China Brief Spotlight on Analysis: COVID-19

(Source: Photo by Alissa ECKERT / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Around the New Year, reports first began to emerge of a novel coronavirus (since designated as “COVID-19” by the World Health Organization) originating in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. This disease outbreak has since become a major international health crisis, with official figures indicating over 100,000 worldwide cases of infection and nearly 3,500 deaths. (Actual figures may be far higher, due to under-reporting of the infection rate and death toll within China itself.) The epidemic has produced a severe social and economic crisis within China, with vast areas of the country placed under lockdown. Large sectors of the economy have also been brought to a halt, due to restrictions on transportation networks and workers being placed under quarantine.

The Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief has long taken pride in its role as a venue for insightful analyses of Chinese politics unsurpassed in English-language publications. From the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, China Brief has offered the public a series of articles that have analyzed in detail the Chinese government’s response to the outbreak—as well as what the crisis reveals about the governance model of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, keep an eye out for further updates to be provided in China Brief, as well as its sister Jamestown publications such as Eurasia Daily Monitor. As part of its mission to inform both policy makers and the general public, the Jamestown Foundation will strive to further provide the best-available analysis regarding the impacts of the viral epidemic on China—as well as the broader geopolitical impacts on China’s neighbors in the wider Indo-Pacific and Eurasian regions.

— John Dotson (editor, China Brief)

Below, please find the latest Jamestown analysis of this strategically important development:

Coronavirus Hitting Russia East of the Urals Hard Economically but Not Yet Medically

Paul Goble

When the coronavirus outbreak in China’s Wuhan Province began late last year, many in Moscow and the West assumed that Siberia and the Russian Far East, which share more than 4,200 kilometers of common border with China and across which numerous traders pass every day, would be among the first places at risk for the spread of the infection…MORE

The Illicit Wildlife Trade in China and the State Response Following the Coronavirus Outbreak

Leo Lin

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus (新型冠状病毒, xinxing guanzhuang bingdu) in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), wildlife trade and consumption have become a top issue in the country. The disease, which has caused 3,215 deaths in China and over 6,500 total deaths worldwide (per official figures, as of March 15), has been identified as a zoonotic virus…MORE

Limited Payoffs: What Have BRI Investments Delivered for China Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak?

Johan van de Ven

The coronavirus outbreak, now declared to be a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO, March 11), offers a prism through which to assess how China interacts with the rest of the world in a time of crisis—one that was at first confined to China’s borders, but has since become a global emergency…MORE

Iran: Coronavirus Adds to Regime’s Woes

Brian M. Perkins

The rapid and global spread of coronavirus has significantly impacted the global economy and is particularly devastating to the oil exporting Gulf states, many of which rely heavily on exports to China. The domestic impact for Iran, however, extends well beyond the economy and is less related to oil exports than in nearby countries—due to sanctions—and more about the already boiling public resentment toward the regime…MORE

Fair-Weather Friends: The Impact of the Coronavirus on the Strategic Partnership Between Russia and China

Johan van de Ven

In June 2019, during a visit to the Kremlin by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation announced that they had “agreed…to upgrade their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era”. This continued the warming of bilateral relations nurtured by Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who have met at least 30 times during their respective tenures…MORE

Beijing Purges Wuhan: The CCP Central Authorities Tighten Political Control Over Hubei Province

John Dotson

Following a slow reaction to the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, since late January the zhongyang, or central authorities, of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have conducted a concerted public relations effort to present themselves as actively engaged in directing efforts to combat the epidemic. This has included the creation of a new senior-level CCP “leading small group” focused on the epidemic…MORE

How the Wuhan Epidemic Has Dented Xi Jinping’s Authority and Prestige

Willy Wo-Lap Lam

In his telephone conversation with President Trump on February 6, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)  General Secretary Xi Jinping expressed confidence that Beijing can beat the coronavirus outbreak, and asserted that “the fact that China’s economy will be better in the long run will not change.” But at a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) a few days earlier, Xi expressed fears about the adverse impact that the Wuhan pneumonia epidemic could have on China’s reform and open door policy…MORE

The CCP’s New Leading Small Group for Countering the Coronavirus Epidemic—and the Mysterious Absence of Xi Jinping

John Dotson

The second half of January saw a dramatic change in the posture of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) central government towards the epidemic. For the first three weeks of January, PRC state media organs downplayed the seriousness of the 2019-nCov outbreak, while emphasizing a steady stream of positive news stories…MORE

The CCP Response to the Wuhan Coronavirus: A Preliminary Assessment 

Ryan Oliver

Faced with another spreading epidemic, the central government has responded with more speed and transparency than during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-2004. Wuhan and several other cities in Hubei province have imposed quarantines that limit public transportation, and have initiated measures to isolate these cities’ populations.  Major cities like Beijing and Shanghai have also imposed restrictions to manage the flow of travelers…MORE

The State Response to a Mystery Viral Outbreak in Central China

John Dotson

In December, a mysterious outbreak of infectious disease emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan (Hubei Province). The epicenter of the outbreak was the Wuhan Huanan Seafood Market (武汉华南海鲜批发市场, Wuhan Haixian Pifa Shichang), which was closed by officials in Wuhan on January 1…MORE

Featured Analysts

John Dotson assumed responsibilities as the editor of China Brief in 2019. John is a former officer in the U.S. Navy, whose assignments included positions at sea, in Japan, in Africa, and in the Pentagon. His service also included four years as an instructor on the faculty of the National Intelligence University, where he taught coursework on military strategy, intelligence analysis, and national security policy. John also served for six years on the staff of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, where he coordinated staff research on a range of trade and national-security issues on behalf of the U.S. Congress. He has performed extensive writing and research on a host of topics related to China, to include Chinese propaganda and influence efforts, and elite-level politics within the Chinese Communist Party.

Dr. Willy Wo-Lap Lam is a Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, and a regular contributor to China Brief. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Center for China Studies, the History Department, and the Master’s Program in Global Political Economy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the author of five books on China, including Chinese Politics in the Era of Xi Jinping (2015). His latest book, The Fight for China’s Future, was released by Routledge Publishing in July 2019.

Ryan Oliver is an intelligence officer in the Florida Army National Guard, currently mobilized for active-duty service in Germany in support of the European Deterrence Initiative.  His previous positions include working as a China specialist at U.S. Special Operations Command (J5 Strategy, Policy, and Plans), and at The Asia Group, a boutique consultancy in Washington, DC. He is a graduate of Georgetown University, the George Washington University, and the Defense Language Institute.  The views expressed in this article are his own, and are not meant to represent those of any U.S. government agency.

Johan van de Ven is a Senior Analyst at RWR Advisory Group, a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy that advises government and private-sector clients on geopolitical risks associated with China and Russia’s international economic activity. He leads RWR’s research and analysis of the Belt and Road Initiative, the centerpiece of foreign policy under Xi Jinping, and also edits the Belt and Road Monitor, RWR’s bi-weekly newsletter.