The outbreak of Coronavirus and its Implications

The outbreak of Coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which has already killed more than 200 people in the country while affecting 9000 others, poses significant repercussions for states with Chinese engagements. This is particularly true for Pakistan that hosts thousands of Chinese workers and engineers working on projects affiliated to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Reports confirm that the Virus, which shares similarity with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) that killed hundreds of people in China in 2002 and 2003, has found its victims in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Far East, and North America. Being in proximity to China and a greater people exchange ratio, Pakistan stands at high risk from the Coronavirus. Also, the outbreaks leave a deeper impact on China’s relations with its neighbors and major trading partners, that too in an environment where conspiracy theories make the dynamics of the situation even more uncertain.

Global Implications and Major Partners

The Wuhan’s Coronavirus has already strumbled the world’s economic market with stocks falling sharply. The outbreak of the Virus comes at a time when China has shortly suffered from slow economic growth and an intense trade war with the US. With Samsung losing its weight and Google closing its offices, the economic impact is swelling across the region and the world at large. The Coronavirus outbreak has put the international market on lockdown while the Chinese mark it the deadliest day after the World Health Organization (WHO) declares Global Emergency. The purpose of the report is to outline major global strategic implications of the outbreak and hence give insight into the possible worst-case scenarios.

Analyzing the anticipated moves and policies of the major strategic and trading partners is important because of the high frequency of people exchange and those of goods and services. For example, Russia touches almost 2, 615 miles of an international border, has closed the border crossings with China because of the possible infiltration of the virus. The US, which has just secured favorable US-China Phase one Deal requires China to ramp up purchases up to USD 200 billion US’ agricultural and manufactured goods, is at the receiving end of strategic and economic implications.  The fallout is even bigger to worry about, especially at a time when the US is on serious low with Iran over Qasim Sulaimani and 2015 Nuclear Deal, Trump’s renewed push for more tariffs, clouds of a trade war with Europe and row with Britain over its decision to allow Chinese Huawei 5G network installation. India being a major trade partner and in proximate geographical length continues to evacuate citizens and halts direct flights on major routes as did many other countries.

Conspiracy Theories about Coronavirus

With the debates going on the Virus, misinformation, and conspiracy theories run in parallel on print, electronic, and social media about the means and ends of the Coronavirus. The theories are dangerous, strange while some others are racist in its expressions making the situation more uncertain in understanding the origin and end of the virus. For example, Twitter handles pushes for Bill Gates Theory which saying that the Virus is owned by Bill Gates Foundation and used by the ‘Deep State’ since “to create chaos since nothing is stopping Donald Trump”. Similarly, the QAnon is a popular conspiracy theory that mentions Donald Trump asks for using Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), bleach, to protect against Coronavirus. Moreover, the viral racist theory in Australian speaks of Asian food as the reason behind the spread of the virus while Canadian Lab Theory claims that it was a Chinese scientist working at Canada’s National Microbiology Lab (CNML) that took back the Virus to China and hence spread there in Wuhan. Apart from this, some twitter handles spread the conspiracy theory stating that the Chinese government developed the Virus for warfare purposes which they link with the Chinese Scientist in CNML taking the Virus to security lab in Wuhan where it accidentally hit the public.

Implications for Pakistan

However, for Pakistan, the virus’s outbreak will impact the flagship project CPEC in two ways. Firstly, the inflow of the Chinese will reduce to a significant number after tough screening tests both on departure and arrival to Pakistan. Such a reduction of exchange will be of global nature which will cause the second impairment to the Chinese potential in continuing work on the CPEC projects. Secondly, the Chinese economic and political capital will be diverted towards the prevention of the Virus at home and surviving its market collapse. The previous SARS virus cost China almost USD 12.3 to USD 28.4 Billion which could be even severe at a time when China is experiencing slow economic growth and engaged in a trade war with the US. The economic pressures from the disaster will hamper continuous Chinese engagement in the CPEC projects. Moreover, since most of the foreign tourists visiting Pakistan are from China, the reduction in this inflow will slightly put in pressure Pakistan’s tourist industry.

In immediate response to the crisis, Pakistan’s Ministry of Health Services, Regulation and Coordination has called for a higher degree of caution and took measures to mitigate possible threats posed from the Virus. At a time when Pakistan is considered as the ‘Dark Horse’ and top on the Chinese priority for tourism and entrepreneurial opportunities, estimates suggest that around 95, 000 Chinese have visited the country in the last five years. Given the intense inflow of Chinese nationals and fear of an outbreak of Coronavirus in the country, authorities in Pakistan have directed to conduct screening at major airports while strict monitoring mechanism will be installed to keep a check on seaports and Pak-China border on individuals carrying the Virus. Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authorities (PCAA) has made mandatory measures of thermal screening for passengers leaving China for Pakistan. For this purpose, Quarantine rooms have been set up at the airports. Apart from this, the Chinese are reportedly sharing health information with Pakistan on possible prevention of the Virus. The three camps set up for the Chinese working on Orange Line Train, screening tests are being undertaken to ensure prevention of the virus and hence avoid delay in the project.

Hence the Billion dollar projects under the flagship project of CPEC in Pakistan could be stalled for a considerable time so long as the Virus loses its ground, which is hardly predictable. Since there has been no case of the Virus causing death or even have victimized so far, it remains to be seen how much will the disaster cost both Pakistan and China. Generally speaking, Pakistan cannot afford a delay in the CPEC projects but the delay is inevitable out of the deadly nature of the virus. This will depend upon continuous cooperation in the sharing of health information and synergy in the thermal screening of passengers moving to and for between Pakistan and China. The cooperation in place has already been appreciated by the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad in a tweet saying “We appreciate the government of Pakistan\’s confidence in China to win the battle against the outbreak of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus. China will protect all Pakistani citizens in China at all efforts to ensure their safety and welfare”. This was in response to Pakistan’s decision not to evacuate its citizens out of WHO’s and Chinese recommendations in fear of possible spread henceforth.


In conclusion, it is unpredictable to measure the severity of the outbreak but given the nature of Chinese all-round global engagements and an emerging center for global economic activities, the implications will be global with significant political, strategic, and economic impact on major partners. The conspiracy theories will continue to shape global public opinion and responses of the relevant states to the outbreak. For Pakistan in specific, the implications will range from short-term halt to major projects under CPEC and other exchanges. However, the continuous cooperation and inevitability of strategic partnerships for both countries make it harder to predict more scenarios than the mentioned implications of the Coronavirus outbreak.


Muhammad Ammar Alam, a graduate of the School of Economics, Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, specializes in political and development economics.

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