CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Discusses Takeaways from the COVID-19 Pandemic, Hopes for the Future
Asia Society at Home
HOUSTON, March 5, 2021 — In his most recent book, Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World, journalist Fareed Zakaria analyzes the COVID-19 pandemic that has dominated the last year and its connections to the world and our societies. Asia Society Texas Center (ASTC) welcomed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN, to be in conversation with Mustafa Tameez, CEO of Outreach Strategists and ASTC board member, and discuss his book and insights on the pandemic.
The pandemic abroad
Zakaria said the lockdowns that began last March made him curious about previous pandemics and the social and global circumstances that surrounded them. He said this inspired him to write Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World, which touches on what he learned of past pandemics, as well as his observations of the COVID-19 pandemic and different countries’ responses. He said his goal, in an age of overwhelming amounts of information, was to “separate the signal from the noise” and get a sense of the shape of things to come.
Zakaria observed that countries that effectively responded to the pandemic — such as South Korea, Vietnam, and Singapore — shared commonalities including uncorrupt bureaucracies and a strong sense of responsibility among citizens to comply with health advisories. Importantly, he said it was not specific types of governments — democratic or authoritarian — that fared better, but rather countries where a strong social trust existed, alongside the common belief that government and society had to work together to combat the pandemic. Zakaria also recounted a conversation he had with former Vice President of Taiwan, Chen Chien-jen, where he learned that the key to Taiwan’s COVID success was not lockdowns, but rather a focus on isolating the sick. The former vice president told him, “If you are doing a lockdown, you have already failed.”
The pandemic at home
The U.S. response to the pandemic was rather different, according to Zakaria. He said as an immigrant, he is an American optimist and believes that the U.S. is the most dynamic country in the world and very capable. However, he said, to live up to its opportunities, the U.S. must get government right: to understand what it can do and how it can do it well, domestically as well as internationally. Zakaria emphasized that public health is a public endeavor.
Zakaria defined government as a collective agreement of the people who elect it. He observed that the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016 was propelled by a movement fueled by concerns over multi-racialism and globalism. It was these same sentiments that led to the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., Zakaria noted, resulting in less trust and cooperation from the public in tackling the challenges presented by the public health crisis.
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Globalization and hopes for the future
Toward the program’s conclusion, Zakaria observed that globalization has resulted in more divided societies around the world. He elaborated by noting that in the U.S., examples can be seen in divisions between urban and rural, college-educated vs. not college-educated, and other divisions in the media that have allowed disinformation to proliferate. But Zakaria said he believes that overall, globalization has benefited the world, pointing to the vaccine development for COVID-19 as an example. The quick development was miraculous, he said, and a result of globalism and multilateralism as each country used its own competitive advantage in the global economy to effectively manufacture goods needed to fight the pandemic and ultimately the vaccines.
Zakaria concluded by sharing his hopes for the future and saying that, while globalization has caused issues within our societies, “We’re in this global world. We have no alternative. The question is can we find a way to make it work?”
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With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.