In light of our current knowledge, what consequences might flow from a coronavirus pandemic? For starters, the Chinese government could undermine credibility with its own people. If Chinese citizens come to believe their government is deceiving them or concealing vital information, their disillusionment could be extreme.

The same could occur if Chinese citizens come to believe their national bureaucracy and military have been incompetent in handling the crisis. Many Chinese doubt local communist officials but seem to support the national party and Xi Jinping. Could the Chinese people begin to doubt the entire system? In a democracy such as ours, citizens’ anger can be channeled into voting. But in a one-party dictatorship such as China, popular anger and disillusionment may turn to protest.

Furthermore, the loss of millions or possibly tens of millions of lives, even in a country with a population as vast as China’s, would cause severe economic damage. China’s regime has to earn its way by repeatedly proving it can direct the economy successfully. Because of this, the regime is more fragile than some of its admirers think. Its legitimacy, even its survival, depends upon bringing continuing growth and prosperity to the Chinese people.