Understanding Chinese government containment measures and their societal impacts

High-rise buildings, many under construction, along a river in Chongqing, China

We urgently need to understand Chinese government measures to contain COVID-19. Rates of infection seem to be slowing in China, but they are accelerating worldwide. Given the apparent success of Chinese measures, other countries may consider adopting them. Yet we do not fully understand China’s measures — which extend well beyond health and clinical management — or their effects.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that some measures created significant new problems, both for containing the virus (e.g. closing transport from the outbreak centre hampered the inward flow of medical supplies) and for members of Chinese society (e.g. quarantining those infected sometimes left dependents without carers).

This project will use documentary policy and media analysis and fieldwork in four localities in China, to understand: the full range of measures taken by the Chinese government; how they were communicated to the population; their urban and rural societal effects (as well as their role in containing the virus); how the public responded to the measures; and whether public responses fed back to change policies. As the epidemic evolves in China we will regularly prepare short reports and online or in-person briefings that track policies and discuss evidence of their effects and arising ethical issues to create valuable resources for policy makers internationally.

First published: 8 February 2021