Folks, sharing some thoughts about the Post-WuhanVirus world that have been playing in my mind. Will talk about some happenings that are commonly known, without giving many links since that will be a bit too much work at this time.
Thoughts are still random and unstructured. But I hope it’ll make sense eventually.
Here goes ..
Firstly, let there be no doubt that it is a virus that has originated in China. I’ll not debate the veracity of this claim that I make, but I merely echo the general perception of the common man on the ground all across the globe when I say this.
And I stand by my opinion, regardless of what the Chinese propaganda machinery says, with its army of newly minted bots parroting the party line. Did a short thread on it on Twitter some days ago. May have a look – LINK. Will keep adding to it as well, so do keep track.
Even though the world is busy fighting the immediate fight – against the virus itself, let me offer a statement: THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT, HAS CHANGED.
Yes, plz read the above statement once again and ponder over it for a few moments.
Yes, you read it right. The world has already changed. What form this changed world takes, remains to be seen and will be apparent soon, maybe even within the next 6 to 8 months, once the immediate danger of the virus itself has passed.
The new world may find itself doing China’s bidding for all we know, or it may find China on its knees, it may see the West weaken, or even a slow motion break-up of the European Union itself, Middle-East may yet go back to desertification and Japan emerge as a manufacturing hub.
Point is, that it took world shaking events like two devastating world wars with a failed League of Nations in-between and a long and protracted Cold War to arrive at the current world order.
What we are seeing today with the Wuhan Corona Virus is nothing short of that.
In fact it is much more ‘world shaking’ than even the world wars because each and every human being KNOWS he or she is directly threatened by this virus. Chinese propaganda machinery showing all those horrific visuals from early days of lockdown in Wuhan didn’t help much either.
Which brings me to the role of China itself. Be it a lab-manufactured virus, or something that happened naturally, or whatever that guy from the WHO parrots, fact remains that it was first observed in China and it is from there that it has travelled to virtually every corner of the world.
However, with China more or less shut down in months of Jan-March 2020, the world realized one thing – putting all your eggs in a single (manufacturing) basket had a lot of unforeseen repercussions in terms of a virtual stoppage in a lot of critical supply chains. And then, thanks to their early exposure (or a pre-prepared vaccine as some speculate), China was amongst the first few of the majorly affected countries that brought the situation somewhat under control and with much fanfare, restarted her factories.
There was hope, until the Chinese revealed their ultimate weapon – the Middle Kingdom Syndrome.
They went ballistic with their ‘anger’ at the much justifiable backlash at their own mishandling of the issue in the very initial days.
I for one, am not!
There were reports that the quintessential Godless businessmen that the Chinese are, they were demanding that their crown jewel, Huawei be given the go-ahead for establishing 5G networks in countries such as Britain and France, before they would supply life saving equipment in terms of thermometers, PPEs, masks, gloves etc.
It was nothing less than a hostage situation, with lives of humans at stake, that China had created.
The ‘barbarians’ had no choice but to kowtow, they thought.
But the hubristic Middle Kingdom was shocked to its core when it realized that not only were the ‘barbarians’ NOT kowtowing to its ruler, but instead they were accusing the Middle Kingdom itself for being .. well .. the Middle Kingdom!
There were reports that countries were not buying into the Middle Kingdom’s demands of giving their strategic 5G networks to Huawei. Britain was mulling officially barring Huawei. France had rejected the aid offer linked with Huawei.
The Middle Kingdom was suddenly in uncharted territory – it was not getting what it was demanding! They unleashed their army of social media warriors under their own Propaganda-in-Chief, Lijian Zhao, who himself had learnt the art of ‘Fifth Generation Warfare’ while in Pakistan not so long ago!
In addition, came a glut of ‘compliant’ articles on much of the world’s more ‘respected’ media houses. Then there were the Chinese diplomats who too did their bit by trying their darnedest best in the freedom of speech in their own host countries, leading at times to unforeseen results, to which I am sure, many heads would have rolled, mostly figuratively, but also atleast some literally, trying to figure out a counter. My personal favourite is THIS one by the Daily Telegraph in Australia. Do read.
Of course the Middle Kingdom had to reply to this ‘insult’ by the ‘barbarians’ and their free press. So they submitted an article in rebuttal. Sadly, the good folks at the Daily Telegraph subjected the letter thru their own version of a Chinese censor and THIS is what came out!
Bottomline: The world beyond their borders and except their one and only ‘true’ friend, Pakistan was simply NOT in a mood to buy their bullshit anymore. They were literally clutching at the straws out here. There was even a tweet by an official Chinese handle quoting a Pakistani ‘expert’ who claimed that the virus didn’t originate in China. Clearly, it wasn’t working. Not very long thereafter, a Danish newspaper published this:
So the Chinese decided to go on a different tract. There were soon photos of Chinese origin relief material being shipped all over the world. Even Jack Ma, a prized asset of the CCP, posed in front of one such consignment and tweeted about it.
However, almost immediately, commenced reports of Chinese equipment being substandard and unusable at best, and even deliberately wrongly calibrated at worst. There were reports of Chinese factory owners deliberately manufacturing thermometers that gave wrong readings, in order to ensure that the disease spread far and wide in countries that had dared to call off their bluff. I remember this particularly in reference to a bunch of thermometers sold by China to the USA.
A lot of countries raced to recall such equipment – masks, thermometers etc from their populace, in order to prevent further acceleration in the spread of the disease.
As if this was not enough, now came the reports of racial profiling and consequent attacks on African citizens in China, blaming them for the disease. A tonne of such videos went viral.
Bottomline: China has well and truly gone about accumulating a lot of bad karma from everyone, right from governments of the world to the average citizens on the streets.
This is bound to come back to bite them, once the dust settles.
They know it too.
And are rattled.
With good reason.
Because they can already see it starting to happen. There is ever growing talk of moving manufacturing out of China. But this talk this time is different from similar talks a few months earlier. Where earlier, in the early days of the pandemic, people were only concerned with creating redundancies in case of a similar disruption in future, this time they are pursuing it with far more vigour due to pure disgust with the way China has mishandled the entire thing.
On that note, I’ll just leave this tweet here to underline what I mean.
In their hubris of appearing squeaky clean, the Chinese have only damaged themselves more.
The repercussions are already manifesting slowly. Japan has announced monetary incentive for its companies to relocate from China. Other countries too, are already doing the same.
Not just content with moving their businesses out, there are countries who are already seeing calls to re-evaluate their very relationship with China once the immediate danger has passed. How these things pan out in future will be an interesting thing to watch.
Here is what I foresee.
China WILL lash out before letting any such thing happen.
We have already seen them try to take advantage of this situation economically, as well as geopolitically because right now they are in a relatively better position than the rest of the world.
On the economic front, they are out to make a killing in terms of prices of APIs that are immensely critical in pharma manufacturing, to outrightly going and buying major stakes in companies all over the world.
On the strategic front, their activities in the South China Sea have increased manifold, including the sinking of a Vietnamese boat a few weeks ago. This particular event might have been triggered by the knowledge that the US naval presence too was stressed by the virus outbreak.
But .. and this is a big question .. what happens when the rest of the world gets its act together?
A LOT of manufacturing will have moved out, including that of the APIs on which China had created a virtual monopoly. Chinese investment is already being subjected to immense scrutiny and in some cases, a blanket rejection in order to prevent predatory takeovers of key industries by many countries.
Jumping a few months ahead, it is safe to say that the Chinese economy will be amongst the MOST affected ones, globally, with immense contraction coming their way. Remember, this pandemic will only accelerate the process already put into motion by the recent US-China trade war.
On the strategic front, once the world recovers, it will make good efforts to recover the ground it has had to cede to the Middle Kingdom. It may not be a far fetched theory if one says this time round there might actually be a shooting war, even if localized, in the South China Sea, esp once the US Navy moves back in. Heck, things are already being put into motion even as I type this.
Now just imagine in case Shri Donald Trump wins the upcoming election in the US, what might be prioritize, esp after publicly calling out China as the origin of the virus and about their predatory moves in the midst of the pandemic.
Let me add that his chances of a victory seem even greater now even if for one single reason that his opponent is not getting even 1% of the airtime that he is getting as he leads his country in the fight against the pandemic. Feel free to disagree on this, but I stand by it.
Then there is the Middle East. Given that they and OPEC were already stressed financially due to Russia, I for one would NOT want to be in their shoes at this point in time, given the way oil prices are crashing! The welfare states that they created will soon come crumbling down. Call it Karma for all the evils that the export of toxic ideology from their lands brought to the world, but what was in any case being foreseen as their future about two decades hence, seems to have been advanced by atleast a decade, if not more.
As regards Russia, I’ll say that in the long run they will see off this pandemic relatively better than many, in terms of economics as well as strategically, esp when the realignment of geopolitical and geo-economic alliances takes place. Mark my words.
Coming on to the EU, it was an artificial construct in the first place (my personal opinion. Feel free to disagree) and was already in some stress. What this pandemic has done is to stress it further, coming as it does, bang in the middle of Brexit! Who would have imagined even a few weeks ago that the famed free borders of EU would still NOT stop countries from seizing relief material / medical supplies meant for fellow EU countries, for use by themselves? But it happened! Germany did it. As did Turkey, for that matter (LINK).
The EU will see internal differences get magnified in the medium term. Whether or not it survives in its current form is anyone’s guess, but I personally feel it will change demonstrably.
Now about India.
I see this pandemic and its aftermath as an opportunity which, if exploited tactfully, will help improve her geopolitical standing as well as economy. As it is, India is stated to be perhaps the ONLY major world economy which will post a positive GDP growth for this financial year, even if it is less than 1.5 percent. Remember, this, when China and the US will CONTRACT by more than 5% each.
Dare I say, with a LOT of manufacturing due to move out of China, if played right, India will gain much more of this than South-East Asia. Let’s wait and watch how it goes.
But what I am more interested in seeing is how the geopolitical environment changes in India’s case.
The biggest factor in this, IMO, is a China that is not only majorly weakened economically / geopolitically, but also facing AWAY from India, as it grapples with the US and rest of the Western world.
With Chinese economy contracting and thereafter growing slower than what has been the norm, it WILL mellow them down across the Himalayan borders, atleast in the short term.
This is partly due to the increased focus of West on China, as also due to the fact that India has so far played a very benign role as compared to the rest of the world when it comes to calling out China for its role in creating this entire mess.
Call it a masterstroke, or call it naivete on part of India, but fact remains that China doesn’t have much to complain about as far as the Govt of India goes. Heck, the GOI even ordered PPEs and other such equipment from China. That a bulk of it was found to be faulty did not come as a surprise. But even if unintended, it further weakens China’s case against castigating India!
Coming on to the other end of our borders, to Pakistan, well no one knows how they are coping, except the celebrations that are currently underway at getting a six odd month or so worth of waiver at repaying their loans as well as some fresh loans to ‘fight’ the pandemic.
Pakistan went from begging India for help (remember the Shahid Afridi / Shoaib Akhtar episodes?) to showing their true colours when they realized that no free monies from India were going to come their way.
After waiting for a few days to see if a few crumbs get thrown their way, the Pakistani President and the Prime Minister came back to their usual rants about Kashmir and Modi and India.
Then there is the Pakistan Army – fighting the pandemic in their own way – by sending in more terrorists our way from across the LoC. Not just that, in ‘anticipation’ of the upcoming FATF review in June, they have even taken off nearly 50% of the names from their own terror watch list!(LINK)
Talk about making hay when the world isn’t watching!
However, the situation out there needs to be monitored in great detail, because they themselves have no idea as to what their own state of exposure to the virus is. One can imagine the social unrest that comes their way in case the virus indeed goes viral out there.
And given the way that the Govt of Pakistan is (NOT) dealing with it, there is a very good chance of this actually happening. What happens there in case it does happen?
Well, one thing that surely comes to mind is a full blown refugee crisis on our borders.
In fact, this is something that I feel even the Brown Panted Ones in Rawalpindi must be gaming, if not done already.
Now the question is, how does someone deal with such a situation? We’ve already seen a sample at the Greek-Turkey border recently (Once again, EU Unity, anyone?)
In our case, however, we will most definitely have the usual suspects crying themselves hoarse over the ‘inhuman’ Govt of India and give it a communal colour, in case such ‘refugees’ are stopped at our borders.
So what is the answer then?
Do we create refugee camps ACROSS their borders?
Food for thought, no?
I’ll not delve much on that for the time being, though.
What I am looking at, is the fact that a weak China and a Pakistan virtually on the brink of default with a Saudi Arabia / UAE etc UNABLE to park free and surplus dollars into their banks to ‘shore’ their finances. Top it up with drastically reduced remittance from their workforce in the middle east as they themselves stare at empty coffers and you will get my drift.
Then their is their ‘all weather’ ally, China, who is itself going to be ‘under the weather’ for a long time, and the situation isn’t exactly worth the celebrations that they are having at the mere deference of loan repayments.
A Pakistan in this state is vulnerable as well as dangerous. Herein lies a challenge as well as an opportunity for India. Once again, I’ll leave the rest to your imagination, without delving much into it at this moment.
What I am getting at is that once the immediate danger is past, India will see a lot of (relatively) weakened states in near and far neighbourhood – right from China to Saudi Arabia. It is going to be a tricky tightrope that we will need to walk in order to maximize gains and minimize losses.
Chanakya’s Raj Mandal Theory comes to mind. Do google it in case not aware.
THIS is the time to put it to good use.
THIS is the time, it WILL manifest itself even if we don’t make many efforts to that end.
The future I foresee is one of great turbulence, lasting for atleast half a decade. This turbulence may not always translate into a protracted shooting war, but it most definitely will see localized military engagements.
This turbulence will also see the global economy as we know it, turn on its head. It will see a near and far neighbourhood – both regional and global – that will test the limits of our own diplomatic, military as well as economic heft.
We have absolutely no option but to be prepared for it.
Before this new decade is over, one wouldn’t be surprised to see the realignment of more than just a few borders the world over, own neighbourhood included.
At the cost of repetition, I’ll once again say that India is one of the few countries that stand to gain much.
Of course, it will mean short term pain as well. But that is any day preferable to long term pain, just as a few weeks of lockdown is preferable to a pandemic running wild in our societies.
The best part about this future is that we don’t have an option to avoid it!
It is best that we prepare ourselves for what it to come – the pain, as well as the goodies. Dare I say, I already see a few steps being taken in that direction. All I hope is to see the momentum build up further and then sustain over a long term.
The 5 Trillion dollar economy may come in 2027 instead of 2025, but come it will. And it will be a much more matured economy than what we have today, if we play it well.
The neighbourhood too, that has been in the grip of the ‘String of Pearls’, will soon see the hollowness of the Chinese model and at worst, become neutral once again.
Thanks for bearing with me over this long blog post. I end it with a silent prayer for all those who’ve died in this pandemic.
As far as China goes, let me just add this tweet to from seven years ago to this blog:
And this one as well: