China’s Chernobyl?

Uwe Hoering http://www.beltandroad.blog September 2020.

The Corona crisis may well be „China’s Chernobyl“, suggested a columnist in the journal The Diplomat. Will China face a similar fate as the Soviet Union did five years after the nuclear disaster in the Ukraine? The Corona crisis is a serious challenge for the Beijing government. It is jeopardising its ambitions to transform the People’s Republic into a full-fledged world power by 2049, the 100th anniversary of its founding. The geopolitical confrontation with the USA has escalated this process.

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They say that history does not repeat itself. But in fact, the Corona crisis is a serious challenge for the Beijing government. It is jeopardising its ambitions to transform the People’s Republic into a full-fledged world power by 2049, the 100th anniversary of its founding. The geopolitical confrontation with the USA has escalated in this process. With its initial handling of the outbreak, Beijing has delivered a narrative to US President Trump that China is to blame for the Corona crisis, and hence for the worldwide economic recession and human suffering.

As with the Chernobyl disaster, the first few weeks of China’s Corona policy have been, to put it mildly, bumpy. There were allegations that the state reacted belatedly, ignored and concealed warnings, as well as reports of discontent and popular anger. There was the threat of a breakdown of legitimacy in domestic politics. This made measures such as the total blockade of the industrial megacity Wuhan all the more draconian, which initially earned the government considerable praise: on 24 January, Trump thanked China’s President Xi Jinping for his achievements to contain the virus: „The United States appreciates the efforts and transparency.

As governments in other countries realised – again with some delay – that the virus was globalising, lockups, shutdowns, and travel restrictions à la Chinoise became the frequently imitated blueprint. Now the motto was: “ Learning from China…“. And with the control of the spread of the infections, that was officially declared two months later, Xi Jinping succeeded in restoring his image as a successful virus tamer.

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