Author (Your Name)

Duan WangFollow

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Science, Technology and Society Program


Ashton Wesner

Second Advisor

Hong Zhang

Third Advisor

Chaoran Wang


Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a global public health problem, which stimulated restrictions like lockdowns, public service closures, and strict border controls that disrupted individuals' life patterns to mitigate the potential transmission within communities. Intriguingly, with its adherence to the “zero-COVID tolerance” policy, China represented a unique case in the overall global reopening trend after three years of the pandemic. Such an unwavering, uncompromising stance reflected conflicts between individuals and the Chinese government regarding COVID regulations, which exposed the tension between individualism and government-proposed collectivism.

This thesis investigates strict social regulations and the exacerbated tension between individualism and collectivism in China during the COVID-19 pandemic. To examine this topic, I research the dynamics between technology and society in the context of the STS field and Chinese society. The concepts of individualism and collectivism are also explored. Then the thesis analyzes such dynamics with China's twenty-first-century public health emergencies as case studies, which are the 2003 SARS epidemic, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and the COVID-19 pandemic. For the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, surveillance technologies and public health sciences were applied as the instrument and authorizations for authoritarian social control measures. Such a novel application galvanized the public to express critiques and enact protests against the collective ideology and associated impingement on individual civil liberties. Thus, the strict social regulations unveil the exacerbated tension between individualism and collectivism, which also hint at the adverse implications on China’s social stability and democratic humanity.


COVID-19, public health, China, technology and society