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Coronavirus and global shifts: China, winner or loser?

29-04-2020, 08:40   683

Some commentators have hastened to conclude that if we compare the pandemic to a global war, then China, having been able to contain the virus relatively quickly, emerged as a winner compared to the West where in many countries medical systems already work at their limit. This point of view has gained much traction, but is it true? I would argue the outcomes might be much more complex and counterintuitive.

Most major countries are bound to have their economies shrunk this year, and in case the quarantine is not lifted in a matter of one, maximum two, months, the fall in annual GDP may enter the double digits’ area. It will be a great shock to all, but particularly to the U.S. whose president Donald Trump boasted of record-low unemployment just a month ago. As the pandemic fades away, the problem of restoring shattered economies will loom large- and at this point a case for the return of productive capacities, which were once relocated to China, to the West can become a winning one. This measure will be likely advocated by the circles close to Trump, Eurosceptics and the right in general, being able to draw support not only on purely economic grounds, but also on growing distrust of China and the popular unwillingness to depend on supply of vitally important goods from Beijing. There are voices already who insist that China pay a price for its unwillingness to share realistic information about the virus outbreak that could have thousands of lives if acted upon quickly enough. If the death toll grows considerably, these views may easily gain the mainstream and make any kind of “business as usual” with China for the West prohibitively difficult. Hence, the COVID-19 crisis might be a prologue to a more confrontational and unpredictable state of global politics, and we also witness the Western attempts to re-gain some of the regions and markets that have been increasingly prone to Chinese investment- Africa, South Asia or Latin America.