A woman wearing a protective mask passes a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping on a street in Shanghai, March 2020 
Aly Song / Reuters

Early this year, as the novel coronavirus began to spread in China, the predictions were immediate and stark: the outbreak was China’s “Chernobyl moment,” perhaps even “the beginning of the end” for the Chinese Communist Party, with geopolitical consequences that, at a time of growing U.S.-Chinese tension, would play to Washington’s considerable advantage. But then, almost as quickly, the predictions went into reverse. As China appeared to contain the spread of the coronavirus while the United States and Western Europe suffered large outbreaks of their own, the pandemic and the resulting global recession were said to

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