As the novel Wuhan virus continues to wreak havoc with over 100 nations battling the virus, the anti-China sentiment has never been higher. Despite the best efforts of the Chinese propaganda machinery and international media outlets, no one is buying China’s propaganda and excuses. Simultaneously, the reliability of the Chinese model is also being questioned.
The world is now realizing the perils of strongly depending on an undemocratic and authoritarian country like China which has been the global manufacturing hub for decades. The whole world is taking the brunt of what has been in China today, and in return, China is leaving no stone unturned to escape its responsibility. The outbreak of this epidemic is sure to shock China’s image worldwide and that is why after the end of this epidemic, China will never be the same as China.
If there were any doubts that the world is ready to dump China to the bin and reduce its economic dependence on China then the action taken by the G7 countries assuages such concerns. China is completely excluded from any action the G7 countries have decided to take to combat coronavirus. The G7 includes seven countries such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, the US, and the European Union. There is no mention of China in the vows they have taken to fight Corona, and China has been completely ruled out. In response to this, China has also described these steps of G7 as disappointing.
While China is buying one journalist after the another so as to have good press over their ‘efforts’ to contain the spread of the virus, the country’s accusation that it was the US that brought the virus is finding no takers.
The Chinese authorities instead of taking up responsibility are trying to pin the blame on the USA and wash their hands off the virus. From initially blaming the USA for overreacting on the virus to now claiming that the virus originated in the USA, the Chinese propaganda machinery has come a full circle. The Chinese propaganda machinery is currently claiming that it was the US Military that brought the virus to Wuhan during the Wuhan Military games — a claim which is devoid of any proof.
China’s antics have only further infuriated the world and the country has now started to act vindictively as China has announced it will expel journalists from three US media outlets — New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.
“The Chinese government’s decision is particularly regrettable because it comes in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis, when clear and reliable information about the international response to Covid-19 is essential,” said Marty Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post. “Severely limiting the flow of that information, which China now seeks to do, only aggravates the situation.”
The country is already battling accusations that it underreported the virus’s spread in its initial stages and kept the word in dark over the deadly virus. The opaqueness of the epidemic management in China has brought to focus on a large scale China’s authoritarian regime and the move to expel journalists belonging to the US media outlets is likely to deliver a hammer blow to China’s image.
However, the biggest blow to China and its economy will come from Xi Jinping’s pet project Belt and Road Initiative. China’s ambitious BRI involved huge investments in foreign nations, including spending money on building a good image in countries around the world. That is going to get tough for China now.
The much-hyped Belt and Road Initiative is just a tool of the Chinese Communist Party to colonise the poor nations by giving them a huge amount of loans which they can’t pay back and hence trapping them in the infamous Chinese debt trap. China in return takes over a port or an airport of the defaulting country with case in point being the Maldives and Sri Lanka. After the initial frenzy, the BRI is facing a massive backlash in many countries like Kenya and Maldives with many governments looking to either renegotiate the terms of the deal or completely backing out.
While China was battling the Wuhan virus, Indonesia delivered a hammer blow to the BRI as the country has been witnessing a simmering sentiment against the BRI ever since Golfrid Siregar, an Indonesian environmental lawyer, was found beaten and abandoned on the side of a road on Sumatra in October last year and he succumbed to his injuries three days later. It is believed that Siregar turned out to be a thorn in China’s BRI and had to pay the ultimate price for the same. This has prompted more than 240 civil society organisations urged the Indonesian government to investigate the “extremely suspicious” death of an activist who opposed the building of a hydropower dam seen as key to China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the country.
China’s economy is likely to take a severe beating due to the Wuhan virus. Due to the virus, the country’s services sector is estimated to be losing $114 billion a week. The virus has now brought China’s defence sector to a complete standstill which will derail Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s to realise his “China Dream” by 2021.
What’s worse for China is the fact that the epicentre of the virus, Wuhan is also the hub of many Chinese weapons and equipment design and manufacturing institutes. Additionally, the research and development headquarters of most Chinese hi-technology companies are also located in Wuhan. The complete lockdown of Wuhan is likely to severely affect China’s defence production. Earlier this month, the Jiangnan Shipyard which is located in Shanghai and is building China’s third aircraft carrier, asked employees, who travelled to other cities since the virus outbreak, not to return to work until further notice, or quarantine themselves at home for the stipulated period. This will obviously delay the construction of the new aircraft carrier and could have further knock-on effects.
From foreign companies operating in China to countries dependent on Chinese imports, all are facing the ill effects of over-reliance on China and do not want to face it again in the future. For this reason, there has been a lot of apprehension that as soon as the epidemic ends, foreign companies working in China will start migrating to safer countries like Vietnam and India. This will not only shock China’s economy, but will also reduce the influence of China worldwide.
China could have prevented this terrible disease from spreading across the world, but it worked just the opposite as it muzzled the early warning bells. Chinese doctor Wenliang was one of the first whistleblower to raise the alarm over Coronavirus but the Communist party true to its characteristics, muzzled his concerns. When Wenliang on December 30, sent a message to fellow doctors in a chat group warning them to wear protective clothing to avoid infection, four days later he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was told to sign a letter. In the letter, he was accused of “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order”. He was one of eight people who police said were being investigated for “spreading rumours”. Local authorities later apologised to Dr Li. In his Weibo post he describes how on 10 January he started coughing, the next day he had a fever and two days later he was in the hospital. He was diagnosed with the Coronavirus on 30 January and succumbed to the virus in February.
Let us imagine for a moment if this epidemic had taken birth in a democratic country, what would have been the consequences? Initially, the doctor who told about the disease would not have been caught by the police nor would he have been tortured. People would have listened and become alert and the regional administration would also deal with this ‘new disease’ vigorously. Instead, the communist system of China spread the disease which could be confined to the city of Wuhan in China.
China faces many questions as the world witnesses a rising anti-chain sentiment as it seems adamant on shirking its responsibilities. It will not be far-fetched to say that the attitude of the world towards China will change forever. Countries that have lost their citizens because of the Wuhan virus, people who have lost their lives due to the Chinese virus, will never be able to accept China as before. This will have a profound impact on China’s diplomacy and after this epidemic, we will get to see a new China in the world who may have been struggling to get back to his credibility.