Organizational Response to COVID-19 Crisis: Reflections on the Chinese Bureaucracy and Its Resilience

At the initial epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese governments, both central and local, responded to the outbreak in Wuhan, with the drastic measure of the lockdown of the entire city of 11 million residents. The moment of organizational response to crisis crystallized the fundamentals of Chinese bureaucracy, its bureaucratic processes, dispositions, and mentalities, as it had to haphazardly patch together segments of formal and informal practice for mobilization. In this commentary, I reflect on what we have learned about Chinese bureaucracy in this dramatic episode.

As China and many other countries are now facing the aftermath of the pandemic and adapting to a significantly changed global environment, organizational resilience moves to the center of attention. Making sense of the characteristics of the Chinese government helps us better understand the potential for organizational resilience in the post-pandemic era. We look into the past in order to better understand what lies ahead.