It was Mainland China where SARS first struck, and where ultimately there were the most cases. However, Mainland Chinese scientists and physicians failed to capitalise, in terms of research publications, on their advantages and resources. They could have been the first to identify the pathogen, sequence its genome and describe how it sickens its victims. This article examines the reasons why the country lost an opportunity to show off its growing scientific prowess to the international community — authoritative and institutional structures, scientists from different jurisdictions not collaborating, etc. — and concludes that nothing has since changed.