Over the last two months, the world has been plunged into a pandemic and a global economic crisis. Most countries across the globe are on lockdown and have sealed their borders. Thousands of people have died and a sense of insecurity is looming over people.
Though the virus originated in China, and China has tried to keep the news of an epidemic hidden, from gagging doctors to suppressing news, China has been working overtime to deny its responsibility and has even tried to guilt-trip other nations about blaming them for the pandemic.
However, an online survey by Manoj Kewalramani, an Associate Fellow-China Studies at The Takshashila Institution has revealed that a significant majority of Indians also feel that China’s opacity and mismanagement are to be blamed for the coronavirus global pandemic.
The Takshishila Institution, based in Bengaluru, is an independent networked think tank on India’s strategic affairs, public policy and governance.
Manoj Kewalramani conducted an online survey from a period of March 26, 2020, until April 3, 2020. During that time, responses were invited through email and by sharing the questionnaire on different social media platforms. Respondents were required to log in with an email id to submit their answers. They were also requested to state their nationality. Out of the 1299 respondents, the author says that 1184 provided information about their nationality. Among these, 1156 are Indian nationals.
The survey contained five multiple-choice questions, with respondents being asked to choose one option per question. This survey was conducted to assess the respondents dominant perception.
The key findings from the survey are as follows:
China’s accountability for spreading the pandemic:
A significant majority of around 67% of respondants believe that China is to blame for the outbreak becoming a global pandemic. When this figure is broken down further it shows that out of thei 67%, a majority of 48.7% believe that the sole reason for the crornavirus spread is that China failed to stop its illegal wildlife trade, contain early outnreak and lied to the world. Moreover, 18.2% believe that the pandemic is an outcome of China biowarfare while 14.5% believe other governments are at fault for their lack of preparedness.
While the negligence and cover-up of Chinese authorities have pushed the world to battle a pandemic, the Chinese government has peddled victimhood claiming that calling the pandemic a Chinese disease and terms like Chinese virus and Wuhan virus is ‘racism’.
The response to the question about the use of terms like “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus” and “Made in China pandemic” also underscores public anger.
Out of 1299 responses, a significant majority of 52.8% feel that it is just right to name it the ‘Chinese virus’ as it is needed to ensure that China doesn’t escape the responsibility.
Mistrust of PRC’s Global Role:
Though China evidently failed to acknowledge the gravity of the problem then and allowed its lucrative wildlife trade to flourish, endowing the world with an even pernicious pandemic, for the past few weeks, Chinese diplomats and media have been pushing the narrative of China’s success in containing the outbreak and its emergence as a leading global public health goods provider.
Recently, UK think tank Chatham House, Jim O’Neill, also fawned over China’s exemplary measures to control the transmission of coronavirus.
Responses to the survey show that this narrative has not been very effective.
Out of 1299 responses, a majority of over 65% of the respondents feel that China’s response to the outbreak is opaque and draconian. They feel that China has covered up the true scale of the crisis, only 3.1% agree that China has emerged as a role model for the other countries when it comes to tackling the crisis.
Meanwhile, when asked for an opinion on China providing support to other countries, a majority of the respondents, 56.4%, viewed this as geopolitical, claiming that China is using the crisis to project power. Nearly 19% believe that China is not doing enough to assist other states in dealing with the pandemic. In comparison to this, only 12.5% of responses were in support of China.
Beijing clearly faces a Catch-22, and it appears that its effort to spin a positive narrative is having little impact.
Competition & Cooperation:
When asked about the dominant view regarding the Indo-China relationaship, majority of respondants, i.e 47% feel that while there is competition, both sides also have shared interests. On the other hand, 46.4% of the respondents either view China as a fundamental threat to India (33%) or want a decoupling of the two economies (13.4%).
The Wuhan coronavirus reportedly started in China’s wildlife and seafood markets. China’s demand and consumption of wildlife have contributed significantly to a number of species being driven to the brink of extinction. The negligence and cover-up of Chinese authorities have pushed the world to battle a pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives and impacted global economies heavily.
The coronavirus is affecting 209 countries and territories around the world. The number of Covid-19 cases has reached 1,360,233 worldwide, and 75,961 people have died so far.