China, the pandemic and the big geopolitical game
Remember Chernobyl? You will ask: what is common between China, the pandemic and Chernobyl? There is. In Bulgaria, we still remember Chernobyl. We remember how the communist government tried to cover up the incident on the territory of our Big Brother then – the USSR. We were told that there was nothing dangerous. Going out peacefully, eating salad … Thousands of people lost their lives and their health because of these lies.
When the horror began in Wuhan, the Chinese Communists reacted exactly as their Soviet colleagues did three decades ago. They tried to cover the epidemic. It was now too late, and we were living in a slightly different world. A world where the Internet exists and the cover-up of an epidemic, even in communist China, is almost impossible. Because of strategic mistakes the epidemic grew into a pandemic. A pandemic that happens once every 100 years! And it set the whole world on fire.
After the terrible start, the Chinese authorities made the right decisions and pulled their country out of the extremely difficult situation it had found itself in. China was in complete isolation. “We closed the World Factory” – some shortsighted politicians gloated. People in Wuhan and other Chinese cities were subjected to uncompromising quarantine. Strict measures that worked. The facts speak for themselves: 3 months later, Chinese factories are working again.
People return to their daily lives from the pre-coronavirus. Yes, China seems saved … but the world is burning! The statistics of deaths and infected marked new records in the United States, Russia, India … before in Italy, Spain, United Kingdom ….
The Chinese model
It`s increasingly rare for anyone to mention China’s guilt. The propaganda and resources that China has are really powerful. The world needs a Chinese model to deal with the virus and is careful not to offend Beijing.
In what world will we live after the pandemic?
China is now, perhaps, the only hope for the world. From the supply of various materials and medicines to the development and production of vaccines. The US and the Western world have suffered, and are suffering, complete failure. The health systems of major democracies are failing to cope with the pandemic. The economies are in an unprecedented collapse. And after the nightmarish start of the year, China rose from the ashes like the Phoenix bird. Economically and politically!
Even the most nervous foreign observers in the West have concluded that China will be the winner of the coronavirus disaster. According to them, the pandemic will be remembered not only by human tragedy, but also by the turning point of geopolitics. America will be removed from the throne as the # 1 political and economic superpower. This conclusion is also borne out by the attitude of the President of the United States himself, D. Trump. He again and again denies the United States as a leading force, both in the fight against the pandemic and on many other international fronts. Former US President Barack Obama led campaigns against AIDS and Ebola. The current one is suspending WHO funding. With this behavior of a man in full power, China has every chance of becoming the new dominant superpower.
Russian observers are also alarming. According to them, China will launch an aggressive propaganda campaign after the pandemic. The Russians expect China’s propaganda machine to become fully operational in order to “advertise” their political and economic lifestyles globally. The imposition of the Chinese model worldwide! As after WWII, it happened with Soviet communism in Eastern Europe.
New Player # 1 and the challenges ahead
And even if this “Chinese march” to the geopolitical summit does not crown with complete success, one thing is certain. China has been able to deal with the Covid-19 virus in a truly impressive way. They have succeeded where other proven, Asia-leading, rich nations have failed miserably. South Korea, Taiwan and even Japan continue to fail to control the dangerous virus.
Statistics provided by the authorities in China are constantly being questioned by some democratic media. But that does not change the fact that China is already opening factories and returning to a regular life. Propaganda works at full force, and every day we watch on television how Chinese walk through parks and gardens, work, shop, travel, etc.
Of course, the communist regime in Beijing can open all its factories, but it cannot force consumers outside China to buy their goods. Because many people around the world continue to blame China for the pandemic. Because they initially hid the truth, then failed to control the virus and allowed it to spread throughout the world. We all remember, and we cannot forget the young Wuhan Doctor who first alarmed at the dangerous epidemic. We remember the attitude he received from the authorities and his supreme sacrifice, losing his life in the battle with the virus (Please remember this name forever: Li Wenliang! This is the name of a decent man, the name of a Chinese man who honestly and without fear did his job. If we do our job every day as he did, the world will be a much better place to live. A deep obeisance to Dr. Li Wenliang!).
Another obstacle may be China’s strong, unpleasant propaganda. Speakers of the communist regime in Beijing are sparing no praise for their own leaders. Understandably, some of them are currently gloating over Trump’s address, watching the US’s helplessness in the battle against the virus. There have also been allegations that the coronavirus is an American bioweapon. During war games in Wuhan, namely US marines were released virus in the city.
The attitude towards the Africans in Guangzhou has also provoked angry reactions in the world media. Because of fears from local authorities that it could be infected among the largest African community in China, many Africans were driven out of their homes and hotels and forced to live on the streets. The concept of coronavirus racism was born. The attitude towards Africans in China established diplomatic scandal that reverberated across Africa.
Fear of ever-strengthening China is intensifying
Wealthy countries are becoming increasingly suspicious of China’s actions and motives. The head of the European Commission on Competition warned governments to buy stakes in strategic companies so that China could not take advantage of the chaos in the market and buy them cheaply.
In a broader perspective, countries should not rely on China for essential goods and services. The World Trade Organization expects a global trade contraction of 12-33% in a very short period. If this translates into a long-term withdrawal from globalization – which was a concern even before covid-19 – it would hurt China just as much as anywhere else.
Now the main question is not whether China will replace the US as a leading force, but whether it wants to do so. So far, Beijing has not given such signals. Surely China will not try to recreate the US model of power: a vast empire of alliances and legions of private contractors. A global political-economic and military force, from Google and Netflix, through Harvard and the Gates Foundation, to Lockheed and the Hawks.
China shows no sign of wanting to take over the leadership. After WWII, the US became a superpower, taking advantage of multiple crises around the world. China has never been a warlike culture. What will Beijing does then?
What does China really wants?
Western observers say the most serious test of China’s ambitions will be the race for the vaccine. If they are the first to develop it, will it be used as a national triumph and platform for reorganizing the world order?
Relieving the debt of indebted countries will be another serious test. On April 15, G20 countries, including China, agreed to delay payments to indebted nations by 8 months. In the past, China vehemently opposed to such delays, trying to derive political benefits. If the current solution means that Beijing already has a desire to coordinate with other creditors and create a more generous face in the world, it could mean that they are ready to scatter a lot of money to establish themselves in a new role.
Perhaps, however, China is less interested in ruling the world than to ensure that other forces will not be able or will not dare to do so … Another goal is to reduce the weight of the dollar as reserve currency. China is also working hard to put its diplomats at key positions in major international organizations so that they can promote their interests globally. Human rights and internet development interests. This is also one reason why Mr Trump has repeatedly claimed how bad China is for the US.
Beijing’s rulers combine a great deal of ambition with traditional Chinese prudence, fueled by the enormous risk posed by the country’s 1.4 billion population. They don`t need to create a new world order to start building on the ruins of the old one. They would prefer to keep the pressure they are exerting on the columns of the current one created by the United States after WWII. Their main goal is – NO MORE limitations and restrictions on their development. And all levers are currently available to achieve this.
What future awaits the world?
This is not a reassuring prospect. The only way to deal with Covid-19 is through a global solution! As well as issues such as organized crime and climate change. 2020 showed what happens when great powers act selfishly and try to take advantage of the misery of others. The proliferation of Covid-19 on such a scale is due not only to the pursuit of any global advantage, but also to myopic megalomania. Mr. Trump brings tremendous guilt about all this! For China, solidifying such trends in superpower behavior would be a tragedy, not a victory.
What will happen to Hong Kong? …
(to be continued…)
Materials from the “Economist” were used.