Current location:Home > Latest Updates > Browse articles

The Coronavirus and Issues Beyond It
Views:1111 Updated:2020-03-09

“Coronavirus” has been a worldwide key word over the past around one month plus two weeks. Reporting and discussions related to it have been occupying a much larger space compared with other areas of issues in the media outlets. Till 8 March, a total number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus across the globe have surpassed 106893, over 3000 people have died, more than 100 countries have been influenced, and South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan, France and Germany so far have been the most severely affected countries outside China.

At the very beginning of the outbreak, many might have thought that it was probably mainly an issue of China - an imminent threat that China must have to face and deal with very quickly and effectively. Nevertheless, with the fast spreading of the disease and with the difficulty in controlling it, it quickly turned into an issue of the globe, and now almost the whole world must need to pay special attention to it.

There have been some worries, anxieties, and pressure going on along with the developing of the coronavirus. People are uncertain about how the situation will be evolving especially outside China in the coming weeks and maybe even months. Some debates and discussions in relation to the coronavirus and some other issues beyond the virus have also been raised in the meantime. This piece would pick up a few core debatable points to briefly analyze, consisting of China’s role in combating the coronavirus, the issue of non-traditional security, and the issue of ideological difference.

Chinas Role in Combating the Coronavirus

At the very early stage of the outbreak, most countries had appeared to be in an observing mood toward the virus by looking at how China would handle this. Within a few days time, with the fast changing of the situation, many countries had started to take certain light actions including deploying aircraft to take back their own citizens from the outbreak centre Wuhan.

Meanwhile, different voices have been raised regarding china’s role in responding to the virus - positive or negative. On the one hand, China has received a wide range of support from a number of countries, organizations, charities, private sectors, and other variety of national and transnational agencies. The officials of the World Health Organization (WHO) have spoken highly of China’s contribution to the world in combating the coronavirus. On the other hand, there are media and people having shown negative attitude toward China’s handling of the case. Some accused China of violating human rights when the Wuhan city was locked down, criticized the tough measures taken by China in dealing with the virus, and very lately started to name the coronavirus a “Chinese Virus”. Some may even have thought about taking advantage from the challenging situation faced by China. With the evolving situation of the epidemic, the facts have proved that the accusations and criticisms are futile and not correct, with nearly the whole world having faced this same conundrum.

As a matter of fairness, this piece would agree with those who think that China has made enormous contributions in fighting the coronavirus. These can be analyzed from the following two aspects.

First, China’s contribution lies in the fact that China, as the initial centre of the outbreak, has accumulated valuable experiences in curbing the disease, which can be served as references for other countries to copy in managing of the similar situations in line with the real conditions of their countries.

Fighting the virus can be a test to a country’s leadership and governance capacity. Leadership, fast reaction, well-planning and organization from the top to the bottom and at all range of sectors, and effective communication can be of great significance to win the battle. Generally, the Chinese leadership and the relevant staff and personnel involved in this battle have done remarkable jobs and made tremendous achievements in bringing the epidemic under control in a short period of time.

More precisely, China, in responding to the virus, has acted very fast - it timely worked out strict and effective measures to control the spreading of the virus including limiting people’s outdoor activities, travel plan and transportation etc.; in only ten days two hospitals were established in Wuhan; and with the growing number of patients, it quickly deployed other types of buildings and blocks in Wuhan to set up necessities and facilities there as temporary camps for collecting patients with light symptoms. Along with the process of fighting the disease, officials, staff and personnel who were dereliction of their duties or failed to react properly in the process of combating the disease were removed from their positions.

Though at the very initial stage, many had thought that the Wuhan local government failed to respond as timely as it was supposed to. Yet the situation was quickly got back in control with the leadership and guidance of the Chinese top leadership and of the central government. Since the first day of the Chinese new year, the Chinese leadership has chaired a number of important meetings concerning the protection and control measures of the coronavirus, directly led the making of relevant policies and measures, and guided the planning and implementation of these measures to ensure the toughest and most effective measures to be put in place as quick as possible.

While ensuring certain measures are still in place in accordance with the evolving trend of the coronavirus in different regions of China and of the globe, China has been gradually promoting its economic and business activities back to normal.

After all, China has generally responded timely, effectively and properly to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Second, China’s contribution is also due to the fact that China has helped other countries save more efforts and resources. The whole country and the Chinese people are involved in this battle. The great efforts made and resources spent by China have successfully prevented the spreading of the virus from rising to a much larger scale on the global level. China’s efforts especially at the very beginning was supposed to buy valuable time for other countries to prepare well and increase their readiness to address this issue. If China would have failed to take the most strict and effective measures at the very early stage of the outbreak, the spreading of the virus could have reached at a much larger scale in both China and the globe. If that was the case, other countries must also have to invest as hugely as China has done in addressing this issue.

Therefore, other countries are suggested to cherish the efforts China has made, take great concern to the severity of this virus issue, and enhance their preparedness and capacity to deal with the epidemic. (Though from the fast growing number of confirmed cases outside China over the past week, it is not certain whether some countries have caught the best time made for them to stop the number of virus from rising to higher levels. It appears that many countries might have missed that best opportunity.)

The Issue of Non-traditional Security

States usually pay more attention to issues related to traditional security while downplaying the threats in the non-traditional security area. They think that increasing military spending, building alliance relationships, and applying balance of power tactics would make them safer. However, history proves that these wouldn’t make states more secure. In ancient times, the Greek city-states had already started to develop alliance systems and containment strategies to maintain the balance of power among the Greek city-states, yet those didn’t stop Sparta and Athens from going to war. States also had failed to prevent a number of wars from being unleashed in the later centuries. (This piece here wouldn’t tend to analyze the traditional security issue. Another analytical piece titled "Re-thinking of the Thucydides's Trap Argument" published on this website has more information on traditional security.)

Non-traditional security issues like infectious disease, climate change and ecological imbalance wouldn’t get as much attention as traditional security does, mostly because threats caused by these areas of issues usually need a process to develop and they don’t seem to be imminent. Thus the damages and severity resulted by non-traditional security threats are very often being ignored or postponed. There generally appears to be a lack of enough and effective cooperation and mechanisms on regional and global levels to jointly address the potential challenges in the non-traditional security area.

The world has borne some consequences already led by non-traditional security challenges over the past recent years. Concerning the area of infectious disease, the world had dealt with the outbreak of SARS in 2003, and of EBOLA in 2014. Now countries have to face the threats of the COVID-19.

The outbreak of the coronavirus once again sent out a warning to global leaders, policy makers, practitioners, researchers, and advocacy groups that states and a wide variety of partners and groups need to come together to deepen collaboration in research concerning the potential challenges in the non-traditional security field, as well as to enhance cooperation in developing better technologies, mechanisms, norms and rules on regional and global levels to limit the similar incidents to happen in the future.

Another lesson learnt from this epidemic could be that there is a need for both the ordinary people and governments to re-consider issues related to development and quality of life - seeking quality, inclusive and more balanced development, limiting the exploitation and consumption of resources, respecting the environment we humans live, and respecting all the species living in this world would make humans’ life better, more secure, and more sustainable. In addition, high standard of living and quality life, from the material sense, are not about achieving things without limitations, and are not about maximizing human demands without constraints.

Upon the outbreak of this coronavirus, the Chinese authority has toughened relevant regulations to ban the trading and consuming of certain wild animals. Scientists are still studying whether the virus originally came from the wild animals or not. The final research finding out of this might be significant. The more significant issue is that there is a necessity for the ordinary people and various levels of governments in both China and other countries to take very seriously of the protection and consuming of wild animals. This kind of seriousness is mostly concerned with the enforcement of law once certain rules and regulations are in place.

On Ideological Difference

Along with the Coronavirus, the issue of ideology was once again being raised. Some questioned whether the socialist system or the capitalist democratic system is more effective in dealing with the emergencies like this epidemic.

Ideological difference was ever taken as a big issue in a certain period of the past century when the two big camps - the socialist system and the capitalist camp - competed for supremacy and dominance at the global stage. With the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, as well as with the shaping of a more globalized world, the influence of ideological difference has been gradually lessened in international relations and in international cooperation. Nevertheless, sometimes it could still be an issue for some nowadays, who might take this as an excuse to criticize the political and economic system of a socialist country.

This piece in response would once again raise the point that the socialist system developed by China today is not the one adopted by the then China, the former Soviet Union, and other former socialist countries. The socialist system adopted in the past by those socialist countries was generally lack of flexibility and efficiency, without having timely adjusted their countries’ policies and measures to make them more adaptable to the market demands and to the changing domestic and international situations.

China learnt from its past mistakes, and then has started to adopt a policy of reform and opening up since the late 1970s. By taking into account the different characteristics and demands of its national development stages, as well as in line with the changing international conditions, China has gradually developed a market-oriented economy, and in the meantime, has made its political system be more supportive to the economic activities.

For those who still see the ideology as a big matter in today’s world, while respecting their views, this article meanwhile would assume that they don’t seem to have seen the changes and improvements of some socialist countries with a fair, dialectical, and historical lens. It appears that the socialism criticized by some today is still the one that ever existed in the past century.

By the way, the point expressed here does not tend to be in favour of or against a particular political or economic system. It would rather support a view - which has already been asserted by many - that all countries, big or small, should have their rights and freedoms to choose the political and economic systems and development paths, which are most suitable to their countries’ conditions.

Regarding the ideological issue with the coronavirus, under the current circumstance, ideological difference shouldn’t be taken as a matter to prevent countries, socialist or democratic, from taking most effective measures against the virus. When human life and health is threatened in this particular period of time, there is a need for democracies to temporarily downplay their concerns on human rights and freedoms, and to take the proper measures to deal with the virus. Otherwise, they could risk facing more severe consequences.

Address:Room 417, 4th Floor, Building 435, Bai Zi Wan Xi Li, Chao Yang District, Beijing, P.R.China
Copyright:Centre for Strategic Thinking