State capacity in response to COVID-19: A case study of China

Shaolong Wu, Chunxiao Wang, Luwen Zhang


Countries across the world responded very differently in their prevention and control of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and state capacity is likely driving these differences. In this study, we define state capacity in preventing and controlling COVID-19 as the extent to which a state takes rapid intervention measures based on scientific evidence to prevent and control infectious diseases. This case study explores China’s experience in terms of pandemic prevention and control, showing that the goal of pandemic prevention and control in the country is a concrete combination of outcome goals and multidimensional process objectives. This research also demonstrates the important role of state capacity in pandemic prevention and control in China by analyzing different ways to quickly achieve accessibility and full coverage of intervention measures for the target population. Finally, we argue that a country’s political system is not a decisive factor in pandemic prevention and control. Rather, the historical experience of a country in dealing with similar outbreaks and current state capacity play important roles.


state capacity, COVID-19, China, case study

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