The COVID-19 Pandemic: Facts and Figures
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease was first identified in 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has since spread globally, resulting in the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic. This new coronavirus and the disease it causes had become to date a full-blown crisis worldwide.
The World Health Organization WHO website is a good reference for latest update about the global scale of the pandemic.
The number of confirmed global cases passed two million by mid-April 2020, after doubling in less than two weeks. More than 130,000 people have died due to COVID-19, though the number is likely higher due to underreported cases and testing differences. The US is the most impacted country in the world with more than 600,000 cases and 25,000 deaths.
As testing around the world increased, the crisis escalated with health officials around the world reporting increased number of new cases.
Today the big race is to find a vaccine against the world’s enemy COVID-19. Main difficulties centre around demonstrating safety, efficacy and scaling up manufacturing.
The coronavirus is causing mass hysteria and worldwide panic. Apple warns that there may be iPhone shortages due to the virus and U.S. stocks continue to plummet, mimicking 2008 lows. Saudi Arabia has suspended travel to one of the holiest sites in the religion, Mecca, because of health concerns. The travel industry continues to be devasted by the virus as many businesses and travellers have growing concerns over flying. Companies are taking the necessary precautions to ensure their employees are safe by encouraging employees to work remotely. Consumers have raided grocery stores as some supplies become limited and gas prices have plummeted. As the virus continues to spread, people are taking various measures to keep themselves safe.
The Silk Road: a historical Overview
The Silk Road, also referred to as ‘Silk Routes’, was an ancient network of trade routes, formally established during the Han Dynasty of China, which linked the regions of the ancient world in commerce between 130 BCE-1453 CE. The goods which were transported from West to East on the Silk Road included: horses, , saddles and riding tack, grapevine and grapes, dogs and other animals both exotic and domestic, animal furs and skins, honey, fruits, glassware, woollen blankets, rugs, carpets, textiles (such as curtains), gold and silver, camels, slaves, weapons and armour. The goods which were transported from East to West included: silk, tea, dyes, precious stones, china (plates, bowls, cups, vases), porcelain, spices (such as cinnamon and ginger), bronze and gold artefacts, medicine, perfumes, ivory, rice, paper, and gunpowder.
The Persian Royal Road, one of the main arteries of the Silk Road, was established during the Achaemenes Empire (500-330 BCE). The Persian Royal Road ran from Susa, in north Persia (modern day Iran) to the Mediterranean Sea in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey).
THE COVID-19 TRAVEL ALONG THE SILK ROAD
China’s modern-day adaptation of the Silk Road, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, stretches from East Asia to Europe. A striking overlap exists between the path of COVID-19 spread and the path that emerged in the 1300s. COVID-19 started in Wuhan, it reached Iran in a couple of weeks, and has infected many people, even the country’s deputy health minister. Next to Iran, the worst outbreak was in Italy then Europe and USA. China has been the origin of SARS, the swine flu, and now the Covid-19 coronavirus. Iran and Italy were waypoints for pandemic spread. They are two major anchors of China’s Belt and Road Initiative also known as the 21st century’s new Silk Roads.
Trends: Rising racism
With the spread of coronavirus came a surge in anti-Asian racism. The coronavirus pandemic has coincided with a surge in anti-Chinese sentiments. Researchers at the Network Contagion Research Institute, an independent third party that tracks misinformation and hate across social media channels, released a report that looked at the spread of hate online toward Asians in congruence with the pandemic.
The sentiments were linked to conspiracy theories surrounding Asian people and coronavirus. One claim suggested that coronavirus is a bioweapon created by China’s government and transmitted by Chinese people. There is rising racist assaults and attacks against East Asian people and those of Asian descent.
Trends: Europe Rising fear of overtake from China
The European Commission urged European countries to buy stakes in companies to counter the threat of Chinese takeovers, as part of the EU’s attempts to protect its businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak.
It has been long feared by some that certain companies may be targeted by Chinese rivals. The sharp economic downturn caused by the recent outbreak and steep falls in share prices across the continent have increased the vulnerability of businesses for potential foreign bids.
The European Commission is drawing new regulations that target corporations owned or backed by non-EU governments. The EU has announced relaxing state aid laws, allowing countries to help bailout or even nationalise certain businesses which may face closure given the recent, sharp economic downturn.
Progress: China building health silk road
Today, China is trying to build a silk road of health. Beijing is taking the lead in shaping global response against coronavirus. China’s move to brand itself as Europe’s saviour aims to improve its standing on a global stage as both spar with the Trump administration. China and the U.S. have continued a wider fight for global influence while also seeking to deflect blame for their handling of the disease. Italy received from China forearm medics and paramedics and 20 tons of equipment for hospitals in Italy’s most affected area.
China is also trying to build global cooperation. China has scrambled experts and equipment to Italy. Beijing announced that it is ready to work with Rome to contribute to international cooperation on epidemic control and to the building of a “Health Silk Road”.
China is also exercising its soft power. As Europe becomes the epicentre of coronavirus, the US and in some cases the EU seem be turning away from helping individual states. Serbia and Estonia are cases in point, where the apparent EU indifference has coincided with Beijing stepping up its outreach to individual governments there. In doing so, China has stepped into a role that the West once dominated in times of natural disaster or public health emergency, and one that US President Donald Trump has increasingly given up in his “America First” retreat from global engagement. This might be provide a historic opportunity for China. At this stage even the west might be willing to cede some historic positions to save the stability of the global economy.
As it has done in the past, the Chinese state is using its extensive tools and deep pockets to build partnerships around the world, relying on trade, investments and, in this case, an advantageous position as the world’s largest maker of medicines and protective masks.
Now, the global failures in confronting the pandemic from Europe to the US have given the Chinese leadership a platform to prove that its model works and potentially gain some lasting geopolitical currency.
China’s geopolitical ambitions as much as humanitarian concerns is to provide aid to save lives, something that Italy’s allies in the European Union had been unable or unwilling to do.
Impact: WORLD Heading Towards Greatest Recession
Governments and policymakers are slashing interest rates to try to stabilize economies suffering from the impact of quarantined consumers and disrupted supply chains. The world’s richest nations poured unprecedented aid into the global economy as coronavirus cases ballooned in the new epicentre Europe, with the number of deaths in Italy outstripping
those in mainland China, where the virus originated.
The epidemic has stunned the world and drawn comparisons with painful periods such as World War Two, the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu.
U.N. chief Antonio Gutierrez warned that a global recession, is a near certainty. The International Monetary Fund IMF warned that the world economy will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s. IMF expects the global economy to shrink by 3% this year. This is far worse than the recession year of 2009 after the financial crash. Because the economic fallout is acute in specific sectors, policymakers will need to implement substantial targeted fiscal, monetary, and financial market measures to support affected households and businesses domestically.
The world leaders are working on exit strategy from Coronavirus lockdown. Europe has been in lockdown, as millions across the continent have been largely confined to their homes. As the virus rates slow and the economic bill mounts up, everyone is trying to think of a way out.
The European Commission has presented its exit plan, an attempt, essentially, to coordinate an EU wide response. European leaders have been striving to get member states to work together and coordinate responses to the pandemic. Every country has already announced its own method for exiting the lockdown. The slowing rate of infection and the drop in the number of deaths have led them to start easing restrictions but these promising signs have led the UK and France to extend their lockdowns.
Impact: Change in world balance of power
China suffered its worst economic contraction since at least the 1970s in the first quarter of this year as it fought the coronavirus. China weak consumer spending and factory activity point to a longer, harder recovery than initially expected. It is expected that China’s economy will shrink by 6.8% in worst downturn since 1970s. Factories, shops and travel were closed in China to contain the infection. Retail spending, which supplied 80% of China’s economic growth last year, plunged 19%. Investment in factories, real estate and other fixed assets, the other major growth driver, sank 16.1%. Consumer spending is slow to recover despite government efforts to encourage spending by giving out shopping vouchers.
There is a big blow to automakers and other companies that hope China will power the world economy out of its most painful slump since the 1930s. Auto sales sank 48.4% and exports declined 6.6%.
Coronavirus could end China’s decades long economic growth. China’s growth has lasted for decades, surviving the crackdown at Tiananmen Square, the global financial crisis and the trade war with the United States. But it might not endure the coronavirus epidemic, making it nearly impossible for the rest of the world to escape a slowdown.
Impact: China – USA War
While many economists expect China eventually to pass the US as the world’s largest economy, this is not any more likely to be following the pandemic. China is also well behind the US in military and soft-power indices. American military expenditure is three times that of China, and while Chinese military capabilities have been increasing in recent years, analysts who look carefully at the military balance conclude that China will not be able to exclude the US from the western Pacific.
Impact: Global Trade Along Silk Road
The novel strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) has the potential to significantly slowdown not only the Chinese economy but also the global economy. China has become the central manufacturing hub of many global business operations. Any disruption of China’s output is expected to have repercussions elsewhere through regional and global value chains. Indeed, most recent data from China indicate a substantial decline in output.
During the last two decades China has become crucial to the global economy. China’s rising importance in the global economy is not only related to its status as a manufacturer and exporter of consumer products. China has become the main supplier of intermediate inputs for manufacturing companies abroad. As of today, about 20 percent of global trade in manufacturing intermediate products originates in China. A reduction in Chinese supply of intermediate inputs can affect the productive capacity and therefore the exports of any given country depending on how reliant its industries are on Chinese suppliers. For example, some European auto manufacturers may face the shortage of critical components for their operations, companies in Japan may find difficult to obtain parts necessary for the assembly of digital cameras, and so on. For many companies, the limited use of inventories brought by a lean and just-in-time manufacturing process would result in shortages that will impact their production capabilities and overall exports.
Outlook: Will the world Forget CHINA MISTAKE?
The US government is exploring the possibility that the novel coronavirus was accidentally released from a Chinese lab. The COVID-19 outbreak started in the city of Wuhan, home to some of China’s top research laboratories. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has done research on coronaviruses that originate in bats, as is thought to be the case with the novel virus.
The Chinese government denied that the lab was to blame early on, instead saying the outbreak started at a wet market in the city.
US intelligence is reviewing sensitive intelligence collection from the Chinese government as they pursue the issue.
French President Emmanuel Macron has questioned China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. More people have died in the US and several European countries than in China where the virus emerged. The US and the UK have also cast doubt on China’s figures and the speed with which it responded or alerted others. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has praised China’s measures.
Mr Macron was asked if China’s authoritarian response to bring the outbreak under control had exposed the weakness of western democracies, and responded that there was no comparison between open societies and those where truth was suppressed.
This article took you through the journey of the COVID-19 travel along the Silk Road and considered its impact on the Silk Road. Following an overview of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Silk Road history, the article dig through various trends and long lasting impacts. The article shed light on various trends including rising racism and Europe rising fears from China overtake. The article overviewed China efforts to build a Silk Road of Health whilst the world is heading towards an unprecedented great depression. The article reflected on the change in world balance of power, with particular focus on China shrinking economy following the pandemic, and the trade war between China and USA. The article presented an assessment of the impact on global trade along the Silk Road and opens the question on whether the world will forget China mistake.
We conclude that despite the extensive efforts of China to reconcile and build a Silk Road of Health, it will take a while for the world to recover from the great depression ahead and to forget China cause behind the pandemic and its spread to the world along the Silk Road. With a shrinking economy and rising anti-Chinese sentiments, China may not be the world leader in the coming decade and the global trade along the Silk Road will not be flourishing as before.
The author would like to acknowledge various sources in preparing this article including: Wikipedia, Forbes, Euro news, BBC, World Health Organisation., Ancient History Encyclopaedia, Wired, CNN, New York Times, Gulf News, Euro News article by Darren McCaffrey, World Asia News, Business Insider, World Economic Forum, International Monetary Fund, United Nations, Financial Times, e: Silk road briefing, UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT (UNCTAD).