The coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, has now swept through 126 countries, infected close to 170,000 people worldwide, and is responsible for more than 6,400 deaths as of March 15. China is leading the world in the number of confirmed cases and deaths. What many people find shocking is that Italy and Iran are the second- and third-hardest hit nations in this outbreak.
By any common-sense measure, both countries should have much lower numbers of confirmed cases and deaths because they are geographically far from the epicenter of the outbreak. The reason these two countries are suffering the most outside China is mainly due to their close ties with Beijing, primarily through the “One Belt and One Road” (OBOR) initiative.
OBOR is Beijing’s foreign policy play disguised as infrastructure investment. Here’s how it works: China and country X agree to do an infrastructure project in country X. Country X has to borrow from a Chinese bank to finance the project. A contract is always awarded to Chinese companies, which then bring supplies and Chinese employees to country X to build the project. Clearly, the country that benefits most from this initiative is China.
The OBOR provides new markets and consistent demand for China’s goods and services, creates employment opportunities for Chinese workers, and gives China access to strategically important locations and natural resources. Beijing’s real objective is to leverage its newly gained financial power to greatly expand its geopolitical influence as well as its economic and military footing from Asia to Europe and Africa.