Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post, and a columnist for World Politics Review. Follow her on Twitter @fridaghitis. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author. Read more opinion on CNN. (CNN)As people everywhere struggle to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus — a pandemic that feels very much like the starting point of a new era — another contest is unfolding over which political system is better suited to tackle the problem, and which will emerge victorious in its aftermath. Does the pandemic prove that authoritarianism is better? Can democracy handle the challenge? The questions lie at the heart of a messaging campaign quietly flooding the world, a concerted effort to portray democracy as an inferior system. The propaganda battle is emanating from China, where the ruling regime appears determined to leverage the pandemic to defend and promote its system of government and raise its global standing when the crisis is over. An abundance of international media coverage about the troubles with the United States’ response has boosted Beijing’s propaganda effort. There is

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