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An interview by PBS with Huang Hung on How American and Chinese Values shaped the Coronavirus Response

May 2020

Interviewer:”It’s so good to see you. Thank you for joining us. How’s your how’s your 2020 theme?”

Huang Hung: my 2020 started totally normal. in January, I went to Paris, I did my interview for the Fashion Week there, came back to Beijing January 22nd and finding things a little bit tense because there were a lot rumors having lived through SARS. I wasn’t that concerned and on the 23rd, I had a friend of mine from New York come to my house who had a flu and we had dinner together and another friend who came and who left the next day for Australia for vacation on an airplane. So we were not taking this terribly seriously until there was a lockdown and we’ve seen.

Interviewer:” That Echo around the world. I think still some people find it hard to understand the magnitude of some of the measures that China took. I mean, what else are we missing about?

Huang Hung:” China’s response in all of this, you know historically we’re just such a two very different countries in terms of culture and history. I mean, these are two completely different human experiences for its people. so, for China,
when the lockdown happened, people were okay people are okay with it because they think that’s what a good parent should do you know, if a kid gets sick, you put him in the other room and you lock him up and make sure that the other kids don’t get sick and they expect that out of the government. But when it is outside of China from America, it becomes a huge issue of the right political thing to do and whether it’s infringing on personal freedom so the issues that you have to deal with in a democratic society are issues that one does not have to deal with in China. I have to say that there is a word in Chinese that doesn’t exist in any other language and the word is called “quai.” it is what you call a kid who listens to his or her parents. So I think we are very “quai” as a people. We are very why we have this. This sort of authoritarian figure that Chinese always look up to and they do expect the government to actually take the actions and they will deal with it. However much suffering there is they feel that okay, if you know big brother says that this has to be done. then, it must be done and that really defines China as a separate mentality.

Only as, say, people in Europe and America, do not have a sense of collective responsibility. Sometimes it feels kind of a little absent from this culture at the same time. There are I think valid concerns around surveillance and kind of data privacy things like that. What is the balance here? And what is the right trade-off between surveillance and freedom. I think in the internet age it is we’re???
between China and the US. I think when you take individual freedom versus collective safety, there has to be a balance somewhere there With surveillance, you know, the head of Baidu, Robin Lee, once said the Chinese people are quite willing to give up certain individual rights in exchange for convenience.

Actually, he was completely criticized in the Chinese social media, but I think he is right. Chinese people are willing to give up certain rights. For example, we, Chinese, mostly are very proud of the payment system we have which is where you can go anywhere just with your iPhone and pay for everything and all they do is face scan. I think that probably freaks Americans out, you know China right now. We’re still under semi-lockdown Also, if you go anywhere, there’s an app where you scan and you input your mobile phone number and the app will tell the guard at the entrance of the mall. For example, where you have been for the past 14 days. Now when I told that to an American, she was horrified and she thought it was an invasion of privacy l. on the other hand, as someone who Is Chinese and have lived in China for the past 20 years, although I understand that American mentality, I still find it I’m Chinese enough to think I don’t mind this and I am better. I feel safer entering the mall because everybody has been scanned. Whereas I think individual freedom is an abstract concept.

Looks like this is actually really meaningless. So I think the West really needs to move a step towards the east and to think about the collective as a whole rather than only think about oneself as an individual. the rise of antagonistic rhetoric between the US and China is obviously troubling and the thing is that countries are interlinked whether people understand we have supply chains or not. … This is the most horrifying thing that came out of this the kind of nationalistic sentiments on both sides in this pandemic because I’m an optimist. I think we will come out of this.

Both sides will realize that this is a fight that the entire human race have to do together and not apart. despite the rhetoric, the global economy has grown to such a integration that decoupling will be extremely costly and painful for both United States and China.

Tjan Sie Tek
A former licensed stock market analyst and investment advisor with 20+ years experience with M.Sc. in Finance from Leicester University; now a Chinese, US and Indonesian macroeconomic and financial analyst, CEO of Center for New Indonesia (CEFNI).


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