China and the geopolitics of the coronavirus

26 Feb 2020 - 15:32
Bron: Lei Han / Flickr

The corona-crisis presents a severe test for China, disturbing its trade exports and causing an internal crisis of political authority. Yet, the Communist Party has been in tighter spots since taking power in 1949. The longer story of growing Chinese global influence continues and the coronavirus will ultimately do nothing to halt the assertive moves of President Xi Jinping.

We all know the butterfly in Brazil that, according to chaos theory, can cause a hurricane in Texas. We may now have a bat in Wuhan that has triggered a deadly epidemic in China and a global shockwave. A minor event with major consequences, but how major?

The coronavirus presents the Chinese leadership with its biggest test since the revolt of Tiananmen Square in 1989. Once again it is a crisis of domestic authority, threatening to undermine the people’s trust in the Communist Party.

That in itself is bad enough for President Xi, but these latest events also affect China’s place in the global order. There too a loss of power threatens, although it seems likely that as soon as the worst of the catastrophe is over, the Party will learn lessons and take action to restore its position.

Read the full article in our Clingendael Magazine.

This article first appeared in Dutch in NRC Handelsblad, 15-16 February 2020.