The coronavirus pandemic, which originated in the markets of Wuhan in China has had a devastating impact on the country. Over 3,000 deaths, massive unemployment and industrial output tumbling by over 13 per cent in just the first two months of the year.
However, like the phoenix rising out of the ashes, China is slowly easing the stringent restrictions on regions and cities across the country, including Hubei and Wuhan. Factories and businesses are reopening as the country starts trying to regain lost economic ground.
China is now racing to produce items it believes the rest of the world needs to fight the coronavirus, such as surgical masks, gloves, other personal protective equipment as well as ventilators.
It does seem ironic that China, the place where the pandemic started but could have been contained had officials not tried to cover it up, now looks set to profit from the failures and actions of Chinese officials.
In its bid to exploit the current global demand for medical accessories, China has invariably rushed out defective products that could potentially make things worse for many countries. Spain, the Netherlands and Turkey all recently recalled a variety of medical suppliers imported from China because they were defective.
China isn't just trying to flog critical medical equipment to the rest of the world, it is also stepping up its soft diplomacy during this period by offering assistance to countries in their fight against the virus. Of course, it is important that other countries learn the lessons of what worked and didn't work for China.
But China is also using the opportunity to promote its strategic objectives like its Belt and Road Initiative, as well as securing lucrative contracts for Chinese businesses in several countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Italy last week where 29 deals worth €2.5bn were signed between Italy and China. Italy is now the first EU country and G7 country that has been attracted to China's economic orbit by offers of investment by China through belt and road trade.
Italy was already in a recession when the bridge in Genoa collapsed in August, and now its economy has been brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic. There is a critical need to update much of its infrastructure and kick-start its economy, and Chinese businesses through government-supported loans from Chinese banks are adopting the role of 'friend in need'.
China seems determined to outflank the US economically and diplomatically, which is not surprising if you read the book, Unrestricted Warfare: China's masterplan to destroy America. Written by Chinese military strategists Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui in 1999, it explores how developing countries could challenge the dominance of the US.
They argue that China is unable to challenge the military power of the US, and therefore should use its economic prowess to overtake the US. So it seems China is now going to use the devastation caused by coronavirus to aggressively push its strategic objectives.
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