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Why East beat West on Covid-19

Perhaps the most startling trend visible in the global Covid-19 pandemic is the vast differential separating East Asia from the West when it comes to the disease’s impact.

The chasm is visible – indeed, is impossible not to notice – when examining infection and death rates in either gross or percentage terms.

Very clearly East Asia, defined as the Sinic or Sinic-influenced nations of China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam, has done better than the West on virus management.


In Part 1 of this two-part series, Asia Times examines social habits and social culture, attitudes toward authority and privacy and recent historical and epidemic experience in weighing the discrepancy.

In Part 2, we will examine political leadership, policy responses, geographic integration, vaccines, manufacturing capacity, virus mutations, race, weather and climate as influencing factors and finally arrive at a multi-variable answer to this crucial East versus West question.

The Covid-19 riddle

Unlike most infectious diseases which register their highest mortalities in the developing world, Covid-19 has wreaked its greatest havoc among the world’s richest nations. The “East-West” cluster of nations – Europe and North America on the one hand, and Sinic East Asia on the other – represent the globe’s three key zones of economic activity.

But the reasons for the massive disparity in Eastern and Western pandemic management metrics are no simple matter to analyze. The variables are countless.

Take governance. In the East, the political structures of authoritarian China and Vietnam, on the one hand, and of democratic Japan, South Korea and Taiwan on the other, are diametrically opposed.

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