Information Dilemmas and Blame-Avoidance Strategies: From Secrecy to Lightning Rods in Chinese Health Crises

Baekkeskov Erik, Olivier Rubin

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China and other authoritarian states notoriously keep mum about disasters. Yet two recent but dissimilar Chinese responses to infectious disease epidemics show that authoritarian crisis management can shift from secrecy to openness. China maintained prolonged secrecy during 2003 SARS, yet was open from day one about 2009 H1N1 flu. To explore why, this article links crisis information dilemmas to blame avoidance concepts from democratic political theories. We argue that greater Chinese transparency about infectious disease response reflects evolution in blame avoidance, from heavy reliance on information control to insulating leaders by using technical experts and agencies as “lightning rods.” In 2003, the Chinese strategy of information containment and secrecy backfired, and the Chinese leadership eventually received blame at home and internationally for crisis mismanagement. In 2009, China put in place public health specialists and institutions as responsible for H1N1 information and responses, thereby insulating the top-tier leadership.
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)425-443
Antal sider19
StatusUdgivet - 15 jun. 2017

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