Health and Healthcare Systems

How China’s COVID-19 recovery could bolster its global influence

Members of an aid expedition in protective masks disembark from Air China plane carrying medical supplies donated by the Chinese government, in Athens, Greece, March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis - RC27OF984IDZ

Image: REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis - RC27OF984IDZ

John Letzing
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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COVID-19

  • China has gained control over the COVID-19 outbreak and is now sending aid abroad.
  • These efforts could lead to China assuming a global leadership role amid the pandemic, some experts argue.
  • Here's a roundup of news and analysis on China and the geopolitics of COVID-19.

In the fight to contain COVID-19, one thing has become clear: prematurely claiming victory can prove costly and embarrassing.

But China may have won a certain amount of bragging rights. While it was home to the first detected cases of the coronavirus and suffered dearly in terms of loss of life, economic impact and reputation, the country has since turned the tables by gaining a measure of control over the outbreak – even drawing people from the West in search of safety. Now, a relatively steadied China is sending coronavirus-related aid abroad in the form of doctors, masks and ventilators, in a display of soft power that could hasten a tipping of geopolitical scales in its favour.

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Other countries, including Singapore and Australia, have also won plaudits for managing the outbreak relatively well. Even in Italy, where the cumulative death toll has now topped that of China, there are positive examples of proactive containment. Meanwhile, in the US, where public officials were suggesting as recently as late February that the country had contained COVID-19, the number of confirmed cases has spiked.

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Even though the virus was initially linked to China, the world’s second-biggest economy may well become more closely associated with measures that are now helping to curb its spread.

For more context, here are links to more reading courtesy of the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform:

  • Global orders have a tendency to change gradually at first and then all at once. If the US does not rise to meet the moment, according to this analysis, the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to Beijing supplanting it as a global leader. (Foreign Affairs)
  • Some argue that China’s global COVID-19 assistance is being done to try to defuse criticism that it allowed the disease to spread early on. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • The relatively slow and haphazard response to COVID-19 in Europe and America will accelerate the shift in power and influence from West to East, according to this Harvard Kennedy School professor. (Belfer Center)
  • While many people in Italy are disappointed with European partners that have failed to come to their aid amid the pandemic, China was quick to post videos of grateful Italians praising China for its generosity, according to this analysis. (The Diplomat)
  • A professor at the US Naval War College makes the argument that China suppressed information about the spreading coronavirus. (War on the Rocks)
  • A former China Bureau Chief for Bloomberg Business Businessweek discusses the important role migrant workers will likely play in China’s recovery from this public health and economic crisis. (Brookings)
  • This article shows how Italy’s Chinese community went from helping their homeland to looking to it for help. (Caixin)
  • Videos about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are in demand in hard-hit Iran, and a group of volunteers has been working to translate the most helpful Chinese-language clips into Farsi. (Yicai Global)

On the Strategic Intelligence platform, you can find feeds of expert analysis related to COVID-19, Global Health and hundreds of additional topics. You’ll need to register to view.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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