The ‘Two Worlds’: What China’s Policymakers Need to Avoid

4 min readMay 5, 2022


ANBOUND’s research team has been tracking the development of the COVID-19 pandemic since January 2020. Since then, we have repeatedly proposed and continuously developed the concept of the “two worlds”.

In 2020, when the international community was in full swing to develop vaccines and vaccination was the buzzword, ANBOUND’s founder Chan Kung proposed the concept of “vaccine war”. Due to a shortage of vaccine manufacturing capacity in various nations and the repercussions of vaccine usage, this hypothesis argues that there would be tremendous competition and dispute over vaccine use and that the globe will be divided into “two worlds” depending on jab adoption or non-adoption. This practically divides the world into two, one that is with immunity and the other that is without. Since then, the “vaccine war” has erupted and intensified. Countries all across the globe are vying for as many effective vaccinations as possible in a short amount of time to suit their own demands. At that time, and because of the inoculation problem, the globe has been split into two.

With the advancement of immunization, the world began to consider the issue of vaccinating the citizens and the opening up of borders after the pandemic is brought under control. The competition among countries is not limited to procuring vaccines but extends to the issue of “vaccination passports”. This has become a major criterion for countries to open up borders and end lockdowns, which would allow international travel to resume. However, the issues of standards, as well as mutual recognition of the “vaccination passports”, and which brands of vaccines are recognized, all these are evolving into major controversies and geopolitical implications globally. The division of “two worlds” was thus extended.

We pointed out that as a huge nation with a population of 1.4 billion, China had achieved impressive accomplishments in the early stages of the pandemic. That said, it faced obstacles in the second half of the “vaccine war’s”. To begin with, China continues to encounter significant hurdles in satisfying the country’s vaccination demand. This must also take into consideration the jabs’ efficacy altogether.

It is also difficult for China to freely import various foreign drugs and vaccines due to geopolitical reasons. In addition, most of the countries producing the anti-dote would give priority to meeting their local demands. Finally, China needs to compete for time and speed with other countries, virus mutation, and so on, when it comes to production and a national immunization campaign. ANBOUND emphasized back then that China should strive to be part of the “world with immunity” within these “two worlds”.

As the world gradually recovers from the pandemic and the virus continues to mutate, China is once again haunted by the “two worlds” issue. Due to the high infectivity, long incubation period, and low case fatality rate of the Omicron variant, countries have made different choices when faced with the latest development of the pandemic. One way is that most Western and some Asian countries (Singapore, Vietnam, etc.) choose to “coexist” with the virus under the premise of high vaccination rates, medical treatment, and increased immunization rates. The other way is China’s “dynamic clearing” which insists on relying on a large number of tests and strict social control measures in responding to and preventing the outbreaks.

There are a lot of controversies over these two approaches internationally. We do not intend to comment on the advantages or disadvantages of either, but from the perspective of development paths, different approaches again will result in the “two worlds” once the globe recovers from the pandemic. Why is there a deadlock with the existence of the two parallel worlds in the combat against COVID-19? The answer is simple. From the perspective of human development history and even the entire biological development history, human society and viruses have always “coexisted” since time immemorial. It should be noted that the so-called coexistence does not mean passive response or inaction, but rather in terms of public policy, the rush to eliminate the virus completely should not be set as a policy goal. The reality is that viruses cannot be truly, completely destroyed.

From the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago to the experience of the world’s battle against the novel coronavirus so far, different countries have adopted different policy choices, resulting in a world with immunity, and another without. This is due to different choices of public policies. These two worlds are parallel but not intersecting if both sides continue on their current paths.

In the past, throughout the globalization process, the globe sought mutual integration and win-win collaboration based on the recognition of disparities in interests. Under the impact of anti-globalization and the pandemic, this pattern has been greatly impacted. That said, in the long run, the world still needs to seek cooperation and mutually beneficial ways to handle global crises. As a result, no country can develop in an entirely parallel universe. This is especially true for China, whose growth has benefited from global integration via reform and opening up. As a result, its future cannot be tied to the two parallel realities.

Final analysis conclusion:

The existence of the “two worlds” is a phenomenon that appears in the wake of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years. It is a situation that China needs to avoid in its future development, and in its strategy to deal with the pandemic. This should also be the case for its post-pandemic recovery. Tying to such a circumstance, after all, is not in line with China’s development concept of a “community with a shared future for mankind”.

Writer by He Jun
Partner, Director of China Macro-Economic Research Team and Senior Researcher. His research field covers China’s macro-economy, energy industry and public policy.

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ANBOUND is a multinational independent think tank, specializing in public policy research, incl. economy, urban and industry, geopolitical issues. Est. 1993.