Dr Parama Sinha Palit is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow of Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), an autonomous school within Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. She is also an Affiliate Researcher with Swedish South Asian Studies Network (SASNET), Lund University, Sweden. Her book, Analysing China’s Soft Power Initiative and Comparable Indian Initiatives, was published by SAGE in 2017. She is working on her next book, New Media and Foreign Policy: India, US and China, to be published by Routledge in 2021. In an exclusive interview with NEPAL FIRST, she discusses the impacts of Covid-19 on regional and world politics.
How is the Covid-19 situation in Singapore?
Singapore had started off strong since many believed that its SARS experience would help it to handle this Covid-19 pandemic better. However, the situation has completely changed with the circuit breaker in place since April 7th. Not only has the circuit breaker phase been extended till the June 1st , but a number of restrictions have been imposed to check its spread in the island, including controlled access at areas susceptible to crowding like market places. ‘Go alone’ and not in groups is also being encouraged and wearing of masks mandatory for people going out for essentials, among other stricter measures. Despite fewer deaths, Singapore still has a number confirmed with the virus spiking.
What is your assessment on the pandemic’s impact on the economies of China and India and its ripple effect in the region and beyond?
China and India will suffer economically like the rest of the world, but they still might be slightly better off because of their large population and ability to generate economic activity within the country. The region will benefit from the economic revival of both countries, if they are able to recover quickly from the lockdown and economic setbacks they have faced. A lot will also depend on whether a second wave of the virus hits both the countries.
How do you view the future of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the aftermath of this crisis?
It is difficult to say but there is concern over movement of Chinese professionals and labor and a general disillusionment about China. But most of the BRI countries, including in Asia and Africa, need investments to recover. This is a delicate situation because right now China’s ability to implement the BRI through the investments it had promised is now in doubt due to the pandemic. Much will depend on whether international assistance from non-Chinese sources become available for the BRI countries or not.
What could be the impacts of Covid-19 on world politics?
The impacts of Covid-19 will be felt the world over, both economically and politically and a new world order might be in the making with many more middle powers emerging and powerful countries’ influence shrinking.
It will take at least a year or so to judge the whole impact of the pandemic and its effects on the world. As far as the United States is concerned, the world has already witnessed Washington’s power waning during the last few years, but the post-corona international order might see the US receding to the background even more and focusing increasingly on domestic issues. With respect to China, it might feel even more isolated considering the international community has been blaming Beijing for the spread of the virus.