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China’s quest for global power and COVID-19 ; By Vartika Sharma

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Article 81/2021

In the post-cold war era, the world was under western hegemony, but with China’s poverty alleviation and is being development, it is often observed that there is a possibility of change in the world order. China initially was colonized, but since its independence worked to enhance its position globally. From being a poor nation-state to being on the verge of becoming a global hegemon in the changing world order, it has worked in each field from infrastructure to trade, etc. It has developed advanced military equipment. The Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping, for the last decade, has been working towards its goal of becoming a global hegemon. Its foreign policy portrays the goal and intent to fulfill it. It was quickly moving towards its goal till 2019, but with the coming of the unprecedented challenge of the pandemic of COVID-19, the entire world came to a halt for some time. Each nation-state saw a decreasing economic condition owing to the lockdowns and various other factors. The observers concluded that though other nation-states saw a decline, China’s economy was growing at a slow rate. With China using its medical diplomacy in a time of crisis, it has some leverage though it is observed that not many nation-states are accepting its products like PPEs, masks, etc., due to its doubtful credibility. But it is accepted by poor nation-states that are not left with any option. These nation-states cannot afford to neglect China’s help and are under its debt. Though the pandemic of COVID-19 bought unique and unprecedented challenges for the entire world, China handled it tactfully and even moved in the direction of achieving its aim with increasing economic growth; it is on its way to being the next leader.

With the coming of the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world came to a halt. This challenge, like all challenges too, brought with it its unique difficulties; this made people, along with nation-states to deal with it by applying a different methodology. The author of this paper argues that even in times of crisis how a nation-state “brands” itself and has used its vaccine diplomacy as a soft-power tool. The author has backed his argument by providing evidence that by providing vaccines, How China wants to influence other nation-states (Lee,2021).

The pandemic of COVID-19 is according to some researchers often considered a disease that originated in China and the first cases are said to be detected there. China first managed to curb the outbreak of this disease domestically then started to work on its public diplomacy, is the argument offered in this paper. This paper analyzes the geopolitical moves of China even in times of a crisis as it was doing its vaccine diplomacy and also was providing medical equipment. Though this unprecedented challenge created havoc in the world but even in this China by tactfully using its technology, workforce and diplomacy is working to achieve its foreign policy goals (Kobierecka and Kobierecki,2021).

The pandemic of COVID-19 initially made many nation-states adopt an inward approach in handling the crisis but China not only handled its domestic outbreak instead had a larger motive as it worked on its vaccine diplomacy and helped many nation-states. The author of this article argues that it acted by creating networking with neighbours some observers even called it “Health-silk road”. China according to the author’s analysis sees this crisis as an opportunity to further its geopolitical motive of becoming the world leader. The vaccine diplomacy is the link that can make him a dominant player in its region, that is, southeast Asia and then the world.

The corona virus’s first cases were said to be reported in China, the virus impacted their nation-state as well but not much evidence can be found as the information was being censored. According to some scholars, the Chinese leadership made sure that the outbreak did not spread to many areas and it was contained quickly. China made sure that it domestically managed the outbreak so that it then could move towards its goal of being the world leader. Even in times of crisis, many nation-states suffered losses owing to lockdowns, restrictions etc. Still, it is observed that China’s economic growth grew at a slow rate. China tactfully utilized its technology to make medical equipment, vaccines as it had the genome of the virus. This helped China to use its vaccine diplomacy by providing aid to nation-states that were not in a position to produce themselves neither the equipment nor the vaccines. This would influence these nation-states by being indebted to China for its support. China under the aegis of Xi Jinping has worked on its goal of being the world leader and the pandemic has given the opportunity to China in furthering its goal of leading the world.

(Vartika Sharma is a third-year undergraduate student of global affairs at OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat & Research Intern at the Chennai Centre for China Studies. The views expressed are personal and do not reflect the views of C3S.)


  1. Lee, S. T. (2021, July 6). Vaccine diplomacy: nation branding and China’s COVID-19 soft power play. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy. Published.

  2. Kobierecka, A., & Kobierecki, M. ł. M. (2021, March 8). Coronavirus diplomacy: Chinese medical assistance and its diplomatic implications. Springer. Published.

  3. Kurlantzick, J. (2020, May 22). China thinks the pandemic will make it the world’s new leader. It won’t. Washington Post.

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