The second wave of Covid-19 in India has been among the biggest international stories being covered across the Chinese media. The coverage reflects a sense of anxiety and opportunity.
In terms of the former, there is concern about the spread of the so-called double mutant, or B.1.617 strain of the virus across the region and into China. A fresh wave of domestic outbreaks would be deeply damaging for the Communist Party, which declared victory against the virus last year, and would take a toll on China’s economic recovery. Likewise, a massive public health crisis across the Indian subcontinent, at the minimum, would hurt Chinese commercial interests and investments. At worst, it could result in a humanitarian catastrophe with the potential to stoke socio-political instability along China’s periphery.
At the same time, the situation in India presents opportunities for Beijing. At the bare minimum, there is a commercial opportunity, given the shortage of emergency supplies, equipment and therapeutics. But, at a deeper level, there are geopolitical opportunities. This is reflected in the Chinese media’s critical coverage of the delayed response by the Joe Biden administration, the emphasis on China’s manufacturing prowess and its centrality to key supply chains, and foreign minister Wang Yi’s summit with his South Asian counterparts, which focused on health supplies and vaccines.