China has been able to escape from the Covid-19 outbreak relatively quickly compared to other countries. Nevertheless, it still remains greatly influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic across its politics, economy, society, culture, and other areas, which has led to various changes throughout China.
Therefore, this study comprehensively examined the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on various aspects of Chinese politics, economy, society, and culture. And in response to these changes in Chinese society, the study explores new strategies toward China in the post-Covid-19 era.
II. Changes by Field in China
1. Domestic politics
In the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak, there was controversy over whether China’s party-state system was shaken and there was a problem in leadership, but the analysis found no evidence to support this. On the contrary, the current party-state system showed adaptability to the changed circum-stance, and a “gathering effect” also appeared. However, it is necessary to observe further developments about whether this phenomenon can be sustained in the medium and long term.
2. Foreign relations
The U.S. and China have been engaged in a fierce battle of no concessions over responsibility for the Covid-19 pandemic, and while the conflict and competition are expanding further, the space for negotiations is shrinking. The Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed that the global leadership of powerful countries has weakened significantly and the international community is entering its own path of survival. In response to non-traditional security threats such as Covid-19, China is pushing for global public health governance with emphasis on multilateralism, and taking advantage of the void in global leadership left by the U.S. to become a global leader in the Covid-19 response.
3. Economy and trade
As the Chinese economy entered the New Normal (新常態) era, which means an era of medium-speed growth beginning around 2012, the Chinese government has been pushing for structural reforms on the supply side to resolve various structural contradictions. However, with the trade friction between the United States and China intensifying in 2018 and the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, such restructuring is showing signs of delay. As a coun-termeasure against Covid-19 and the deepening U.S.-China conflict, the Chinese government is preparing a medium- and long-term development strategy for the Post-Covid, concentrated on a “dual-circulation” development strategy, which is at the core of the 14th Five Year Plan (2021-25).
Along with these changes and impacts on the domestic economy, the Covid-19 pandemic has also had a profound impact on China’s foreign trade circumstances. In particular, as the global pandemic raised the need for reorganization of the GVC, which had previously been formed around China, Chinese companies are also seeking ways to respond by establishing a production base in ASEAN.
Meanwhile, the effects and reactions of Covid-19 on China’s economy varied by region. In order to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is actively transitioning toward the domestic market in regions that are highly dependent on exports, and is pushing to expand regional industries and supply chains to cope with the reorganization of GVC.
4. Society and culture
The Chinese government’s centralized quarantine and economic recovery response was successful in stabilizing the Covid-19 infection crisis relatively quickly compared to other countries, but at the same time weakened the social safety net and expanded labor instability. In addition, social discussions on the balance between personal privacy and quarantine measures are expected in the future due to the frequent restrictions placed on the privacy and rights of the Chinese people in the process of conducting massive epidemiological investigations. On the other hand, the prospect was raised at home and abroad that the media environment in China will change due to the Covid-19 outbreak. But as a result, media control was strengthened and justified in the quarantine process instead of an increase in freedom of speech.
At the same time, changes in China’s dietary culture as a whole have been seen since the Covid-19 outbreak, with the culture of using individual serving portions (分餐制) and serving chopsticks (公筷) spreading in China, and social movements to reduce food waste. Covid-19 is also attracting the older generations to Internet culture, and has brought changes in the social interaction and communication methods of Chinese people, representative examples being the so-called “bullet comments” (弹幕) and “cloud” culture (云互动).
In line with these changes, we need to prepare for four aspects of uncertainty.
The first is preparation for the uncertainty arising from the reorganization of the international order after Covid-19. Second is preparation for the uncertainty that will result from the deepening and expanding of U.S.-China competition. The third is preparation for new threats that will emerge during the reorganization of the GVC after Covid-19. And fourth, we must prepare for the internal medium- and long-term risks that China revealed in the Covid-19 recovery process.
Meanwhile, as China is expected to seek changes in its national development strategy to cope with the various impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak, we need to analyze and utilize China’s strategic changes. To this end, first, it is necessary to prepare in advance to utilize China’s strategic changes, which will be included in the 14th Five Year Plan (2021-25) of China. Second, it is necessary to ex-pand cooperation with China in the digital economy sector, which will lead the growth of the Chinese economy after Covid-19. Third, it is necessary to actively utilize changes in demand according to China’s new culture and consumption patterns when establishing business strategies toward China. Fourth, efforts should be strengthened to explore China’s domestic market, especially in areas where the transition of industries into domestic demand is expected to proceed quickly after Covid-19. Fifth, it is necessary to devise ways to use China’s newly formed Internet culture after Covid-19 as a channel for public diplomacy and economic diplomacy with China.
At the same time, as competition between the U.S. and China in the Asian region is expected to intensify, it is necessary to prepare a plan to simultaneously promote cooperation on the Asian strategy of the two countries. China also has a strategic goal of responding to the trend of deSinicization through economic integration in East Asia and achieving GVC stability. Therefore, while reviewing the meaning of economic integration in the Asia-Pacific and East Asia region, we should play a leading role for the current discussion on economic integration to help expanding market opening of the participating countries and creating a fair and free trade environment. In particular, as the Democratic Party’s Biden won the presidential election, there is a possibility that the United States will return to the CPTPP, so we must come up with a regional economic integration strategy in case the United States will change its economic integration strategy in East Asia.