The outbreak of COVID-19 due to SARS-CoV-2 originally emerged in Wuhan in December 2019. As of March 22, 2020, the disease spread to 186 countries, with at least 305,275 confirmed cases. Although there has been a decline in the spread of the disease in China, the prevalence of COVID-19 around the world remains serious despite containment efforts undertaken by national authorities and the international community. In this article, we systematically review the brief history of COVID-19 and its epidemic and clinical characteristics, highlighting the strategies used to control and prevent the disease in China, which may help other countries respond to the outbreak. This pandemic emphasizes the need to be constantly alert to shifts in both the global dynamics and the contexts of individual countries, making sure that all are aware of which approaches are successful for the prevention, containment and treatment of new diseases, and being flexible enough to adapt the responses accordingly.