Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's successful fight against the coronavirus has exacerbated a pre-existing crisis of confidence in Western democracies. But many of China's measures to combat the coronavirus aren't authoritarian; they are the kind of total social mobilization that happens during war.

Why it matters: In the fight against the coronavirus, as in wartime, democracies are perfectly capable of taking extreme measures when necessary.

What's happening: Growing calls for the U.S. government to take action in fighting the pandemic have resulted in a critical mass. Within a period of just days:

  • Multiple states closed schools and restaurants.
  • The president declared a national emergency.
  • Six counties in the San Francisco area issued a shelter-in-place order to residents.
  • Congress, usually gridlocked, is close to passing a sweeping coronavirus aid package.

"Wartime democracies are fearsome things," said one political scientist, who requested anonymity due to their government affiliation, in an interview with Axios. "Because you have a popular mandate that is clear and visible, which authoritarian governments can’t always rely on."

Context: Many in the West watched in both horror and awe as Chinese authorities took historic measures to prevent the spread of the virus, which emerged in Wuhan, a city of around 11 million in China's central Hubei province.

  • Authorities quarantined the city, then virtually the entire province.
  • Major cities throughout China shut down, and neighborhood travel restrictions were imposed, with local residential committees enforcing Communist Party orders.
  • Temperature checks were conducted upon entry to many buildings all over the country, before boarding public transportation, and before delivering or preparing food.

Because China's political system is notoriously authoritarian, these extreme-sounding measures were painted as authoritarian as well.

  • To be clear, some of China's measures — including a health-surveillance regime enabled by mass data collection and the forcible rounding up of coronavirus patients into quarantine zones — have clearly represented a violation of civil rights and privacy protections that would be respected in a healthy democracy.
  • But when they succeeded in containing the virus, authoritarianism seemed to have won the day.

Reality check: Citywide quarantines, travel restrictions and obsessive public health checks aren't authoritarian. They're the kind of total mobilization that happens during major national crises such as war, regardless of the system of government.

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping even said as much; in February, he declared a "people's war" against the coronavirus.
  • Outsiders often "fixate on China’s authoritarian political system," writes Ian Johnson for the New York Times. "But it’s worth acknowledging that not all of China’s failings are unique to its political system."
  • The flip side is that not all of its successes are due to its system either.

Democracies have a long history of successful mobilization, and they have mechanisms that both enable extreme policies and bring them to an end when they are no longer needed, to prevent authoritarian creep.

  • During World War II, the U.S. was initially paralyzed by a domestic debate about whether to get involved at all, said Maury Klein, the author of "A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II," in an interview with Axios.
  • "Things always move slower in a democracy," said Klein, because the various moving parts of government and society must first reach consensus.

But after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the U.S. jumped into action immediately and effectively, taking actions that wouldn't be possible or acceptable during peacetime.

  • With government contracts in hand, private industry swiftly transitioned from producing consumer goods to war goods.
  • Price controls were adopted to stem inflation.
  • Mandatory blackouts were implemented in California out of fear of Japanese bombing raids, and neighborhood watches patrolled the streets at night to make sure everyone was in compliance.
  • Americans supported these measures as long as they were clearly necessary.
  • Yes, but: Two months after Pearl Harbor, the president ordered the internment of Japanese Americans.

What to watch: Fundamental questions about the health of our governance today and the effectiveness of our leadership suggest the United States may not rise to the occasion as well as it did almost 80 years ago.

  • "Without the threats and violence of the Chinese system, in other words, we have the same results: scientists not allowed to do their job; public-health officials not pushing for aggressive testing; preparedness delayed, all because too many people feared that it might damage the political prospects of the leader," writes Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic.
  • "What if it turns out, as it almost certainly will, that other nations are far better than we are at coping with this kind of catastrophe?"

Go deeper

Battle for the soul of a new web

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A well-funded and intensely motivated chunk of tech's hive mind is finding common cause in a vast new project: rebuilding the web on a foundation of cryptocurrency and blockchain tech. They call it "Web3."

The big picture: Developers, investors and early adopters imagine a future in which the technologies that enable Bitcoin and Ethereum will break up the concentrated power today's tech giants wield and usher in a golden age of individual empowerment and entrepreneurial freedom.

First look: Biden summons top CEOs on supply chain

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Biden will meet Monday afternoon with CEOs of big retailers, grocers and consumer-products firms to send this message, according to the White House: Products will be on shelves for holiday shopping.

Zoom out: Black Friday sales rebounded from 2020.

Thanksgiving box office shows theaters have long road to recovery

Photo of Disney's "Encanto;" Credit: Disney

Box office ticket sales over the Thanksgiving holiday show that consumer confidence in moviegoing is slowly improving, but not enough to bring the struggling theater industry back to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, if ever.

Why it matters: "We may have to temper expectations a bit" for next year, said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!