Jun 08, 2023
Jun 08, 2023
I have come across some social media posts and relatively more reliable video clips on the YouTube with Chinese people and students complaining in the media that they are being ill-treated with racial abuse in countries like UK, US and many others in public places and institutions. Not too sure about the exact place but in one of such clips one could see a serious altercation between an elderly native and a Chinese couple, followed by the security staff showing the couple way out to supposedly a supermarket/mall. One cannot be certain about its authenticity as a lot of disinformation and fake news too is circulated on social media and internet these days. At the same time, it is a fact that with the explosion of coronavirus pandemic, there is an increase in the acts and displays of xenophobia, or more specifically Sinophobia, in the form of racism, prejudice, discrimination or even violence against people of Chinese origin around the world. As the pandemic has spread across the world with the United States and Western Europe becoming hotspots, many such instances have been reported across the globe and more specifically the Western countries. Xenophobia or racism of any sort is a despicable act and cannot be accepted in the civilized world yet it is also important to consider cause rather than mere effect of the pandemic.
In all such cases, international travellers have been the carrier of disease and China cannot simply shirk or shrug off its responsibility in exposing the world community to this danger. On their part, China has serious objections even to the very mention of the terms “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” by anyone, including American President who did so as the virus was first reported in Wuhan, China. It is not uncommon in naming things based on the place of their origin but Chinese government, people and their followers take serious exception to such remarks while, on their part, even the Chinese officials had blamed the US military and black people from Africa for the spread of the coronavirus – quite obviously as part of their counter-offensive agenda. Probably for the first time, many countries have also criticized the World Health Organization (WHO), particularly its Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for siding with and protecting Chinese interests alone. Indeed, WHO has acted in a partisan way by hiding information, delaying advisory on travel restriction and the disease’s declaration as pandemic. The United States, the largest sufferer of the pandemic and biggest donor to WHO, has even stopped its funding peeved and angry with the alleged partisan role.
Suspicious Role of People's Republic of China
Ever since the news about the coronavirus disease in Wuhan, China was known to the rest of the world, both the role and reporting by the agencies in the mainland China have been extremely secretive and suspicious. It was towards the end of December 2019 that a bunch of pneumonia like cases on account of unknown causative agents were first reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China. The initial cases were linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and, consequently, the virus was considered to have a zoonotic origin i.e. it primarily existed in animals and secondarily transmitted to humans. The virus that caused the outbreak was identified as SARS-CoV-2 by the WHO, a new virus closely related to similar viruses found in bats. It is generally believed that the virus possibly originated in bats of the Rhinolophus genus.
What has been submitted in the aforesaid paragraph is, of course, one theory of its origin which has not been so far confirmed by the Chinese government which is also known to have blamed the US military for the virus. At times, Chinese sources have even blamed the black people from Africa for the spread of the disease. However, a more sinister account published by Robert Morningstar of Ufospotlight E-magazine, allgedly sourced by an anonymous Chinese military intelligence officer, suggested a project on secret development of a potent biological agent gone haywire with disastrous implications. The sensational report looks like a dark science fiction with the details of Chinese efforts to develop a biological agent to make people more docile and obedient through mental retardation, its experimentation on "Islamic radicals" in training camps of Xinjiang province using them as human guinea pigs, and eventual transportation to Wuhan Virology Lab and its accidental release of the dreadful agent causing havoc on local population, which the officials allegedly tried to cover up by mixing it with seasonal flu data. Yet another report suggested an angle of unleashing a potential biological weapon by China to gain world supremacy through an economic war.
Ordinarily, the world is expected to go by the published official data and the world community sticking to what is released by the Chinese officials on the coronavirus outbreak in their country from time to time. Yet several unanswered questions remain casting doubts on the Chinese data officially released: For instance, the report published in the Ufospotlight magazine is sensational to the extent of being blasphemous yet the Chinese government or Communist party do not appear to have taken cognizance of it for any legal action or even simple denial. The truth becomes the biggest causality in the aforesaid scenario, so much so that at times even the reality is blurred and read with riders and skepticism. In any case, while the coronavirus remained largely localized in Wuhan, China while its growth has been rampant worldwide, in most Western countries including the worst hit United States. Even though India had taken early precautionary and preventive measures and is under lockdown with a curfew like situation for the fourth consecutive week, the country has not been succeeded in stopping the spread of disease in its entire length and width. Hence there are not many takers of any Chinese version on the subject across the world.
Some time back, unhappy and bitter US President Donald Trump said that the world is "paying a big price" for China hiding the initial information on the deadly coronavirus thereby suggesting that Beijing is responsible for the current global public health crisis due to the pandemic. The point made by him was that if the fraternity of world nations knew about the virus a few of months earlier, it could have been contained to that one particular area (Wuhan) in China where it originated. By now the coronavirus disease has sickened more than 2,347,815 people in about 210 countries with over 161,128 deaths with only little over 4,600 casualties in China, where the pandemic first originated in Wuhan. Earlier the American National Security Council (NSC) had observed that the Chinese Communist Party suppressed initial reports on the coronavirus and punished doctors, causing Chinese and international experts to miss critical opportunities to prevent a global pandemic.
On their part, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman outrightly rejected the American contention about concealing crucial information on the coronavirus pandemic and accused the US of seeking to shift the blame for its own failure in handling of the outbreak. She also refuted the contention that Beijing had under-reported both total cases and deaths from the disease. Whatever the official machinery of China project for the consumption of world, truth is they have never been transparent in reporting of the true picture since the inception of the disease. For illustration, as on 29 March 2020, the total reported cases in China were 81,439 with 3,300 deaths; this count was mildly increased to 82,052 cases with 3,339 deaths as on 12 April. In the next four days, the death count merely increased by four to 3,342 as on 16 April but suddenly China has reported 1,290 additional deaths bringing total deaths to 4,632 on 17 April. This national tally includes almost 50% rise in Wuhan deaths from 2,579 to 3,869 as revised by the Wuhan New Coronary Pneumonia Epidemic Prevention and Control while separately China’s National Health Commission (NHC) reported 26 new cases (and no deaths) in its daily report. Ordinarily, one would not find such confusion or misreporting in the democratic countries like India and US where many independent/private sources too have access and reporting of such data and information.
By now it is pretty clear that the first case of coronavirus was known in Wuhan as back as mid November 2019 but China chose not to inform the world community till the end of December 2019 despite thousands of Chinese people being coronavirus positive. It was on 31 December 2019 that the WHO was officially informed of the disease by China but even after this the overseas travel was not restricted and thousands of Chinese people kept traveling from Wuhan to other countries across the globe in January 2020. Though the DG WHO is known to have officially visited China in early January but either the Chinese government concealed the data underplaying the threat or the WHO could not make proper assessment of the situation. On the occasion of the New Year itself, reportedly lakhs of Chinese people had gone abroad for fun and leisure trips in addition to usual travel for various purposes. Flights to and fro Wuhan were suspended only on 31 January 2020 and it was too late by that time as coronavirus cases had already started showing up in countries like Italy, Iran and South Korea. The first three cases of the coronavirus in India too were reported in students coming from Wuhan towards the January end and early February. The WHO declared it a pandemic after considerable delay on 11 March 2020.
Some other actions of China are too worrisome and cause of concern for the world community. While available data and information suggest that the origin of the coronavirus was in Wuhan, Hubei province, China deliberately indulged in spreading misinformation that the virus was brought to their country by the US military in October 2019 and also that it had already spread in Italy before being reported in the Wuhan city. Besides, there are reports that at least 4-5 whistle-blowers in China were arrested with the charges of rumour mongering and sedition; Doctor Li Wenliang who was first to make it public was reportedly detained and made upon to seek an unconditional apology before he died under mysterious circumstances reportedly by same disease. The role of WHO is also under cloud now and its head is being trolled world over for delaying declaration of Covid-19 as pandemic supposedly acting under pressure from China. China being the president of the UN Security Council during March, it did not consider it necessary to hold a discussion in the UN forum about the global situation on the pandemic.
The immediate fall out of the aforesaid lapses was that when the infection reached Europe, most people could not fathom its gravity and did not follow the social distancing norms. The virus kept spreading and by the time people in Europe and US realized the magnitude, started observing social distancing, it was too late to effectively control the virus. Being a communist country and closed society, nobody really knows what has actually happened or even now happening in China on coronavirus front. Due to inherent secrecy and rigid government control over the electronic and print media, the external world would know only what the Chinese government shares with other countries. The global search engine Google doesn’t work there along with the thousands other foreign websites; the universal social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not allowed and so is the case with popular messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Snapchat, Line, and so on. Hence despite reports emerging to the contrary, the world nations have no option but to rely on what the Chinese government officially shares with them.
Growing Senophobia Due to Coronavirus
As referred to in the opening paragraph, ever since the coronavirus pandemic started, the instances of racial prejudice, discrimination and even violence have been reported against Chinese people world over, including discriminatory acts by Hong Kong against mainland people. At times, people of the other countries of East Asian and Southeast Asian region too become victim of xenophobic tendencies around the world due to similar descent and appearance. With the Covid-19 disease gripping the entire world, the term “corona” has been used as a new slur at many places for the Chinese people. As I said earlier that racism in any form is despicable and should be condemned by all but let us also not forget the fact that the current development largely reflects the growing frustration and anger of the world community against China. So much so that reportedly more than 100 restaurants in Hong Kong have turned away customers from the mainland China, with one restaurant demanding that each customer produce a valid Hong Kong identity card to assure that he is not from the mainland.
Numerous incidences of xenophobia and racism against Chinese people and other Asian Americans were reported in just one month following 28 January 2020 in United States, according to a tally compiled by Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. In Canada, Chinese businesses have reported a drop ranging from 50 to 70 percent in Vancouver during the pandemic while in the Greater Toronto Area too similar drop in sales have been reported in Chinese restaurants ranging from 30 to 80 percent. Among the worst affected European countries of Italy, Germany, France and UK, people from China and South Korea have experienced mockery and discrimination with verbal vitriol and racist slurs. Incidents have been reported from some Australian supermarket/mall refusing entry or asking to leave the customers of Asian descent with stated reason of preventing spread of the novel coronavirus. In certain countries like Singapore and Malaysia petitions have been signed by thousands of citizens calling for people from China to be banned from entering the country as the "new virus is widely spread throughout the world due to their unhygienic lifestyle. In Japan too, the hashtag #ChineseDontComeToJapan had been trending on Twitter with many Japanese people calling them dirty, insensitive, or bioterrorists.
The opposite is also equally true as the fading coronavirus in China has flared up nationalism and xenophobic fervor among the Chinese people. As the pandemic is now raging outside China’s borders, foreigners are being shunned, barred from public places and even evicted in many instances. Apparently the Chinese success in taming the coronavirus epidemic at home has given rise to an increased blend of nationalism, patriotism and xenophobia at a scale not experienced in China for decades. A restaurant in the northern China was seen with a banner celebrating the virus’s spread in the United States; a cartoon is in wide circulation depicting foreigners being sorted into trash bins. At certain places, African black people have been insulted and many of them have been confined into forced quarantines, labeled as danger to the country’s health in the southern city of Guangzhou. The reason behind such actions appears to be the Chinese government propaganda of glorifying Communist Party’s victory over the coronavirus as also recriminations from abroad, including calls to make China pay for the pandemic.
If corrective measures are not taken in time to stop the aforesaid actions and reactions, things will fast deteriorate causing isolation of China internationally, when the communist nation apparently seeks to use the pandemic to promote itself as a global leader. These incidents for now could be taken at best as the citizens' panic response to coronavirus threat that may take altogether a different proportion if the same sentiments and perceptions are also shared and endorsed by the respective governments. During the video-conferencing of the G-20 nations some two weeks ago, almost all heads of states including US President Donald Trump had expressed keen desire for cooperation with China and mutual help in jointly handling coronavirus threat at global level but now appears a distinct attitudinal change of the leaders of powerful Western countries like US, UK and France in just few days. During the video-conferencing of the leaders of G-7 nations on 15 April, UK and France said they had a few difficult questions to ask for seeking answers from China on coronavirus spread while US indicated that they are seriously examining if the coronavirus came out from a research lab or wet market in Wuhan.
Coronavirus: Natural or Manmade!
Ever since the Covid-19 disease was formally so named and infection started spreading over the globe, there have been speculations among media, scientists, political and diplomatic circles whether it was natural or manmade. Misinformation or no information from the Chinese authorities have only further fueled and escalated such conjectures based on isolated pieces of information and leads. Some independent reports have appeared suggesting a theory of accidental release of the deadly virus as also that China has been concealing data and information on the actual extent of disease, total number of patients and casualties. Based on the numbers of mobiles and landlines missing or officially closed since December 2019, some analysts have suggested the actual death count to about 21 million that drastically varies with the Chinese official count. It is, however, true that anyone across the world could find nearly accurate position in most democracies including US, Europe and India but such information cannot be found in respect of China in public domain. Besides, they also keep on revising information on frivolous grounds as in case of recent increase of death tally in Wuhan by nearly 50 percent in just one day (1290 deaths) after completely removing lockdown and opening the city for business as usual.
The Fox News reported on 15 April that US administration officials now believe with “increasing confidence” that the outbreak was caused by an experiment in a Wuhan laboratory. The sources who spoke to Fox News had reportedly informed there was likely a “patient zero” who worked in the laboratory, got infected there only to leave and spread it in the city’s population, and now the Chinese officials are making all efforts to cover up any suggestion the virus somehow escaped from the lab. The Chinese version has changed many times with speculations during the same period. Some Chinese officials have pointed to the wet market as the supposed ground zero of the outbreak but certain sources apparently told Fox that the said market never sold bats. In short, Chinese sources are adding to more confusion and ambiguity rather than clarity even in respect of the ground zero patient. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been discreet in saying that they know the virus originated in Wuhan where there is this Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles from the alleged wet market and now they (Americans) are trying to connect dots.
Wuhan Virology Lab is a 3,000-square-metre P4 lab, located in a square building with a cylindrical annex, adjacent to a pond at the foot of a forested hill in Wuhan's outskirts. The institute was completed in 2015, opened for work only in 2018 and now it is considered to be the largest virus bank in Asia that preserves more than 1,500 strains. It is stated that the lab is fully equipped to handle Class 4 pathogens (P4), considered dangerous viruses posing high risk of person-to-person transmission. It is widely believed that initially the Chinese authorities themselves had focused their attention on the lab to investigate the origin of coronavirus but now the Chinese administration is not allowing the world's scientists to go into that laboratory to evaluate what took place there, or what's happening there now. The distance between the Wuhan Virology Lab and Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (the Wet Market) is little over 8 miles but another branch office of the lab is just about 600 meters from the Wet Market. Some Chinese authorities now suggest that animal-to-human jump probably occurred at a Wet Market in the city, but a growing body of research suggests the outbreak's origin may be unrelated to the market.
The fact is there is still a lot of confusion even about the “ground zero” patient as China has not formally confirmed this; so entire world community is curiously watching for any breakthrough in the shrouded mystery. In response to the specific query of a mediaperson, American President Donald Trump said on 15 April that his government was trying to determine whether the coronavirus emanated from the lab in Wuhan, China. Earlier the US Secretary of State too had demanded that Beijing must come clean on what they know about the origin of virus. Strangely in reply, rather than making their position clear through a direct and unambiguous response, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian preferred to fall back on the world health body on 16 April stating the WHO officials have clarified multiple times that there was no evidence the new coronavirus was created in a laboratory. Such statement cannot be relied upon when the role of WHO itself has been under serious controversy for siding with China; US President has been so upset that they have even stopped funding to it. The point is why China is so cryptic; it is neither coming out with truth nor is willing to cooprate with other nations to jointly work to unravel truth. However, the way this virus has behaved and caused havoc across the globe irrespective of temperature and other climatic/geographical conditions, it is more likely to be manmade probably set loose through an accidental release.
Chinese Advantage over Rest of World
It is mystifying; the Covid-19 disease has presented a strange contrast between China and rest of the world although there are still conflicting versions and perceptions about the actual extent of infections and deaths in the former. In China, it was largely restricted to Hubei province with Wuhan being epicenter where as much as country’s nearly 84 percent deaths have been recorded. China has sixteen cities with over ten million people, including three cities Beijing (21.54), Shanghai (24.23) and Chongqing (31.24) with more than 20 million population. While Wuhan city experienced a rigorous lockdown, the rest of China experienced it in varying degree with less stringent measures. It is no less than a miracle that in the Chinese capital city Beijing, business and commercial hub Shanghai and other big cities, the death toll was contained to a single digit or so. Even India has not been so fortunate where, barring few instances of irresponsible conduct of some people of a particular community, the lockdown has been rigorously followed since 24 March 2020 with dozens of hotspots completely sealed yet the infection has been widespread across the country with almost all big cities critically affected.
The 77 days lockdown in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the novel coronavirus outbreak started probably towards November 2019 end, was finally lifted on 8 April 2020. As a mark of normalcy, jubilation and victory, the city celebrated the end of lockdown with a midnight light and projection show with imagery projected onto skyscrapers paying tribute to healthcare workers, troops and police personnel who worked tirelessly to take care of the city's11 million residents. Notwithstanding the Chinese enthusiasm, the marked paradox behind this extraordinary event was that by the time Wuhan, China was jubilant and celebrating, the coronavirus had spread from the very place to the rest of the world including the US, Europe and India now reeling under various degrees of lockdown. While life in Wuhan and rest of the China is fast returning to normal, the pandemic had taken over rest of the world, particularly US and Western Europe, putting full stop to life and economic activities.
One way of doing it could have been to keep it at low key without much of the pomp and show in solidarity with the rest of the world fraternity. It is perfectly alright to be happy and content but does not make much sense to celebrate victory over an invisible enemy in full world view in one part when almost entire globe is suffering and thousands of people dying every day. Notwithstanding, the markets, malls, business and normal life have resumed in Wuhan so also in rest of the China barring some small pockets; manufacturing sector has geared up with many countries experiencing acute shortage and placing demands of face masks, gloves, ventilators and all other associated equipment on Chinese companies to fight virus in respective areas. Travel restrictions within China too appear to have been largely removed, except of course they are not willing to accept even own people stuck up abroad and keen to return back for now. China is aggressively showing up to the rest of the world that everything is alright with them and their banks and financial institutions are fully geared up to take care of the economy, business and manufacturing operations. In short, China is now ready to make hay while the sun shines or at least they are keen to give this impression.
As the pandemic has spread around the world; in fact, US and its NATO allies in the Western Europe like UK, Italy, France, Germany, Spain etc. are so awestruck with Covid-19 disease that almost as many deaths are taking place daily in these countries as is the total death count in China so far. On date, the US alone has as many as 738,830 coronavirus positive cases with 39,014 deaths as against the Chinese corresponding number of 82,735 and 4,538 respectively, with 1,290 deaths reported only two days back as unaccounted death count of the past. The total number of the coronavirus patients across the world (minus China) is 2,248,202 with 156,217 deaths on date. With this staggering tally worldwide, once unimaginable lockdown has now become the norm everywhere, but for Wuhan it is celebration time with lockdown only a distant memory. While the people in rest of the world are closed indoors with uncertain future, life of the citizens in Wuhan and other cities of China is fast returning to normal as is apparent with people seen freely moving on roads and shopping in markets.
China, the original flash point of coronavirus disease, has remained largely unaffected with just about 3 percent fall in the stock market from 1st February to 10 April. In rest of the world, the stock market has responded to coronavirus pandemic with worrying volatility; with many traders have panic-sold out due to future uncertainty and fear of large drops. Reportedly, in just few weeks, the pandemic has shaved off nearly one-third of the global market cap. The Indian equity market is showing constant ups and down after sharp fall in March 2020 but the Sensex is still below 20% the peak achieved only few months ago. Equally or usually worse affected are the stock and equity markets of the major players of the world such as US, UK, Germany, France and Japan, where there has been steep fall ranging from one-quarter to one-third during March alone with no signs of recovery till now. Undoubtedly, the spread of the virus has triggered panic worldwide shaking the confidence of investors. But then, usually after a crash of this magnitude, the markets’ confidence and recovery takes time for improvement.
Only four weeks following mid-March 2020 have changed the entire global scenario on citizens’ life and national economies of the affected countries. Around 15 March, the Covid-19 disease peaked in China, but remained largely localized in Wuhan, Hubei province with other major cities and states getting only marginally affected. Outside China, only two countries Italy and Iran were showing grave symptoms but the disease had gone berserk by 10 April 2020 taking over two hundred countries in the grip, and almost beyond control in countries like US, Italy and Spain, France, Germany, UK and a host of others. The life and economy of many South American, African and Asian countries including India, Australia and Canada have also been badly affected. On account of the pandemic, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has reduced the global gross domestic product (GDP) forcast nearly by 50 percent of the original growth projections for 2020.
Irrespective of the fact whether the coronavirus is natural or manmade, China is definitely at advantage over rest of the world, large part of which is already under the lockdown and ICU. According to reports, by the end of March 2020 the Chinese FOREX reserves were all time high at over $3,060 billion, enough liquidity released by its Central Bank, stocks and equity markets remaining least affected due to coronavirus crisis and investors’ sentiments upbeat, the country is definitely perceiving the current global crisis and slowdown as an opportunity for a robust business and investment. Just to illustrate a dimension, as per reports over 200 Italian businesses are already controlled by Chinese owners (mainland) while China’s Central Bank holds high stakes in several Italian blue chips like Fiat, Telecom Italia, Generali, Eni, and so on. With the markets taking a nosedive during this pandemic in many countries including European giants like Italy, UK and France, the Chinese banks and companies are on look out and buying spree of shares in vulnerable companies abroad.
Most of Western Europe is currently facing the worst ever public health crisis in the modern history, and the economies of the countries like Italy, Spain, Germany, France and UK are under tremendous stress due to constant lockdown and collapse of all significant business activities. In fact, Spain and Italy were already suffering with recession and the Coronavirus pandemic has caused another severe blow to their already fragile and vulnerable economy. The usual practice is whenever there is a fall in demand, the companies are unable to pay back the debt and are willing to sell a stake to anyone keen to invest. China, already recovered from blow, has opened up economic activities and the Chinese government too has announced billions of dollars as a stimulus to its companies; hence many Chinese companies are now exploring opportunity to investment in the European companies and other parts of world. The Chinese FOREX reserves of more than 3 trillion dollars and the government keen to flood the Chinese companies with cheap capital, it’s an ideal time for them to buy foreign assets.
Even countries outside Europe are not free from this Chinese trap and opportunism as they are eying almost every nook and corner of the world for possible inroads. For instance, the Central Bank of China has recently acquired 1.01 per cent stake in India’s top lender, the Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC). The Chinese bank has acquired as many as 10.75 million shares of HDFC in the quarter ended March 2020 at a time when the latter’s shares were continuously going down amidst the slowdown triggered by the coronavirus disease. But then the purchase of shares of foreign companies and consequent ownership rights is not the only advantage, the Chinese manufacturers are also making it a hay day by large scale production and export of equipment and accessories required by the corona warriors in affected countries to fight against the disease. Some time back, the news was in headlines for a huge Spanish order and many other countries are also in similar buying spree of needed medical equipment and accessories. Even India has recently imported over 0.6 million testing kits from China and possibly also considered an order for personal protective equipment (PPE) i.e. masks, eye gear and other items, and ventilators from China.
Nations’ Response to Chinese Opportunist Plans
At the outset, it must be admitted that the Chinese Central Bank’s purchase of HDFC shares in India was as per the extant rules and procedure on the subject; hence it cannot be said that the Chinese bank has committed wrong. But it is the timing of investment that raises eyebrows and alarm bells. China boasts to be a responsible country in the world fraternity that often talks of cooperation, mutual progress and prosperity among the nations. They have availed opportunity to export billions of masks and millions of protective clothing, testing kits and ventilators to corona hit Europe and other countries; simultaneously, they are aggressively seeking heavy investment in companies of the affected countries. Many countries have complained about defective supplies and even withdrawn it. For instance, Spain has withdrawn 58,000 testing kits during March end for poor results with just about 30 percent detection rate; Turkey too has similar complaints. Netherlands has recalled tens of thousands defective masks imported from China. Testing kits imported by India from China have shown defective and unreliable results in many cases and some Indian provinces have even stopped use or returned it. To protect Indian companies from Chinese future onslaught, the Union Government has now amended its foreign direct investment (FDI) policy to put a blanket ban on investments through the automatic route (i.e. without seeking government intervention) by entities from the countries that share border with India. In fact, such provision already existed in the context of Pakistan and Bangladesh and now China will also be covered along with other neighbouring countries.
Investors in every country fear these days that the spread of the coronavirus will severely impact their economic growth and the government action alone may not be enough to prevent the decline. Therefore, the central banks in many countries, including India, have slashed interest rates and taken steps to augment liquidity of the banks and financial institutions. Conceptually, such measures make borrowing cheaper and encourage spending to boost the economy. To avert impending crisis, the US Senate recently passed a $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill to help American workers and businesses to mitigate the hardship of the common man. The Indian government too announced a relief package of Rs 1.7 trillion ($22.6 billion) to help the underprivileged, poor and migrant workers affected by the lockdown amid the Covid-19 crisis on 26 March 2020. Just one day after the Union Government’s economic package, the Reserve Bank of India too took two-fold action of the cut in the interest rates by 75 basis points and release of Rs 3.74 lakh crore of additional liquidity to banks to ensure smooth business and economic activities flourish following the temporary moratorium on loan repayment. Many other countries too have already taken or have plan to take similar measures to boost their economy during the current crisis.
Many European countries including Italy, Spain and Germany have tightened their FDI rules to prevent a hostile takeover of their companies by the Chinese firms. The European Union has also issued new FDI guidelines in view of the damage done by Coronavirus and vulnerable status of European companies, especially those of Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. Now, the investment in critical sectors such as Healthcare, Energy, Finance, and Defense is practically banned in these countries. Spain has separately capped the FDI limit in general companies at 10 percent while Italy has announced new rules for investment in strategic industries ruling out the possibility of the takeover of such companies by foreign investors (read China). Germany, another European country with robust economy sans corona crisis, has also amended its FDI laws to make foreign takeover difficult. The United States and India are having constant problems and issues with the Chinese business and trade and they have taken some measures safeguared their interests.
Japan is yet another country weary of the China’s opportunist moves and mysterious ways. Midst of the coronavirus crisis, the Japanese government has approved a stimulus package worth whopping 108.2 trillion yen (US$ 993 billion) to forbear the impact of the pandemic, which incidentally is also the world’s third-largest economy. Out of the above package, it has earmarked US $2.2 billion to assist its manufacturers to shift production out of the Chinese mainland. This amount will be used to incentivize the companies shifting their production/manufacture base back to Japan or to other foreign countries. Historically, Japan never shared a pleasant relationship with Beijing but they are still major trade partners. Due to ongoing pandemic and subsequent postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, Japan is among the countries worst affected due to China’s opportunism and unethical practices. Now that Japan has asked its companies to wind up from China and look for new destinations with huge government financial assistance, their aggressive postures appears to be the most fitting reply to China when most other countries of Europe and India have taken defensive measures without naming the potential threat (China) to save their companies from the takeover or erosion of undesirable shareholding.
Most of the countries agree that the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China but even after four months of outbreak nobody knows about the “patient zero” in Wuhan. This identification could have answered many crucial questions about why, when and how it started. At least three dates 1, 8 and 31 December 2019 appeared in news about the first recorded case from the Chinese officials and experts at different occasions. Towards the end March 2020, a 57 year old woman in Wuhan was identified as the first victim of Covid-19 disease. The Fox News claiming anonymous source opined the accidental release of coronavirus by an intern in Wuhan Virology Lab (WVL) while another bizarre report suggested that the patient zero, a frustrated young man, had contracted disease after having sex with several animals including bats. Initially, a seafood and animal market was linked with the infection, now WVL too is suspected by many to have link with the virus. While some researchers opined bat as carrier, now others have suggested pangolin as the possible host that passed the virus to humans. In short all crucial questions about the “patient zero” remain unanswered till date. The point is whether this uncertainty and confusion is deliberate and, if so, does it really help the cause of a country in some way?
As for the tangled mystery whether the coronavirus causing Covis-19 disease is a natural or manmade, the key to unfold it is with the People’s Republic of China and it is pretty certain that they would not like the world to know exactly where it was and how it spread. The existence of a modern Virology Lab at Wuhan since 2018 with hundreds of potentially dangerous viruses will keep on stirring the minds of every sane person worldwide. Notwithstanding political and diplomatic overtures, there is no doubt that Chinese response and action through the whole crisis has remained shrouded with the mystery and misinformation since inception of the disease and they owe a lot many explanations to the world community. Situation has been further complicated by them with their mercenary approach and opportunism at the height of crisis forcing many countries to take defensive measures to protect their economy and sovereignty. The suspicion and anger of the world community is on rise and it is up to China whether or not they realize and amend well in time.
In the same context, I remember a book "Unrestricted Warfare" authored by two senior officers in the People's Liberation Army, China, namely Qiao Liang & Wang Xiangsui in February 1999 on the military strategy underlining the possible tactics that China should adopt to compensate for its military inferiority vis-à-vis United States during a high tech war. The book inter alia suggested the use of money power to prepare an army of left-leaning loyalists in the United States who could constantly criticize and oppose the federal government in an endeavor to paralyze their normal functioning; wage an economic war targeting financial institutions and target the network system through hacking into websites and other available means. In essence, rather than entering into direct military conflict with the superior adversary, it would be desirable to resort to all known subversive tactics including terrorism and urban warfare to gain an upper hand. Needless to mention, the biggest losers during the current corona crisis, both in terms of life and money, are the US and its NATO allies of the Western Europe. These are crucial testing times but, sooner or later, we might hear their response as well.
More by : Dr. Jaipal Singh