The threat to Xi’s government


Coronavirus has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation. It has killed over 200 people in China, and has spread across continents. Two cases have been confirmed in the UK. It is now a global threat.

Many businesses are shutting shop in China in an effort to contain the virus. Google has temporarily shut down its Chinese offices, while Apple, Starbucks and McDonalds have also closed their doors or limited operations in China. This comes at a time when the Chinese economy is already facing uncertainty due to US imposed tariffs which have caused many companies to consider relocating. 

Coronavirus could also cause disruption to global supply chains, as factories remain closed. China is the world’s largest manufacturer so reduced dependence on China will be difficult to adapt to. Tourism will also take a hit from the virus, likely causing a decrease in tourism to China as well as a decrease in travel out of China. However, the economic impact of Coronavirus will hopefully ease if the virus declines. 

China continues to put politics first; above global health, and, counter-intuitively, its own legitimacy

But the epidemic will have long-term, far-reaching consequences for China because it could also undermine the legitimacy of Xi Jinping’s regime. A disease as serious as Coronavirus should present an opportunity for closer cooperation between China and other states as they work to prevent the virus from spreading further, in a region fraught with tensions. Meanwhile, China continues to put politics first; it refused to allow Taiwan to participate in World Health Organisation discussions because the current Taiwanese government refuses to accept the ‘one China’ principle. The global response will of course be less effective because of this, which is hardly a positive sign for a Chinese economy looking for alternative export markets. And any government prioritizing politics over public health and economic welfare is one which is hardly likely to garner domestic or international respect, let alone any position of international leadership. Unless the Chinese government is prepared to compromise the ‘one China’ principle, or fudge it in some way, China will continue to be viewed as a hostile actor on the world stage, undermining their legitimacy at home and abroad.

Image: europeancouncilpresident via CreativeCommons

One thought on “The threat to Xi’s government

  • Well written and interesting. Provocative, but only to the Chinese government.
    In spite of early failures to grasp the significance of the outbreak, it has been generally acknowledged in the West that the Chinese government has been been very forthcoming in the sharing of data regarding the outbreak, as it has developed.
    The long term attitude against accepting the legitimacy of the Taiwan regime goes back to the founding of the People Republic and is therefore a long established ‘red line’ for Beijing. It’s not all that clear how the inclusion of Taiwan into WHO would affect either the response to the outbreak, or how the continuation of a policy of around 70 years standing, would weaken China’s position in the International community.
    Be nice to discuss this further.


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