The biggest of Pandemics in the human history have had an everlasting impact on the vast regions of the planet and even upon the entire globe. Diseases introduced into Americas during the Columbian Exchange during the 15th and 16th centuries changed the demographics of the region, something that bears its imprint till date. In fact, it also unveiled a new kind of phenomenon in global politics- introducing diseases for colonialization that the Europeans successfully exploited in the African continent in later centuries.
In this context, a post-Coronavirus world order will no longer be the same as before, with some definitive patterns and perceptions already emerging on the global scenario. Vijay Gokhale, former ambassador to China and an expert on Chinese affairs, has written an article on India’s response to Coronavirus and how India’s future depends on it. China’s creation and mismanagement of the Pandemic, coupled with India’s success in containing the novel Wuhan virus, at least till as of now has two major consequences as far global perceptions are concerned-
- Vindication of India’s model of democracy, openness and transparency.
- Undermining of the “Beijing Consensus”- China’s own mythical model to convince its domestic population of the virtues of the Communist model and the obsoleteness of democracy.
China’s rise in the last three decades can be attributed largely to the massive endorsement of the Chinese model by the vested interests- those who benefitted from China’s lack of transparency, its draconian characteristics and clearly inhumane labour laws. Therefore, even if the Chinese model was patently unacceptable, even fundamentally illegal in other countries, those who benefitted out of it continued to sing paeans for the Communist regime.
The global media too played its part in helping out China with all the benevolence that it could shower upon the Dragon. The global media remained wilfully sympathetic towards Beijing even in the face of gross mismanagement of the Coronavirus outbreak.
But COVID-19 outbreak and its implications have broken through the propaganda about the “Beijing Consensus”- the myth of the Communist model prevailing over the democratic model has been ruthlessly demolished. China, despite its massive PR exercise in collusion so called supranational organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not been able to convince the world about having played a positive role amidst the Coronavirus outbreak.
Now, it is well known that the novel infection originated somewhere in the unsanitary wet markets of the Hubei province of China, and President Trump rightly calls it the ‘Chinese Virus’. When the videos of Chinese authorities coercively quarantining anyone, who appeared to be “sick” in virtual detention centres that offered minimal medical care came out, the “Beijing Consensus” got demolished brutally.
Today, it is well known that China not only messed up its own fight against the Coronavirus, but also kept misleading the entire world about the real magnitude of the novel, mysterious virus that owes its origins to the rampant, unhealthy practices in Central China.
In this backdrop has arisen- a democratic, transparent India which has managed the Pandemic in a much better way than China. With the unprecedentedly humongous efforts of the Modi government, the infection has been contained to a large extent. And this has renewed Chinese fears of India’s democratic model prevailing over, and even threatening the Chinese Communist model.
Moreover, China has always been apprehensive of India’s rising global stature, as the Dragon firmly believes in a unipolar model- looking at itself as the ultimate power and doesn’t want to cede space to India at the regional and global level. And even though the Dragon has somewhat tilted its position after India’s assertiveness during the Dokhlam standoff in the year 2017, China’s objectives are to ensure that a strong Indo-US alliance doesn’t emerge as part of Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy, and also that at best India emerges as second fiddle to Beijing.
China, which follows the opaque, Communist model has therefore also been wary of India’s enormous soft power- its Asian neighbour’s human resources and capabilities getting unleashed. Moreover, it envies India’s transparency and also worries that if India rises at the global stage, then it would by necessary implication negate Beijing’s Communist model.
Prime Minister Modi’s implementation of a 21-day lockdown, followed by an impressive Rs. 1.7 lakh crore relief package is the moment that will vindicate India’s soft power- her transparency also manifested in a free media that has been partnering in information dissemination and giving out real time data, unlike the Chinese State media and mouthpieces like Global Times which have been working as mere extensions of spokespersons of the Communist Party of China (CCP).
India’s fight against the Coronavirus has been so far, so good and if the Modi government can ward it off with similar conviction through out, then India will rise dramatically at the international level. While China would be secretly celebrating its economic competitor’s lockdown- India’s economic activity coming to a grinding halt, it would also be in awe of India’s flawless management, something that China failed at miserably.
And then this a massive endorsement of not just India’s soft power, but also her capabilities as the country has also broken the myth of the West’s superiority and has been tackling the virus in a much better manner than the developed powers like Italy and the United States.
Once done fighting Coronavirus, the world would want to distance itself from China, though all the vested interests along with China would want to restore the status quo. And to some extent they might succeed too- China would use its industrial capabilities to extort the world not to be too harsh against it, indications of which we have already seen as Beijing tried to push Huawei in the United States.
But India by managing the Coronavirus in a far more impressive manner than the Dragon will make a strong case for shifting the “world’s factory” from China to India- a massive opportunity for Prime Minister Modi’s flagship ‘Make in India’ to pick up. This is what China also understands and worries about explaining the Global Times’ distasteful attempts to vilify Indian authorities regarding the 21-day lockdown.
Pandemics have historically altered world orders, and COVID-19 might once again be a moment of a massive alteration in world politics, that is, India’s open and transparent model prevailing over China’s opaque and Communist model. How well India continues to fight and contain the Wuhan virus will ultimately determine her, as well as her Asian neighbour’s global standing in a post-Coronavirus world.