As of the Christmas Day of 2022, some 250 million people in China are estimated to have caught the Covid virus within a short period of 20 days (according to FT). I am not political scientist, so I will not say anything on the political side of things. Instead, I would like to talk about what can be learned from the management perspective.
In a way, China operates as a giant autocratic company with a charismatic leader who dictates almost everything, just like how Musk has been running Tesla, or Bezos running Amazon before his retirement. But there are some key differences.
Autocratic companies such as Tesla and Amazon have oversight and some balance of power, in the form of a board or shareholders’ votes. But China does not. There is practically no balance of power. That means while China can achieve great things very quickly, it also means grave mistakes can be made repeatedly with disastrous outcome.
Another key difference is the lack of “scientific management”. The USA, at times, makes the same mistake making decisions without too much reliance on science. But at least with democracy in place the public demands to know the rationale behind the government’s decisions. Hence government officials are under pressure to at least seek scientific support. Not so in the China Corp. No science needed. Its leaders can do whatever without too much science to back them up. Its subordinates will then execute those orders without any check or thoughts on “Does this make sense?”
Moreover, the recent debacle suggests that some cracks have appeared in China’s autocratic leadership. Why the abrupt reversal after 3 years of zero-Covid? It was possible the autocratic CEO suddenly was confronted with opposition (without and within), and fear ensued. It was possible that they found themselves unable to contain the virus any more. Regardless, what happened next was, again, with total disregard of basic scientific management principles.
Finally, there seems to be some similarities between this and how Musk has been running Twitter these days – haphazardly would be the appropriate word to use in both cases. I only wish we are talking about vanishing market values in terms of monetary currencies. But sadly in the case of China the losses are measured by human lives.