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Tyler Cowen

Could the Coronavirus Help Make China More Free?

If criticism of the party grows, it could overwhelm the censors.

Empty streets in Wuhan.

Empty streets in Wuhan.

Photographer: Getty Images/Getty Images AsiaPac

The coronavirus emergency puts China at a crossroads. It faces not only profound questions about public health, but also fundamental decisions about censorship and control.

One path would be to centralize and tighten control. In bad times, such as during war or recession, people often demand more authoritarianism. Citizens may yearn for a greater sense of security and be more willing to subordinate themselves to strong national leaders, even in nations that are (or think of themselves as) more individualistic than China.