Since China’s historic “Belt and Road” initiative was announced in 2013, several countries in the region, including Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, have raised the question of moving east in order to benefit from this massive initiative, which is expected to break the vicious cycle of crises that these countries have been mired in for decades.
The Chinese initiative aims to connect China to Europe by constructing billions of dollars of infrastructure along the Silk Road. Ports, highways, railroads, and industrial zones are all included in this initiative. More than 120 countries are involved in this massive Chinese project, which aims to increase China’s exports to the world’s major markets.
On December 31, 1955, China and Lebanon signed a trade agreement in order to develop the goodwill between the peoples of Lebanon and China via commercial relations and economic cooperation between their two nations, on the basis of equal and mutually beneficial advantages. China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which aims to connect Asia, Europe, and Africa via land and sea trade routes, is based on the idea that these connections are mutually beneficial to all parties involved.
The initiative is based on open collaboration and does not engage in protectionism; is devoted to mutual benefit and win-win and does not engage in a zero-sum game; moreover it does not interfere with politics. It doesn’t create new laws; instead, abide with international conventions.
Agreements on “joint promotion” were signed by the Chinese government and the Lebanese government in September 2017 to promote cooperation in this area. According to the Memorandum of Understanding, both countries will work together in areas of mutual interest such as transportation and logistics; infrastructure development; investments in renewable energy; and cross-cultural exchange.
Prior to the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding, the two countries signed numerous agreements in various fields, including the Maritime Transport Agreement (1996), the Activation and Protection of Mutual Investments (1997), the Economic, Commercial and Technical Cooperation Agreements (1997-2016), the Civil Air Transport Agreement (1997), a cultural agreement (2002-2005), and several agreements in this field that resulted on December 2, 2019 in laying the foundation stone for this Memorandum of Understanding.
Despite the growing ties between Lebanon and China, the Lebanese have yet to make a decision on whether to move east, more specifically to China, or keep the strong ties and bonds with western governments, such as the US and France, for political reasons related to the sectarian system, as well as economic and commercial interests of some actors or parties active in these areas.
When it comes to Lebanon’s relationship with China, some have shifted the focus from economics to politics, either by advocating a complete shift of the country’s economic focus from the United States to China, or by warning about the potential consequences of expanding relations with the Chinese side. In both circumstances, the connection shifts from national interests to ideological advantages. The Arab countries and Lebanon have never had an issue with China, neither in trade, culture, or politics; China has dozens of major projects in many Arab countries without these countries turning to the east or fearing any US encroachment.
China also contributes to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, in addition to its cultural, educational, and artistic agreements with Lebanon. We can see the positive return of the partnership with China in the tremendous progress in technological projects and infrastructure in Egypt, for example; or Algeria’s ports; Morocco’s industrial sector; Kuwait’s oil and communications industries; Saudi Arabia’s oil and communications industries; and the United Arab Emirates’ energy and agriculture industries.
“Sanctions were not threatened against Lebanon because of China’s growing trade ties with Lebanon, which amount to nearly $2 billion a year in exports to Lebanon compared to barely $60 million in industrial exports from Lebanon to China,” the American side said.
China is a powerhouse with the second-largest economy in the world, whereas Lebanon is a small nation with economic difficulties and a big trade imbalance. On the other hand, it is situated in a strategic location that allows it to serve as a gateway between the Middle East and Europe. So, there is the potential for significant economic and commercial entanglements between China and Lebanon, which might be beneficial to both nations.
More than ten billion dollars’ worth of development projects, including cleaning the Litani River and resolving the country’s electricity crisis were offered to Lebanon’s government by China. Other offers included getting China to participate in the oil and gas sector, turning Lebanon into a Chinese regional financial centre, and expanding the port at Tripoli. Because the United States has rejected any involvement for China in Lebanon, the Lebanese side was not enthusiastic about these initiatives.
Chinese ties with the Middle East are based on mutual benefit, common gain, cooperative growth and a win-win situation. China does not attempt to exert influence in the region. On the other hand, China’s new Ambassador to Lebanon, Qian Minjian, notes that Lebanon’s government and political parties have expressed a positive willingness to deepen practical cooperation with China within the Belt and Road Initiative framework; he stresses that the Chinese side always seeks to cooperate with Lebanon within the Belt and Road Initiative, with a commitment to do so.
Chinese and Lebanese diplomatic relations began in 1971, but commercial ties between the two countries date back to 1955, when the first trade agreement was signed between them, noting that these relations date back more than two thousand years ago.
Those who downplay China’s global economic, technological, and financial influence in contrast to the growing American influence and refuse to support Lebanon’s expansion or deepening of its ties with China on this pretext do not provide clear or logical answers about international expectations that China will hold the top economic position in the world. China’s strategic Belt and Road Initiative will have drawn dozens of countries and thousands of globally successful institutions and companies by 2030, parallel to the success of the United States and its Western allies in preventing this project from launching and progressing despite the campaigns they launched to stop it. As a result, the media and propaganda are likely to disparage it and doubt its merits for the countries participating in it.
Lebanon failed to accept or consider the Chinese offers or projects presented to it. Based on its long and distinguished history of relations with China in the economic, commercial, cultural and technical fields, and in order to avoid repeating Iraq’s failed experience in repudiating a strategic partnership agreement with China under the influence of the US; therefore, the Lebanese government should be more aware in dealing with the Chinese in the future and not miss more opportunities.
When there are objections or reservations about the interests of monopolistic powers and activities or external political demands, especially American ones, this means more political and economic confusion in Lebanon and a waste of a historical opportunity that may not be repeated while Arab or foreign alternatives remain conditioned by suspicious political demands, in addition to its lack of transparency and waving a new colonial era as a matter of economics.
China-Russia Statement: A quest for diversity
On February 4, on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a Joint Statement on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development. It is a rather lengthy document, outlining common approaches of China and Russia to some of the most fundamental issues of the modern world including regional and worldwide security, democracy and political inclusion, social justice and climate change, arms control and nuclear nonproliferation, national sovereignty and multilateralism.
It is not surprising that this statement has received a lot of criticism coming from Western media. Beijing and Moscow have repeatedly been accused of forging an “alliance of autocracies” threatening the West. US and European journalists, experts and politicians argue the Chinese and Russian leaders demonstrated that they do not really care about human rights or democratic institutions, do not tolerate any dissenting views or political opposition and aim to maintain their legitimacy primarily on the basis of economic security and nationalistic pride.
There is hardly anything new in these critical comments. However, the logic of Western opinion-makers deserves a closer look.
First, by labeling the two countries “global autocracies” such opinions already reveal a superficial approach of their authors. China and Russia are two very different nations; each of the two has its unique political traditions and culture, each has its own approach to managing dissent and opposition, dealing with internet and social media, integrating ethnic and religious minorities. China and Russia are like a whale and an elephant, to put them into one basket of “global autocracies” is a very questionable and misleading generalization, to say the least.
Second, there is nothing in the joint statement that would give reasons to believe that China and Russia are eager to launch an ideological war against liberal Western democracies or to question the right of the West to stick to political systems that have evolved in Western countries over the last two or three centuries. The statement underscores only the obvious: No country, and no political party or movement has the ultimate answers to all the difficult questions of social development.
Therefore, there should be no hierarchy or subordination among states on the basis of how they organize their political and social lives. This, however, does not imply that there are no universal human rights, which all the states have to honor and protect. Such universal rights do exist, but they should be defined by the international community at large, not by a small group of countries proclaiming themselves as “model” democracies.
Third, China and Russia maintain that the main dividing line in modern politics is not the one between “democracies” and “autocracies,” as are often presented in the West, but rather between “order” and “disorder.” The key challenge of global politics today, as seen from Beijing and from Moscow, is about enhancing global governance within the increasingly heterogenic world. To meet this formidable challenge, the international community should regard and accept its growing diversity as an asset, not a liability. Politicians and state leaders should focus on inclusive, not exclusive, mechanisms regulating specific dimensions of global and regional economics and politics.
This is why both China and Russia expressed their firm opposition to blocks and situational coalitions based on ideological principles and aimed at marginalizing, if not containing, other international players. This opposition relates not only to such defense alliances like NATO or AUKUS, but also to more amorphous structures like Quad.
Turning ideology into the main principle defining the emerging new world order would be a strategic mistake with long-term implications for all of us. If ideological divisions prevail, conquer the public and get reflected in national strategies and doctrines, these divisions will become a formidable obstacle on the way to uniting the humankind around common problems and common public goods. The weeds should be rooted out before they grow too high.
Global Socio-Economic Impact of Covid-19
The Pandemic originating from Wuhan China has enveloped the whole world and the catastrophe caused by covid-19 is beyond speculation. Schools, Colleges, Universities and business are closed for an indefinite period and the World has gone into self-isolation while the countries imposed lockdown in the world in the severely hit areas to contain the outbreak at massive scale.
The pandemic has affected all the countries especially China, France, Italy, Germany, US, UK, Iran, Egypt and third world countries i.e Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan and some African countries.
There are some countries which are severely impacted socially and economically while some countries have sustained moderate impact owing to taking timely preventive measures as per circulated guidelines of WHO and Local Health ministries of respective Countries.
With President Donald Trump clipping the wings of UN’s apex health body by cutting the financial support amid the Global Pandemic, the catastrophe is expected to go from bad to worse as WHO will experience the funds’ shortage that will ultimately contribute to a deep humanitarian crisis.
The world posts a bleak picture already as all business activities have been suspended, the markets have been closed for an indefinite period, the stock markets crashed and the unemployment ratio suddenly jumped to historical high due to covid-19 Pandemic. Even OPEC members have decided to cut the oil production given the pandemic situation.
The Global economy has been severely impacted by the shocks of the deadly virus that prompted companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Face book, Twitter to ask their employees to work from home to avoid contracting Covid-19.
All the industries have been impacted badly that include entertainment, Sports, food franchise has completely shutdown creating panicking situation all around as once busiest streets and markets have started presenting deserted look.
This global economic warrants that if the early remedy to cure covid-19 is not discovered, the future will be dreadful to predict. The mighty economies such as China, the US, France, Italy, UK, Germany has been seriously impacted by this deadly virus. The situation is haunting the people around the world, bringing misery of greater proportion as compared to Word War II, Ebola, SARS, MERS, Plage and Yaws.
The Daily Wage workers, Private workers, drivers, hawkers, shop keepers and thousands of similar workers have lost their jobs and the opportunity to earn their livelihood. The companies have preferred work from home option for their employees to limit the outbreak and avoid contracting covid-19.
It is alarming that hundreds of workers have filed as unemployed. The lengthy lockdowns have created serious humanitarian and economic crises and the experts are of the view that the circumstances are fast moving towards the global recessions and may take a long time to recover from this catastrophe.
Though China has been able to contain Covid-19 and even lifted restrictions on outgoing flights with some strict SOPs, yet the Covid 19 seems to be an invisible predator waiting for its prey regardless of any region. The virus has impacted all the zones i.e with the cooler, hotter or moderate atmosphere.
The only solution to fight this pandemic is social distancing, maintaining the hygienic environment and avoiding crowdy spaces. The Governments around the world have imposed strict lockdowns and the frontline fighters (Health workers) around the world doing a marvellous job to protect their fellowmen even at the cost of falling prey to this deadly virus.
While fighting this pandemic. Many health workers have been tested positive. Even, some frontline soldiers lost their fight to this pandemic and laid down their lives to secure the future of their respective country.
Education is being imparted through digital platforms as online education is increasing for students. Though students are facing some issues such as the connectivity, Sound quality, Video Quality, yet in this emergency, the Schools, Colleges, Universities and other online course websites are striving to provide some light of Knowledge in these difficult times.
The booming industries such as restaurants, hotels, motels and Aviation have been closed for an indefinite period.
Unfortunately, despite 151598 deaths worldwide and over 2.21 Million confirmed cases covid-19, all eyes are hooked towards the discovery of vaccine to treat the patients and save their lives. At the moment, only plasma therapy is being conducted and some common medicines are being used such as cough, flu fever-related medicine.
Though human trials have been started by some Pharmaceutical companies, the experts are of the view that it may take one and half year for the vaccine to be available in the market. It is also estimated to be the costliest vaccine ever keeping in view its global implications and rapid speed of pandemic spread in the world.
It is estimated that Europe, Asia, Middle East to suffer a lot especially, Italy, France, UK, Iran and US as the ratio of deaths is higher than other countries especially US where average deaths per days have surpassed all other nations that prompted Trump to cut funding to world health Organization accusing it of mishandling the pandemic and delayed response to mitigate its implication while WHO head has refuted the allegations.
The covid-19 has also impacted Sports, News & Media, Entertainment and Services Industries to the extent that. All the sporting events have been suspended, series and Leagues have been rescheduled and big events such as PSL, IPL, FIFA World Cup, Olympics Games and others have been completely cancelled raising concerns among the players. Even the players are facing the trauma having travel history to the epicentre of Covid-19 Pandemic and tested positive.
The Entertainment industry has been heavily impacted as all the dramas, Films and comedy shooting and recording has been postponed till indefinite period and all the events including concerts have cancelled due to covid-19 and actors have lost the source of living.
Finally, the Print and Electronic Media are partially impacted though they are a very vulnerable community as they have been busy in coverage of the pandemic around the world and are prone to contracting the deadly virus due to close contact with Patients at Quarantine Centres and the Health specialists working at the hospital and temporary health centres specially set up for an emergency.
The Print Media has been hit hard as people consider it risky to read a Print copy of newspapers over covid-19 fears and prefer paper or online edition of the newspapers. Hence, such a trend has impacted the Newspaper Sales badly.
On the other hand, electronic media such as News Channels, Radio and Digital Media such as Websites, YouTube are grabbing people’ attention.
The Social Media is also buzzing with Covid-19 updates though Social Media and Silicon Valley companies have asked their employees to work from home and follow the preventive measures these include Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and Search Giant Google.
The world should be united to fight this global pandemic that is haunting the world. The US should release funds to help WHO work effectively for global health and expedite the process of vaccine discovery as each day will deprive the near and dear ones of the families around the world. With collaborative efforts, the world can win this war against the pandemic.
Coronavirus Pandemic and Global Response
The World is undergoing serious economic, social and health crisis as the Covid-19 outbreak originating from Wuhan China, has spread to almost all the continents of the World except Antarctica – the Unhabitated Continent.
Hundreds of People died in china, Iran, France, South Korea and Italy. Italy has been severely gripped by a coronavirus. The Covid-19 after bringing catastrophe in Asia reached Europe and Africa.
Though Africa has limited cases as reported but given the alarming and catastrophic situation rising every day. The South Asian countries i.e. Pakistan, India, Bangladesh though ill-prepared to fight against this Pandemic have done a tremendous job in terms of preparations and taking preventive measures to limit the spread of the fatal Covid-19.
As hundreds of cases are reported positive, fear, economic crisis, education and health effects have played havoc to the countries to fight Covid-19. The World Health Organizations (WHO) has declared it pandemic asking countries to follow the precaution or preventive measures as circulated by WHO and Isolation facilities for those diagnosed positive.
The States have started diverting their funds towards fighting this novel Virus and having set up Emergency Health Centers and Isolation Centers for quarantining those arriving from worst-affected countries i.e. China, Iran, France, America and Italy.
Sindh has been the worst affected by this Virus with 146 confirmed cases as most of the cases are imported from Iran via Taftan.
These include those pilgrims (Zairian) who are returning from Iran after visiting holy places. CM Sindh has so far done a marvelous job by setting up Isolation and Screening Camp at Sukkur to diagnose and keep them at the facility to avert any possibility of contraction to their families.
KP stands second with sudden appearance 19 cases since these confirmed cases are also imported through Taftan border as the affected patients had recently returned from a pilgrimage from Iran. Baluchistan is on 3rd Number with 10 confirmed cases, GB 3 and Islamabad capital with 04 cases. Fortunately, there is any case in AJK.
The media is regularly breaking and updating news every moment regarding the novel coronavirus, adding the rise to the concerns regarding the sudden outbreak of the pandemic to more countries. The concerns and feelings of fear run high amid cancellations and postponement of all sporting activities, education, colleges, universities and Wedding or public gatherings.
Companies such as Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Microsoft and Apple have advised their employees to stay at home and work from their home. They also circulated the WHO guidelines among their employees and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people as announced in the latest guidelines of WHOM.
Countries are strictly following the preventive measures communicated to the people by WHO experts and putting bans on unnecessary travel in the city or out of city or borders.
It is the alarming and panicking situation since No vaccine nor has injection been made to treat those affected with the novel coronavirus. WHO cautions the countries having limited facilities to conduct tests and treat the patients advising states around the world especially the Asia and Europe to take preventive measures until the vaccine to treat this deadly virus could be discovered by Medical scientists and microbiologists?
At the moment Covid-19 has caused more deaths than Ebola outbreak in African countries, especially in Congo. According to reports that as per, the calculations based on the Center of disease control, the scenarios suggested that as many as 2.4 million to 21 million people in the U.S. could require hospitalization, potentially crushing the nation’s medical system, which has only about 925,000 staffed hospital beds as reported by Media.
The number is very low to house the huge number of affected people from covid-19. It may bring a panicking situation in a developed country like the USA. Less than a tenth of those are for people who are critically ill.
It would be disastrous to deal with the pandemic given the Medical facilities available at the US and the African states.
At the moment, China is the worst hit with 3800 deaths due to novel coronavirus followed by Italy with 1800 deaths, South Korea with 75 deaths, Iran with 600 deaths.
Luckily, the situation Africa is under control since so far there are a few reported cases but there is no confirmation of the Virus cases yet.
The African nations have started preparations for fighting this deadly virus, they have one advantage of fighting with the Ebola virus and the lessons learnt from dealing with that epidemic such health and hygiene requirements.
Though African countries have limited resources and facilities yet they have started following the WHO Precautionary measures to deal with Possible outbreak of the deadly virus that has spread all over the world.
Its implications are dreadful and catastrophic for the world at large. The world has been struggling to deal with this pandemic as Schools, colleges, universities, restaurants; religious Places have been shut over the fears of this Pandemic.
People are advised through the media campaigns and instructions circulated by WHO to adopt the precautionary measures to remain safe from this disease. Though the symptoms include fever, cough, close breathing affecting lungs, the precautionary material is being aired on Media to apprise people of this deadly virus that has been spreading at a massive scale.
Unfortunately, the medical scientists and microbiologists have not been able to discover any antidote to control it from the spread and contain it. Even WHO appears to be helpless against this disease rather circulated precautionary measures to remain on the safe side until a vaccine could be made for the treatment of the virus?
The physicians have been advising the common treatment for fever such as Paracetmol ,cough syrup and self-isolation to recover from this pandemic as preventive measure .
Till date, there are 100 reported cases in African Countries with two deaths happened in Morocco and Egypt each.
According to statistics of WHO the Country wise break up of reported cases of Virus covid-19: Algeria -20, Burkina Faso-2, Cameron-2, Democratic Republic of Congo -1, Egypt highest number of cases -59 includes one death, Morocco -3 with one death, Nigeria 2, Senegal 4, South Africa -13, Tunisia -5 and Togo -1. So far, the situation in African countries is normal only Egypt has the maximum number of cases reported.
The African Countries have been well prepared to contain the outbreak that has played havoc around the world specifically in Asian countries i.e. China, Iran and Europe. There are at least 150000 reported cases worldwide and over 6000 deaths owing to this deadly virus including 3600 deaths in china alone following by 1800 deaths in Italy.
The Ebola Experience has enabled the African nations to develop a comprehensive plan to fight this Novel Corona Virus. There are about 100 cases have been reported in 11 African Countries while there were only two deaths.
Most of the cases in Egypt are those passengers who had travelled from abroad and the crew members of the ship coming from the countries which are being worst or moderately affected by the deadly coronavirus. The reported cases are just imported out of Africa as there is not any domestic viral outbreak.
However, apart from the rest of world, African states have done a tremendous job to contain Covid-19 by adopting strict preventive measures by completely banning Travel from the countries which are the worst affected by the Corona Virus.
In this connection, Rwanda has not reported any case, yet it has advised the citizens to maintain hygiene in the country. Rwanda has installed hand Washing Taps and sanitizers to defeat the viral outbreak in the country.
Similarly, Kenya has not reported any cases, yet it has established the 120-bed Quarantine centre and two Testing facilities at Nairobi.
Nigeria has also made mandatory to use hand sanitizers while visiting banks, restaurants, Office and supermarkets to limit the spread of deadly Novel Corona Virus.
Even several health workers have been deployed by the Government of Nigeria at the international Airports to screen the passengers to avert any possibility of a contracting virus.
According to News reports that the Experience of Nigeria’s dealing with the Ebola Virus has enabled the African Nations to adopt the preventive measures to limit the contraction of Novel Coronavirus in the country.
All the Airline companies have suspended their flights over the fears of Covid-19 that include Rwanda Air, Kenyan Airlines, and Royal Air Morocco.
They have learnt that hand washing is the first line of defence against any viruses. The case studies of Ebola have furthered their defence.
On the other hand, China has been able to overcome the outbreak by bringing the number to single digits. WHO has also recommended learning from China how it faces this pandemic.
Chinese Experience should be utilized to help control the pandemic in Italy as it has been worst hit by Covid-19 where the death toll crossed 1800 People and Iran 600 people.
Even WHO should take experts from African countries, China and Europe to develop a strategy to fight this pandemic. The pandemic has been contracted in India with confirmed cases of 107, Pakistan with confirmed cases of 189 as per the latest information available. The numbers are constantly growing increasing concerns of people regarding the preparedness of various nations against this Pandemic.
Though, the cases reported and confirmed in South Asia are mainly those who travelled to Iran, Syria, and China. There is so far no confirmed case of domestic nature or any death. Even, there is no death reported yet in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Luckily, after a long time, SAARC Leadership held the online Video conference to exchange level of readiness against this Novel Corona Virus. The Video Conference was held on the request of Indian PM Narendra Modi. Dr Zafar Mirza proposed a regional Mechanism to fight covid-19 and even demanded to lift Curfew in IOK over the concerns of Novel Corona Virus.
Finally, it is essential to follow WHO prescriptions to remain secure until the vaccine could be developed for this deadly virus. Medical experts claim that the vaccine may take 18 Months to be available to fight this Pandemic.
WHO has cautioned the developing countries around the world to take preventive measure to prevent people from falling prey this pandemic especially those who have limited resources and ill-prepared to fight this Deadly Covid-19 effectively.
The Circumstances in Sindh are very alarming, Government of Pakistan must take strong measures of screening at Taftan border with the composition of experts from Health Ministry both Public and Private Sector to fight this Pandemic and contain it from spreading rapidly.
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