Interview with the Editor of ‘Waiting for Dawn: 21 Diaries from 16 COVID-19 Frontlines’

We are republishing this interview with Leijie Wei, editor of the book ‘Waiting for Dawn: 21 Diaries from 16 COVID-19 Frontlines’ and academic at the School of Law, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China. It provides valuable insight into China’s public health system and the social, economic and political structures that allowed China to very quickly and effectively contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The interview was conducted by Shuoying Chen (Academy of Marxism, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), and was originally published in World Review of Political Economy, Volume 11, Number 4, Winter 2020. Republished with permission.


ABSTRACT

Waiting for Dawn: 21 Diaries from 16 COVID-19 Frontlines takes a global perspective, examining the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on governments and the public around the world. The editor of the book believes that the reasons why mandatory tracking, testing and quarantine measures have been effectively implemented in China center on the unified leadership provided by the Communist Party of China (CPC); the active response by state-owned enterprises and institutions; and the full trust of the majority of the public in the government’s anti-pandemic measures. In an effort to win elections, meanwhile, politicians in Europe and the United States are politicizing the pandemic and making China a scapegoat. In contrast to socialist China’s policy of ensuring all those in need are hospitalized with free testing and treatment, the essentially capitalist public health models applied in most Western countries have brought more concrete and explicit class conflict, and the drawn-out pandemic in the West has exacerbated various forms of social injustice. The COVID-19 epidemic is a reminder that a country’s governance ability should not be judged on the basis of simplistic conceptions of democracy, and that the needs of Mother Earth must be considered in the collective building of a community of shared future for humankind.

Shuoying Chen (SC): To begin with, how did you come to the idea of producing a collection of diaries from different countries around the world?

Leijie Wei (LW): In 2020, China faced a very dangerous first few months, but through the efforts of the whole nation, it achieved an epic reversal. The global pandemic began in February when the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) broke through the threshold of extraterritorial spread, and the world then fell gradually into the “darkest moment” of the pandemic. Since that time, we have had to rethink COVID-19 from a global rather than a local perspective, taking account especially of how other countries are different from or similar to China in terms of their experience of fighting the pandemic. With that in mind, I invited 21 contributors from 16 countries to document the lives during the pandemic of people around the world, recording what they have seen, heard, felt and understood during this period, with various narrative perspectives and in the form of diaries. Various pandemic diaries kept by Chinese people in quarantined cities, based on personal experience and with a strong literary flavor, undoubtedly have their value. Nevertheless, their unidimensional focus on a single area and lack of a multi-dimensional comparative perspective may lead to narrow and idiosyncratic accounts. This collection, entitled 21 Diaries from 16 COVID-19 Frontlines, covers 16 countries on four continents, including Asia, Europe, North America and South America. The authors are from various social backgrounds and differ in their social status. With its multi-dimensional and global perspective, the collection offers particular promise as a way of examining the impact of COVID-19 on different governments and populations, and as a history of everyday life in the age of the pandemic, it will also serve in future years as a first-hand account of this unforgettable experience.

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