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:

“Land Apart, Shared Sky”: Sino-Japanese Relations Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Oana Burcu, Weixiang Wang

Over the last several years, Sino-Japanese relations have registered steady progress. Despite the intensified international criticism directed toward the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the administrations in both Beijing and Tokyo seem keen to maintain this newfound status quo. Russia, Cambodia…MORE

Russia’s Push to Complete Nord Steam Two

Margarita Assenova

While the United States struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, Russia has deployed two pipe-laying vessels to the Baltic Sea in a suspected attempt to complete the Nord Stream Two natural gas pipeline. On May 12, Russian pipe layer Akademik Cherskiy arrived at the German port of Mukran, on Rügen Island, where the Nord Stream Two logistics hub is located…MORE

Amid COVID-19, Old and New Conspiracy Theories Multiply in Armenia

Armen Grigoryan

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the ongoing disinformation campaign in Armenia. Old and new false claims and biased narratives have been actively promoted in recent weeks by multiple actors, foreign and domestic. A Russian propaganda campaign…MORE

COVID-19 Is Overwhelming Doctors and Economies in the North Caucasus

Valery Dzutsati

With nearly 2,000 officially confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Republic of Dagestan is currently the most badly hit territory in the North Caucasus. Furthermore, the republic has the fifth-largest number of cases in the Russian Federation. Some Dagestani municipalities report that they cannot…MORE

COVID-19 Increases Importance of Middle Corridor

Cavid Veliyev

Following the large coronavirus outbreak in Iran, neighboring countries quickly closed their borders with the Islamic Republic. More than a thousand Turkish trucks carrying goods to Central Asia found themselves stuck at checkpoints due to the closure of the Iran-Turkey and Iran-Turkmenistan borders (Daily Sabah, March 4). As a result, Ankara redirected its cargo trucks to the so-called “Middle Corridor,” a trade route connecting Turkey to Central Asia via Georgia, Azerbaijan…MORE

Coronavirus and Continued Conflict Push Syria Into Greater Chaos

Kyle Orton

The first quarter of 2020 saw a serious escalation of combat in Syria, albeit without much alteration in the political trends, and the arrival of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has exacerbated a fraught situation.Under the Astana process, which began in late 2016, Turkey, Russia, and Iran were supposed to act as guarantors to freeze hostilities in Syria. Instead, Bashar al-Assad’s regime, backed by Russia and Iran, picked off each of the de-escalation zones seriatimMORE

Facing Grave Emergency, Putin Dodges Responsibility

Pavel K. Baev

President Vladimir Putin’s second address to the nation on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, delivered last Thursday (April 2), was as brief as his first one, given a week prior—and equally unsatisfactory in style and substance (see EDM, April 2). Wearing what looked like the same jacket and tie as last time, Putin avoided tough words like “quarantine” or “lockdown”…MORE

The COVID-19 Pandemic Starts to Have Its Toll on the North Caucasus

Valery Dzutsati

COVID-19 has now started to spread to Russia’s North Caucasus republics, and regional authorities have been scrambling to mobilize scant resources to stave off the pandemic. As of March 30, officials confirmed infections in Adygea, Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, as well as Krasnodar and Stavropol regions…MORE

With Ever More Flights Canceled, Many Parts of Russia Isolated

Paul Goble

In mid-March, the Russian media was celebrating the fact that air service had been restored to a part of rural Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, a federal subject in the Russian Far East, that had not seen any civilian planes for 25 years. Since then, however, many Russian carriers have cut back on the number of flights around the country or even suspended a large fraction altogether due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis, which have caused a collapse in demand…MORE

The Chinese Charm Offensive Towards Italy as the Coronavirus Crisis Deepens

Dario Cristiani 

One year ago, Italy was hitting the headlines as Rome became the first G7 country to formally sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China to join the Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI (China Brief, April 24, 2019). For Italy-China relations, 2020 would have been in any case a vital year: marking fifty years since the establishment of official diplomatic ties…MORE

The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Rise of Chinese Civil Society

Willy Wo-Lap Lam

According to figures provided by People’s Republic of China (PRC) authorities, the COVID-19 pandemic peaked in early March. One day after Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping made his only inspection tour of Wuhan on March 10, the epicenter of the outbreak, official statistics indicated that only eight new cases had appeared in the city—with only 15 new cases in China overall…MORE

Lukashenka Comes Under Widespread Fire for Lax COVID-19 Response

Grigory Ioffe

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has come under growing public pressure and international criticism for not undertaking the types of pervasive quarantine and mobility restriction policies to limit the spread of COVID-19 that had become de rigueur across most of the West…MORE

Problems in the Ukrainian Military Food-Supply System: Coronavirus or Symptom of Slowdown in Reforms?

Alla Hurska 

On March 1, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MOD) reported that all combat units and some small garrisons (indirectly involved in Joint Forces operations) of the Armed Forces switched to a new meal and food-supply system. The poor quality of soldiers’ meal packs has long been a source of chronic complaints…MORE

Armenian Government Stabilizes COVID-19 Cases, but Structural Risk Factors Remain

Armen Grigoryan

The COVID-19 situation in Armenia presently remains under control, although the peak of infection almost certainly has yet to occur. As of Sunday, March 29, 2,054 persons tested negative, and 424 positive, with 33 closed cases—30 resulting in recovery and 3 deaths. Each of the deceased patients (55, 72 and 73 years old) had suffered from pre-existing conditions…MORE

Implications of IRGC’s Perceived Transmission of Coronavirus

Brian M. Perkins

Syria has not officially recorded a confirmed case of coronavirus, largely due to a lack of health infrastructure and government denial/silence on the matter, but human rights and health observers have noted outbreaks in areas under Syrian government control in Tartous, Damascus, Homs, and Latakia provinces, as well as rumors of cases in areas outside government control…MORE

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

Weixiang Wang is a Master’s student and future doctoral candidate in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham, UK.

Oana Burcu is an Assistant Professor in Contemporary Chinese Studies and Fellow of the Asia Research Institute in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham, UK. She specializes in Chinese foreign policy, Sino-Japanese relations, and the impacts of nationalism on regional geopolitics.

Margarita Assenova is a Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation. She is a regular contributor to the Jamestown publication Eurasia Daily Monitor on political and energy security developments in the Balkans and Central Asia. Assenova is a recipient of the John Knight Professional Journalism Fellowshipat Stanford University for her reporting on nationalism in the Balkans. She has authored book chapters and journal articles on security, energy, and democracy published by CSIS Press, Brassey’s, Freedom House, Bertelsmann Foundation Publishers, the University of New Haven, and The Jamestown Foundation.

Cavid Veliyev is a senior research fellow in the Foreign Policy Analysis Department at the Baku-based Center for Strategic Studies (SAM) under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, where he has worked since 2009. In 2005–2007, he was a researcher at the Middle East Department and then, in 2007–2009, he served as the head of the South Caucasus Department at the National Security Strategic Research Center (TUSAM). He has authored many academic and editorial articles. He has co-edited the books South Caucasus: Energy, Geopolitics Rivalry and Territorial Integrity (Ankara, 2011) and Turkey-Azerbaijan Relations (Ankara, 2012). He received his PhD in International Relations from Ankara University in 2013.

Dr. Pavel K. Baev is a senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO).

Dario Cristiani is a political risk consultant working on Mediterranean countries. He is currently an IAI/GMA Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, in Washington, DC. Previously, he was a Visiting Fellow at the International Centre for Policing and Security at the University of South Wales (UK). And prior to that, he was the director of the Executive Training in “Global Risk Analysis and Crisis Management” and an adjunct professor in International Affairs & Conflict Studies at Vesalius College (VUB) in Brussels. He received his PhD in Middle East & Mediterranean Studies from King’s College, University of London, in 2015. The views expressed in his articles are his own and do not necessarily represent those of the German Marshall Fund.

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.

Valery Dzutsati is a doctoral student in political science at Arizona State University. Mr. Dzutsati is a native of North Ossetia. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from the North Ossetian State University and Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Maryland. His research interests extend to ethnic and religious conflict, political violence, evolution of Russia and countries in Eurasia. His articles appeared in Nationalities Papers, and are forthcoming in Caucasus Survey and Post-Soviet Affairs. He has systematically covered developments in the North Caucasus for the Washington-based research and analysis institute The Jamestown Foundation since 2009. Between 2002 and 2007, Mr. Dzutsati served as country director for the British media development organization the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and was based in Vladikavkaz.

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. While there, he launched the “Window on Eurasia” series. Prior to joining the faculty there in 2004, he served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He writes frequently on ethnic and religious issues and has edited five volumes on ethnicity and religion in the former Soviet space. Trained at Miami University in Ohio and the University of Chicago, he has been decorated by the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for his work in promoting Baltic independence and the withdrawal of Russian forces from those formerly occupied lands.

Armen Grigoryan is co-founder and vice president of the Yerevan-based Center for Policy Studies, and a Eurasia Democratic Security Network fellow.

Alla Hurska is an associate expert at the International Center for Policy Studies (Kyiv), and a research assistant at the University of Alberta. Hurska’s research at the University of Alberta concerns geo-economic and geopolitical issues in the post-Soviet area, including the Arctic region and geopolitics of gas and oil. She is also interested in the role of Russian propaganda campaigns in influencing public opinion and decision-making in post-Soviet countries. Her articles and expert comments have been solicited by international think tanks, research institutions, and news outlets, including Diplomaatia (Estonia), ICPS (Ukraine), Kyiv Post (Ukraine) and, in Spain, CIDOB, Autonomous University of Barcelona, El Periódico de Catalunya, and El Confidencial.

Grigory Ioffe was born and raised in Moscow, Russia, and graduated from Moscow State University where he majored in Human Geography. He emigrated to the United States in 1989. Since 1990, he has been affiliated with Radford University in Radford, Virginia, where he is a professor of geography. Dr. Ioffe has been active in Belarusian studies since 2002. He has authored and co-authored multiple peer-refereed articles on Belarus, including “Geostrategic Interest and Democracy Promotion: Evidence from the Post-Soviet Space” in Europe-Asia Studies (2013); “Debating Belarus: An Economy in Comparative Perspective” in Eurasian Geography and Economics (2011) (co-authored with Viachaslau Yarashevich); as well as “Belarus and the West: From Estrangement to Honeymoon” in the Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics (2011). Ioffe’s book, Understanding Belarus and How Western Foreign Policy Misses the Mark was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2008 and again in 2014. Published in 2014 by Palgrave Macmillan, his book Reassessing Lukashenka: Belarus in Cultural and Geopolitical Context is based on extensive interviews with the Belarusian leader. Ioffe also co-authored the third edition of Historical Dictionary of Belarus, published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2018. He regularly writes about Belarus for the Eurasia Daily Monitor.

Dr. Willy Wo-Lap Lamis 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.

Leo Lin is a doctoral student at the University of Southern Mississippi. His work focuses on Indo-Pacific security and Chinese grand strategy.

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.

Kyle Orton is an independent researcher focused on the Syrian war. He tweets @KyleWOrton.

Brian M. Perkinsis an Intelligence Manager at a large risk management consultancy and is a former Navy Signals Intelligence Analyst. He has published extensively in peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed journals and has been cited by the UNHCR, academic presses, and international media outlets. His research primarily focuses on Yemen, though he regularly writes about terrorism and political violence in the broader MENA region.

Johan vande 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.