Will Coronavirus Stop The Rise Of China?
There may be signs that what seemed to be an inexorable rise to Chinese global hegemony could be derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Global trade, the lifeblood of China’s economic growth, has taken a massive hit during the pandemic. The World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates a drop in global trade in 2020 between 13% and 32% due to coronavirus, a dip larger than that seen during the Great Recession of 2008.
China depends on exports in order to fund the international propaganda, military expansion and investment initiatives designed to increase its influence around the world. Without the annual $2.4 trillion in exports China reaps from its global trade, its expansion efforts could be crippled for years. (RELATED: As Coronavirus Spreads, Most Of America’s Medicine Still Comes From China)
Chinese exports have already slumped. Exports were down a combined 17.2% in January and February, and they were down a further 14% in March, according to Reuters. China’s first-quarter GDP growth is expected to contract by 10% from a year earlier. Two investment banks have predicted that, if China enters a recession because of coronavirus, second-quarter GDP growth could dip below zero.
Another major component of China’s global strategy that has been hampered by coronavirus is its spread of influence and propaganda through investment projects. China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its 5G campaign could be in jeopardy because of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. (RELATED: Elite American Institutions Keep Bowing To Communist China… Over And Over Again)
The Belt and Road Initiative is a development and investment strategy implemented by China in 2013 that seeks to provide funding for infrastructure and investments to create closer economic ties between its partner countries and China. The Chinese government has loaned and invested over $1 trillion since 2013.
Critics of the plan have claimed that it is an attempt by China to increase its influence throughout the world by loaning money to small, poor nations that cannot easily repay their debts. In 2018, the Center for Global Development claimed that 23 countries, including Pakistan, Montenegro, Mongolia, and Laos, had a high level of risk of debt distress due to loans from China under Belt and Road. Sri Lanka was forced to relinquish control of a strategic Indian Ocean port as part of a repayment settlement after Sri Lanka was unable to repay its loans.
Many Belt and Road projects were put on hold once China put Hubei Province, which contains the origin site of coronavirus Wuhan, on lockdown. Future projects may be similarly delayed because of the global economic slump.
The halting of the Belt and Road Initiative would disable China’s primary method of spreading its influence, and if it is permanently weakened, could stop China’s rise to global superpower.
The biggest threat to China’s rise is the United States, but for the majority of China’s rise thus far, it has not been deemed as a major threat by the American people. However, that view is changing.
A Pew Research Center survey published last week indicated that around 66% of Americans hold an unfavorable view of China. Pew’s findings represent the most negative rating for the country since Pew began asking the question in 2005.
If the American people retain this view after the coronavirus pandemic subsides, they could demand action from the American government to meet the Chinese threat head-on. An America cognizant of and aligned against China’s ambitions represents the gravest threat to China’s rise, and there are indications that it is happening.
Almost 90% of Americans view China as a threat, while just over 60% consider the country a major threat to the United States. Only 48% of Americans held that view in 2018.
Americans’ opinion of President Xi Jinping has also plummeted. 71% of respondents said they have no confidence in him, compared to 50% in 2019. The survey polled 1,000 people and the margin of error is 3.7%. The poll was conducted between Mar. 3 and 29.
Despite these indications that China’s growth could be hampered by the coronavirus, it is also possible that these circumstances will slow it down but cannot stop it completely.
China’s official death count has almost certainly been deliberately underreported — reports have surfaced suggesting that mortuaries in Wuhan have been receiving shipments of thousands of urns — but the coronavirus itself is very unlikely to cause any major disruption in China’s population.
Likewise, the revelation that China’s government lied to the world and to its own people is unlikely to cause any serious internal stability in China, since its government censors have been busy spreading conspiracy theories that the U.S. was the real origin for the virus and keeping its population in the dark about vital information on the virus.
The coronavirus has a real chance of slowing down China’s rise to a superpower capable of realistically challenging the United States’ grip on global hegemony, but there is little chance of China’s rise being totally reversed. The biggest danger to China is a focused American effort to challenge it, and even then it would take a massive effort from the U.S. and its allies to reverse China’s gains on the international stage.