China's relationship with the world post-COVID-19 pandemic: The subcontinent

  20-Jul-2020 08:45:19

ChinaIndiaPakistanNepalBhutanSri Lanka Bangladesh Modi Xi JinPing geopolitics subcontinent Asia

Covid-19 pandemic created a lot of tension around the world. The first case of COVID-19 was discovered in a 55-year-old man, from the Hubei province in China on 17th November 2019. Since then, COVID-19 has spread all around the world. There are strong allegations against China for trying to hide the actual number of cases and not making a timely announcement before the world about the pandemic’s severity.

The Pandemic has now produced a cold war-like situation between China and the rest of the world. Many citizens in countries like the United States of America and India have filed lawsuits demanding compensation from China.

Let us take a brief look at how China's relationship is going to pan out with the nations of the subcontinent in the post-COVID world.


China's aggressive movement in Ladakh territory, which ultimately led to the Galwan valley incident and death of 20 Indian soldiers, aggravated an already souring relationship. The Indian government took a strong stance against Chinese aggression with reciprocal moves such as the banning of 59 Chinese apps, halt and review the investments made by Chinese firms, and steps to reduce dependency on Chinese exports. In response, Beijing has banned Indian media outlets in China. These actions have deepened the mistrust between the 2 most populous nations. Also, on the business front, manycompanies are trying to shift their production from China because of COVID-19 origin. They're seeing India as an alternative. With nationalist governments in power in both the nations and economic and military tensions high, there is likely to be more diplomatic tussles between India and China in the coming months


China-Pakistan relations picked up in 2014 when the Chinese announced massive investments under the OBOR initiative and Pakistan was assumed to be a major beneficiary of the project. Though China maintains that relations with Pakistan remain as strong as ever, there is a growing concern in Pakistan over the “malpractices used by Chinese companies” who have been handed out contracts for infrastructure projects. With the weakening of the Imran Khan government and the rise of the military leadership in Pakistan, Pakistan may shift their focus from an economic alliance to a completely military one, in the hopes of de-stabilizing Kashmir and Ladakh.


Recent events indicate that Nepal, once a close ally of India is also warming up to China. This came to light in early June when Nepal cleared a new map, which claimed many parts of the Indian state of Uttarakhand to be part of Nepalese territory. Post the Galway Valley Clash, Chinese troops occupied Nepalese territory, with no action taken by the Nepalese government to stop the same. Nepal's official stance seems to be that it is neutral, though there seems to be a tilt in the Nepalese policy towards China influenced by the increasing amount of FDI by Chinese companies. Added to this, the Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli is seen close to China and many sources claim that he is being helped by the Chinese tonegotiate a deal with his opponents in the party like Prachanda.


China is Bangladesh’s top trade partner—a title that was held by India until 2015. Bangladesh is a part of the BRI initiative and the Chinese invested $24 billion as a part of the 27 agreements that were signed during President Xi’s visit to the nation in 2016. The bringing of NRC and CAA and the equating of the term “illegal immigrants” by many in India has tilted the public perception of the Bangladeshi people against India as evident by the protest against the Indian prime minister's scheduled visit that was supposed to take place in early March. China has stepped on strengthening its ties with Bangladesh by supplying both COVID and economic relief to the nation.


In a likely bid to put pressure on one of India’s closest allies, China has laid a claim on Bhutanese territory. On June 29, China objected to Bhutan's application for a grant to a global environment facility for the 'Sakleng Wildlife Sanctuary ' located in Eastern Bhutan, claiming that the land in question is disputed territory. Bhutan, sharing a border with both India and China, was at the center of the 2017 Dokhlam standoff. India has supported Bhutan in the past but analysts think that the latest strategy of Beijing is to strain the India-Bhutan relationship in order to gain important strategic points in the North-Eastern region of India.

Sri Lanka

China has started to make its presence felt in the Indian ocean. Sri-Lanka is one of the key Indian ocean states that Beijing has been trying to woo with what is known as “debt-trap diplomacy”. Recently, China granted a USD 500M dollar loan over a 10 year period to Sri Lanka and was quick to supply COVID relief to the country. With the US and India also having key strategic interests in Sri-Lanka, the island nation can play a lot of cards to serve its interests.

(This article is the first in a series in which we explore in brief China's relationship with the major countries in the post-Covid world)

By: Kunal Roy Choudhary

Modifications by: Team NewsExplain