Coronavirus Impact: Beyond the Scope of Rationality

The negative impact of the novel coronavirus is temporary and controllable, and will not lead to catastrophic consequences because the Chinese government is determined to effectively control the spread of the epidemic, says Wan Qingsong, research fellow with the Shanghai-based East China Normal University Centre for Russian Studies, in an interview with

Can the impact of coronavirus on the world’s economy be more serious than that of the US-China trade war?

First of all, what needs to be pointed out is that the novel coronavirus epidemic will definitely have a negative impact on the economy of both China and the world in the near future. This is determined by the size and international influence of China as the world’s second-largest economy. It also shows that the economic and trade ties between China and other countries are increasingly close. But I think this kind of negative impact is temporary and controllable, and will not lead to catastrophic consequences because the Chinese government is determined to effectively control the spread of the epidemic, and eventually China, together with the international community, will win the victory over the coronavirus, just as it defeated SARS in 2003 (According to assessment by experts, the global economic loss caused by SARS in 2003 was 40 billion US dollars). As to whether it can be compared to the consequences caused by US-China trade war, personally I have a different view: The signing of the trade agreement between China and the United States in the first phase shows that the two countries are tied in the war; there were no losers or winners (however, coronavirus is preventable, controllable and in the end defeatable. China will be the winner). At the same time, “the first phase” also means that the competition between the two countries has just started; still, there are a lot of uncertainties. I hope that China and the United States can learn a lesson from the previous trade war and share the international responsibility for promoting world development.

Is a deficit possible due to the cut in the supply of Chinese goods to other countries?

China’s production capacity is well known throughout the world and the title of “world factory” is not a myth. In the near future, Chinese enterprises will restore their production capacity on a large scale (including overtime work, capacity improvement, etc.) and complete orders from countries all over the world, so a cut in the supply of Chinese goods to other countries is not likely to happen, nor is a deficit likely to appear. Besides, foreign countries have imported a large quantity of products; for the time being, they can temporarily find substitutes in other countries. At the same time, the completion of these production tasks also necessitates understanding and support from other countries.

How uncontrollable can a global pandemic become, and what political consequences could it have at the regional and global level?

The Chinese government has devoted its national efforts (including the use of its military forces) to fighting the virus epidemic and preventing it from spreading globally, which has met a positive response and recognition from the international community. Other countries have also adopted correspondingly strict preventive measures, so it is highly unlikely that a so-called “global pandemic” will happen. In this respect, we should believe more in the continuous progress of human medical science and technology. At the international and regional level, we see citizens of more and more countries begin to complain about, and even discriminate against, tourists from China (even Chinese in the broad sense). They put pressure on their governments. And for the sake of the safety and health of their own citizens, many governments are introducing stricter regulations to restrict citizens from China. These moves are understandable, but we really don’t wish to see any deliberate exclusion of, or discrimination against, the Chinese people as a result of the epidemic. Instead, we hope to see more rationality, tolerance and patience with China’s government and its people from the international community. 

In what way can the United States and other Western powers take advantage of the situation, to counter China geopolitically?

In China, we have a saying: 患难见真情 (A friend in need is a friend indeed), which means that you do not know who your true friends are until you have encountered common difficulties or adversity together. The United States and other Western countries, on the one hand, have repeatedly expressed their willingness to provide assistance to China (so far, it has just been said but not done). On the other hand, we see that this epidemic has also created an excellent opportunity for Western anti-China forces. Criticism of China voiced by some Western media outlets, scholars and officials has gone far beyond the scope of rationality, and has in some cases has devolved into mockery, abuse, slander and curses. Some people wish to see the collapse of the Chinese economy and the Chinese government. This could be called 落井下石 (kicking someone while he or she is down). I think it is an especially uncivilised response. Even if the Western countries have certain “advantages,” it reflects poorly on their moral character, as it hurts the feelings of the Chinese people.

Can we expect cooperation in the humanitarian sphere to change somehow at the international level? Will this issue increase the importance of the World Health Organisation and other international organizations of the same kind?

The novel coronavirus epidemic is a severe international public health crisis. In Chinese, the word 危机 (crisis) includes the double-meanings of both danger and opportunity. Crisis tests everything and tortures everything. There’s no doubt that this crisis will not only test the efficiency and responsibility of the humanitarian work done by the World Health Organisation and other international organisations, but also promote human beings and the international community to be more progressive, scientific and rational.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.