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Afterword: Lives Interrupted, Trends Continued?

Authors
  • Pomeranz, Kenneth
Type
Published Article
Journal
The Journal of Asian Studies
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Publication Date
Aug 01, 2020
Volume
79
Issue
3
Pages
621–631
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1017/S0021911820002338
PMCID: PMC7556897
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic is nowhere near over. Some things, however, seem relatively clear. So far, the agendas of the world's most powerful actors seem unchanged—or, indeed, accelerated. Partly as a result, disease mortality and economic losses have fallen largely on poorer people, though deaths so far have been concentrated among poorer people in rich countries. Consequently, the pandemic's implications look very different at the local, subnational, and international levels—although at all levels, they thus far reflect accelerations of preexisting trends more than new departures. Many developments reflect remarkable gains in human capacity to cope with disasters—a point highlighted by comparisons to the 1919 flu and other historical events pandemics made by the authors in this forum. Those gains are particularly evident in Asia, though they look more precarious in South Asia and Southeast Asia than in East Asia; this has contributed to a marked shift in rhetoric about global “sickness” and health and seems consistent with prophecies of a coming “Asian century.” However, COVID-19 may not be a singular event like 1919 but may portend a wave of environmental emergencies; in that scenario, no world region has exhibited as much resilience as it would need.

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