Wuhan virus: 10 steps on how to be China and make most of the pandemic

Written By: Vyomica Berry

Almost a year since China's Wuhan reported the world's first cases of COVID-19 in a wet market, and even as several other countries remain firmly in the grip of the subsequent pandemic, life in this region has largely returned to normal. 

Let's take a look at how China made the most of the pandemic:

Spread the Wuhan virus

Since the discovery of the deadly contagion in Wuhan at the end of last year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has sought to model itself as the vanguard in the fight against COVID-19.

Tens of millions of people were forced into a crippling lockdown when Wuhan and its surrounding province were shut down in late January.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Control the virus domestically

The first known cases of COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan late last year, a city of 11 million people, before the virus spread across the world, killing hundreds of thousands and crippling economies.

The lockdown was lifted in April, and there have been no new domestically transmitted cases officially reported in Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital, since mid-May.

Wuhan's recovery is a sharp contrast to other major economies heading into the Christmas and New Year holiday season.

(Photograph:AFP)

Let the virus destroy the world economy

The ongoing spread of the new coronavirus has become one of the biggest threats to the global economy and financial markets.

The outbreak has led major institutions and banks to cut their forecasts for the global economy. One of the latest to do so is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In a report, the OECD said it downgraded its 2020 growth forecasts for almost all economies. The global economy is expected to grow by 2.4% in 2020 — down from the 2.9% projected earlier, said the report.

(Photograph:Others)

Make business

In the early months of the pandemic, Beijing hurried to export millions of masks and gowns, and sent medical teams to help strained healthcare systems in Europe and Africa. 

Now, with major Western pharmaceutical companies beginning to bring their vaccines to market, China is rolling out its own versions -- signing agreements to supply millions of doses, including to countries that have a sometimes-prickly relationship with Beijing.

(Photograph:AFP)

One-China policy

To tighten its grip on the one-China policy, China imposed national security legislation in Hong Kong this year, making anything Beijing regards as subversion, secession, terrorism, or colluding with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.

Meanwhile, it also introduced the education policy in Mongolia and rail lines project joining the mainland to Macau.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Become the export king

China’s economic growth acceleration in the third quarter confirmed a strong recovery in the world’s second-biggest economy when many other countries are still struggling to balance growth and coronavirus control.

 

(Photograph:Reuters)

Blame others

China has attempted to shift the blame for the global spread of coronavirus on different occasions. Recently, a group of researchers claimed that the virus originated not in China, but in India. 

Earlier, an “investigative report” by Global Times - a Chinese mouthpiece claims that the idea of COVID-19 being imported from Australia into the wet markets in Huanan could not be “ruled out”. 

(Photograph:Reuters)

Use the rich vs poor divide

As wealthy countries scramble to buy up the limited supply of big-name coronavirus vaccines, China is stepping in to offer its homegrown jabs to poorer countries. But the largesse is not entirely altruistic, with Beijing hoping for a long-term diplomatic return.

The strategy carries multiple possible benefits: deflecting anger and criticism over China's early handling of the pandemic, raising the profile of its biotech firms, and both strengthening and extending influence in Asia and beyond.

(Photograph:Reuters)

China's 'vaccine diplomacy'

Chinese diplomats have inked deals with Malaysia and the Philippines, both of which have previously complained about Beijing's expansionist ambitions in the South China Sea.

In August, Premier Li Keqiang promised priority vaccine access to countries along the Mekong river, where a devastating drought has been worsened by Chinese dams built upstream.

"China's 'vaccine diplomacy' is not unconditional," Ardhitya Eduard Yeremia and Klaus Heinrich Raditio said in a paper published this month by the Singapore-based Yusof Ishak institute. 

"Beijing may use its vaccine donations to advance its regional agenda, particularly on sensitive issues such as its claims in the South China Sea," they added.

The move by President Xi Jinping to offer up a Chinese vaccine worldwide as a "public good" also allows Beijing to paint itself as a leader in global health, said the CFR's Huang, seizing a mantle left untended as the US retreated under Donald Trump's "America First" doctrine.

(Photograph:AFP)

Be the only nation to benefit from the virus

China has capitalised on the world’s distraction to claim sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea, intimidate Taiwan, and assert more authority over Hong Kong in an attempt to quash the pro-democracy movement there.

It has taken advantage of vulnerable countries in Africa that are struggling to cope with the coronavirus and its economic impact by offering much-needed debt relief — but only if those countries provide lucrative national assets as collateral.

And after the US suspended funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) for allegedly being too cosy with Beijing, the Chinese government pledged millions of dollars in additional support for the organisation, giving China even more influence in the global health agency and allowing the country to portray itself as the new champion of multilateralism.

(Photograph:AFP)

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