The coronavirus pandemic is ravaging the world and experts agree that by the time the pandemic is done with us, the world as we know it today would have changed forever. As it had happened with every major calamity, be it economical, pathogenic or geo-political, major disruption in the established order are bound to follow and this coronavirus pandemic, many believe, will be no different.
As the world suffers from a pandemic that many believe was originated from China, caused by China and was made worse by China’s policies, slowly, an anti-China wave is surging. Irrespective of conspiracy theories and sci-fi references, as the pandemic ravages supply chains, and brings economies to a halt, many nations have paused and taken note of how dependent they have been on China and how can they change the situation in future.
A report in the Nikkei Asian Review discusses the current scenario in the context of the Chinese astrological concept of the ‘Year of The Metal Rat’ or the Gang-Zi. 2020 is the reportedly the Gang-Zi, a time period that comes every 60 years and brings calamity to China.
Chinese astrologers believe that every time the ‘Metal Rat’ rolls, major history shaking incidents take place that change their nation forever.
As per the Nikkei report, 1840 was a ‘Year of The Metal Rat’, a year during the rule of the Qing dynasty, that saw the Opium War break out in China, bringing almost a century of misery and poverty.
60 years later, in 1900, another ‘Year of The Metal Rat’ followed and it saw the combined forces of the UK, USA, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Japan and the then Austria-Hungary moved on Beijing to counter the ‘Siege of the International Legations’, an event that was triggered by the 1899 Boxers’ Rebellion.
The joined forced had marched from Tianjin to Peking (former name of Beijing) and had captured the city. The Qing empress had to flee the capital, only to be allowed entry two years later with humiliating peace terms. Eventually, the Qing dynasty was overthrown a few years later.
The next arrival of the ‘Year of The Metal Rat’ in 1960 brought with it a devastating famine to China, a result of Mao Zedong’s orders and communist policies. The great famine is believed to have caused 36 million deaths, though the Chinese official figures are far lower.
Now in 2020, exactly 60 years after the great famine that killed over 36 million people, China faces another behemoth that may as well change the way their nation, and even the world functions.
As the coronavirus ravages through populations, nation states are already re-thinking their policies, or dependency on China. Over the years, China had captured a major chunk of the world’s manufacturing operations.
Japan is one of the major nations that are keen to move their manufacturing operations out of China. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan had to be cancelled in March in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. on March 5, Japan PM Shinzo Abe chaired a meeting of the Japanese ‘Council of Investments for the Future’. That meeting, where Japan’s most powerful business houses and business lobbies were present, it was decided that they want high-value Japanese product manufacturing bases to ‘come home to Japan’.
“Due to the coronavirus, fewer products are coming from China to Japan. People are worried about our supply chains of the products that rely heavily on a single country for manufacturing. We should try to relocate high added value items to Japan. And for everything else, we should diversify to countries like those in ASEAN”, said Abe.
Since then, Japan has declared an economic package of over 2.2 billion USD to assist Japanese companies to shift their manufacturing base from China to Japan, or other Southeast Asian nations.
China was worried. On the very next day, as per the NAR report, Jinping held a meeting of the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee and told his party leaders to prepare for the worst, not in as many words. Jinping reportedly told that it is time for “bottom-line thinking”, which means assuming the worst, and called for “preparedness in mind and work to cope with prolonged external environment changes.”
Not just Japan, the US has been very vocal against China ever since the pandemic broke, Through US President Trump has now stopped calling it a ‘Chinese Virus’, his government has made amply clear that they would like to see American companies shift their manufacturing base away from China, a call that aptly fits into their ‘America First’ policy. Recently, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow stated that like Japan, the US should also pay the moving cost for US companies seeking to move out of China.
It was also reported that major Korean companies, including Hyundai and POSCO are in talks with the Indian government, keen to move their manufacturing bases out of China and away from the US-China trade war. Only last year, mobile giant Samsung had ended its production operations in China. In the same year, it had opened its largest manufacturing facility in India’s Noida.
The economic ramifications are only a part of China’s woes. As per the Nikkei report, an increasing number of experts, including Dr Zhong Nanshan believe that the current pandemic is only the first wave of the virus. He says that like the second wave of the Spanish Flu killed more people than the first wave in 1918-20, the coronavirus will return in a second wave, bringing far more deaths. He has stated that the coronavirus has already mutated and the death rates have reached 20 times higher than that of influenza.
The coming months will reveal a massive shift in the ways of the world as we know it.