TIME

The middle kingdom reopens

IT WAS AN EMOTIONAL REUNION FOR QI XIAOYU, WHO WAS BOUNCING IN ANTICIPATION EVEN BEFORE MICKEY AND DONALD PADDED INTO VIEW. THE 27-YEAR-OLD NURSE VISITED SHANGHAI DISNEYLAND OVER 200 TIMES BETWEEN ITS 2016 OPENING AND ITS CLOSING IN JANUARY DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS.

Qi says regular trips to the theme park boost her mental well-being, which has suffered over the 15 weeks she’s spent on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic. Her only respite has been dressing up at home in one of her 20-odd Disney princess costumes, she says, to escape the real world of death in her hospital. “Disney is pure happiness and takes my mind off all the pressure I feel at work,” Qi says, grinning behind her face mask as she enters Shanghai’s iteration of the Magic Kingdom on May 11, the day it reopened. “Here, everything is wonderful.”

If ever the world needed a dose of magic, it’s now. But of the dozen theme parks that Disney runs across the globe, only the Chinese park is open today. The reopened facility may be operating at 30% capacity, under strict social-distancing regulations, but in the U.S., all Disney parks remain mothballed. The company has furloughed 100,000 workers, closed stores and theme parks, and put its star-studded box-office productions on ice. Its share price has tumbled by almost a third.

Watching families in Shanghai browse $14 Winnie the Pooh mugs while Americans remain in the grip of the coronavirus, it’s hard not to wonder whether the mixed fortunes of this most iconic of American institutions indicate a broader changing of the guard. The world’s two biggest economies were already locked in a trade war that could cost the global economy $470 billion. They also spar over intellectual-property theft, cyberespionage, the North Korean nuclear threat and the incarceration of more than 1 million ethnic Muslims in China’s Far West. Differences in how each has handled the pandemic may be not only the latest rupture, but the one

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