The result? Infections have risen at a far faster rate in the United States and Brazil than in Asian countries that took the threat more seriously. In Mexico, cases are climbing quickly. With the presidents’ abdications, the burden of governance has fallen on state and local administrations, creating confusion and competition for resources.
Next come the police states, from China and Russia to Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. They, too, have a common playbook: First, lie about the numbers. Then employ heavy-handed and intrusive measures against infected people and communities. Portray leaders as conquering heroes — and arrest anyone who offers a different narrative.
Vladimir Putin’s handling of the pandemic has been as predictable as the photo op he staged wearing a bright-yellow containment suit (no word on whether he was bare-chested underneath). He claimed that Russia has managed to hold
The same story has played out in Wuhan and Caracas, where official reports of case numbers look unreliable and those who tell a different story are threatened or arrested. But Xi Jinping and Nicolás Maduro look transparent compared with North Korea’s Kim Jong
If the autocrats are to be believed, their methods have been more effective in containing the virus than those of the democracies. But with the possible — and possibly temporary — exception of China, that doesn’t seem to be true. In any case, few believe them, either at home or abroad.
A third category of nations is those democracies that have taken the epidemic
So who are the winners in this global test of governance? A glance at the trend lines on the
Those Asian governments all had
Coercion, however, has not been necessary to their success. Two of the four are democracies; the other two, Singapore and Hong Kong, are more free than Russia or China. What they show is that neither Trump-style grandstanding nor Putin-