in China were worried about me and urged me to go outside less. My aunt mostly mailed me 500 masks when the epidemic in the United States was not very serious. This excessive reaction made me feel as if the end of the world was coming. However, in my American host families, they seemed to live in a completely different world with my aunt. My host family’s son still maintained outdoor football training twice a week, and the homestay father did not wear a mask when he went out. Once I was going to share some of my masks with my host family father, thinking he would be glad to receive my gifts. However, things didn’t go according to my imagination. He not only rejected my masks but showed doubt to me, which made me very embarrassed at that time. In a later conversation with him, he told me that wearing masks was a symbol of serious illness under most Americans’ stereotypes. It was undoubtedly a cultural shock to me, but it also aroused my interest in exploring Americans’ attitudes towards COVID-19.

Do you understand the specific meaning of Covid-19? It is a disease caused by the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019. The World Health Organization named it on February 11, 2020: ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for the virus, ‘D’ for disease and ’19’ when the disease emerged in 2019. It has caused a worldwide pandemic of respiratory illness. COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person, and people probably will be infected when they directly contact the droplets and aerosol of COVID-19 patients. That’s why wearing a mask or keeping a social distance is effective in preventing the spread. The initial symptoms are similar to influenza or the common cold, including fever, cough, or chills. However, this disease can be fatal. As of July 6, 2020, more than 11.4 million cases have been reported across 188 countries and territories, resulting in more than 535,000 deaths. More than 6.21 million people have recovered. The United States is the country which has the most confirmed cases and casualty. After the outbreak of the epidemic, China and the United States had opposite attitudes towards the pandemic: the Chinese central government lockdown Wuhan City immediately, build interim hospitals, and stay home order is enacted strictly; In addition to declaring a national state of emergency and expanding daily testing, the Federal government of the United States does not appear to have an apparent policy to stop the spread of the disease. Still, tons of American people do not believe that COVID-19 is a severe illness.

Table: The Comparison of the solutions of Chinese and American government towards the outbreak of Covid-19

The People’s Republic of ChinaThe United States of America
On Dec 29, China had confirmed the first cases, and they linked this novel pneumonia to the seafood market.On Jan 3, Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, told Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the information of the new outbreak in China and asked him to inform the White House’s National Security Council.
On December 31,The Chinese government reported the outbreak of unknown pneumonia to WHO.On January 6, the U.S. government issued Travel Restrictions and Warnings (the lowest travel watch).
On January 1, 2020, the Chinese government decided to immediately close the Seafood market in Wuhan City and sanitize it.On Jan 7, the CDC established  “a Center-led Incident Management Structure
January 18 and 19: The Chinese government  sent a team to Wuhan to study the local response to the epidemic. Finally,the team determined that the new coronavirus was spreading between humans.On January 14, the U.S. Government is skeptical about implementing the Defense Production Act because nothing has happened in recent weeks
On Jan 20, President Xi Jinping gave important instructions on fighting the novel coronavirus. He emphasized that people’s lives and health must come firstOn Jan 17, Travel Restrictions and Warnings began public health entry screening at San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX) airports.
On Jan 23, the Chinese national government ordered Wuhan to suspend all of the transportations to minimize the spread of coronavirus.On Jan 21,CDC announces first confirmed U.S. Case, and d raising its travel health warning to level 2 for travelers to Wuhan
On Jan 24, a total of 346 medical teams composed of 42,600 medical workers and 965 public health workers from across the country and the armed forces were dispatched.On Jan 22, President Trump said: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”
On Jan 26, the Chinese  Central Government issued the decision to extend the Chinese New Year holiday of 2020 and postpone the opening of all universities, colleges, and secondary schools. The government also approved four companies to produce novel coronavirus test kitsOn Jan 24, CDC rose up the Travel Notice for Wuhan to level 3 and recommended U.S. citizens avoid all non-essential travel.
On Jan 31, the NHC released Guidelines on Treating Novel Coronavirus Patients with Severe Symptoms in Designated Hospitals.On Jan 30, the U.S. government rose up the travel notice for China to level 4: Do not travel to China. President Trump tweeted that “we have it very well under control”.
On Feb 3, the Chinese government gave the order to construct temporary treatment centers.On Feb 5, CDC started to ship COVID-19 tests. However, those tests from CDC were proved to be flawed on Feb 8.
On Feb 5, after the state council strengthened coordination, the supply of medical N95 masks exceeded Hubei’s requirement. The NHC released Diagnosis and Treatment Protocol for Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (Trial Version 5).On Feb 21, White House Task Force members recommended social distancing.
On Feb 8, the NHC gave briefings on China’s epidemic control efforts and measures at a meeting of the APEC health working group.On Feb 25, president Trump said, “You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it.”
On Feb 11, China CDC experts had a phone call with U.S. CDC experts, during which they shared information on novel coronavirus.On Feb 26, Trump announced that VP Pence will lead Covid-19 response. On the same day, CDC said, “testing capacity is more than adequate to meet current testing demands”.
On Feb 21, President Xi called for an orderly return to normal work and daily life.On feb 29, the FDA announces a new policy to take advantage of tests developed by commercial, reference, and clinical laboratories nationwide to expand testing capacity.
By Feb 24, all highways are reopened except those in Beijing and Wuhan.On Mar 2, the CDC and FDA allowed use of industrial respirators in healthcare setting during the emergency situation
On Mar 17, Forty-two medical teams from around the country left Wuhan, having completed their mission there.On Mar 4, HHS announces it intends to buy 500 million N95 respirators over the next 18 months
On Mar 25, Hubei lifted outbound traffic restrictions except in Wuhan.3.6 The president signs a bill providing $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak
On April 1, Chinese customs began NAT on inbound arrivals at all points of entry – air, water and land.current risk assessment as of March 11: For the majority of people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID – 19 is thought to be low.  Close border to most of Eu countries for 30 days.
On April 8, Wuhan lifted outbound traffic restrictions.On Mar 13, President Donald Trump declares a national emergency, which allows the government to access billionsin more funding to address coronavirus
 The House passes H.R. 6201: Families First Coronavirus Response Act
 On Mar 16,The White House announced a program called “15 Days To Slow The Spread”, which recommended people not gathering in a group with more than 10 people.
 On Mar 17, the pathgon stated that they will provide 5 million N95 masks and 2,000 ventilators to the Department of Health and Human Services.
 On Mar 18, President Trump signs the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act
 On Mar 24, Trump wants country “opened up” by Easter
 On Mar 27, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act Becomes Law
 On Mar 29, Trump extended the social distancing order to the end of April. On April 1, CDC recommended American citizens wearing a mask when they go to the public.  

By observing the table above, it is not difficult to find that the Chinese and American governments’ attitudes towards the epidemic are indeed different. In my opinion, not only is it definite that China and the U.S. government are deeply divided on political consciousness, but the ideology of ordinary Chinese and Americans is also different. Consequently, the two versions of questionnaires are produced by me to compare different ideologies towards Covid-19 between Chinese and Americans. Each of the questionnaires contains about 25 questions, and those questions are dedicated to exploring a couple of topics like media exposure, compliance with government measures, and understanding of coronavirus. The questionnaires are sent by e-mail to my classmates, teachers, friends, and family in China and the United States, respectively. In addition to sending questionnaires, interviews are also an essential component of this research. There are a few interviews with respiratory doctors, teachers who lived in China, a traditional American family, and a university professor in biology. Finally, this questionnaire received roughly 60 valid responses from each version of the surveys (The average age of participants in the U.S. version is younger than those in the China Version. It might cause a slight deviation in results ).

Topic one : Attitude Toward Media

Graph 1.1.1: Do you believe the information from the Media? Answers: US
Graph 1.1.2: Do you think the media regarding Covid-19 are true? Answers: US
Graph 1.1.3: The way you get information.  Answers: US
Graph 1.2.1 : Do you believe the information from the media? Answers: CN
Graph 1.2.2: Do you think the media regarding Covid-19 are true? Answers: CN
Graph 1.2.3: The way you get information.  Answers: CN

According to the Graph 1.2.3 and the Graph 1.1.3, news and social media are the main channels for both Chinese and American people to receive information about COVID-19. (NEWS: CN:90.0% US: 91.8%; SOCIAL MEDIA: CN:69.7% US: 77%). 55.7% of Americans know about the epidemic through others, but this figure is only 25.8% in China. By comparing graphs 1.1.2 /3 and 1.2.2 /3, we know that the Chinese people believe in the media’s authenticity significantly more than the Americans (Only 59% of Americans believe most of the media’s content. However, 72.7% of Chinese people believe the vast majority of media content, and almost on one does not believe the media’s authenticity at all). The result is so different is the disparity between media in China, and the U.S. China has centralized media control. In other words, China’s mainstream broadcast media are owned by the Chinese National government, and the Central Propaganda Department has a strict limit on reporting news: the CPD typically reviews multiple times for almost all media reports. The highly centralized media in China have led to the national media being the major access for Chinese citizens to obtain information. They are inclined to believe this information because the authoritative department publishes it. However, the United States has market-based media, which means media probably are partial and full of partisanship because political parties invested in them. Although the national government of the U.S does not have strict limits on media, so American people have relatively wide access to receive information, the loose regulation of the media led to vast negative impacts, such as the emergence of fake news and skepticism towards authority. The diverse media undoubtedly make it difficult for Americans to distinguish the authenticity of the information. Over three millions of American people do not follow the instructions, and some even do not believe the existence of COVID-19. All in all, information bias gives rise to people acting differently, leading to COVID-19 cases differences. In general, China is doing better for obtaining the correct information to people efficiently so that people are not misled by fake news or political games.

Topic two : People’s perspectives on each other’s national policies

Graph 2.1.1-2.1.2: Could you accept China’s policies to prevent the widespread of COVID-19 ?
Graph 2.2.1-2.2.2: Could you accept policies of U.S government to prevent the widespread of COVID-19 ?

After comparing the results of those four figures, an interesting phenomenon was found that neither Chinese nor American people do not intend to accept the other government’s epidemic prevention measures. Only about 20% of people in China can take U.S. epidemic prevention measures, and the situation in the United States is slightly better, but only 50% of people can accept those measures. In my perspective, the different social systems, urban planning, and religious faith are the three main factors that cause this phenomenon. Firstly, The U.S is a federalist country, which obeys the principle of separation of powers. Allowing state-level people to only comply with the laws from states, it empowers ordinary people more rights and freedom. Most Americans who do not accept China’s epidemic prevention measures believe that these policies violate their sovereignty, and people should never be compelled to do something. The United States is also an immigrant country, and its nationals come from all over the world, leading to the emergence of cross-culture and tolerance. That’s why Americans are more receptive to policies of the other government than Chinese people. Conversely, China is a communist country. The National People’s Congress is the highest organ of state power and practices democratic centralism, which means the state-level government can not make the most critical decisions. Each department in the national government has clear responsibilities and practical authority. They strictly formulate laws, and citizens actively follow them.

Secondly, the Urban planning of China and the U.S are quite varied. Approximately 77% of people in the U.S live in houses, 20% live in apartments, and 3% live in other dwellings, such as vans or RVs. Whereas, Chinese people are more likely to live in apartments in the center of a city. One of China’s epidemic prevention measures is to test the body temperature of people when they enter the residence community.

The policy is easy to imply in China because people live together, but it seems impossible to indicate in the U.S because American people live far apart. The concentrated residential district gives rise to exhaustively facilitates the management of the population during the epidemic. Finally, religious belief is probably one of the most overlooked reasons. Roughly 80% of Americans state that they have specific religious beliefs- Christianity is the largest religion in the United States. According to a brief communication with Kristen Scandura, one of my theology teachers, she said, “Covid-19 might be a God’s punishment for humanity. It is God’s will, and there is nothing we can do. So why should we impose ourselves home quarantine?” In Catholics’ eyes, death is not terrible but becomes the threshold close to Christ and the final gift of life. They are not afraid of death, which is probably why half of Americans are reluctant to accept the Chinese government’s anti-epidemic policy. By contrast, A 2015 Gallup poll reported that the number of convinced atheists in China to be 61%, with a further 29% saying that they are not religious, which means 90% of Chinese people do not believe in God. They don’t think we’re helpless in the face of COVID-19. They also don’t understand why someone would give up their lives for freedom. In conclusion, different ideas and urban planning have led to the Chinese and American people’s inability to understand the measure of each other’s government.

As the two most remarkable countries in the world, China and the United States chose a completely different approach in the face of the sudden attack of the epidemic, which also led to entirely different results. To some extent, the United States does have a freer society: loose government regulation, a system of separation of powers, and free media.  China, a country full of historical precipitation, has a centralized government with high administrative efficiency: CPD’s careful review of the epidemic’s news prevents China from being misled by fake news. As careful supervision of media content, and as higher administrative efficiency. It is hardly unreasonable to insist that China has done a far better job than the United States in terms of epidemic prevention and control.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s