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Civilisation on Pause – Introduction to special issue ‘China's Global Capital and the Coronavirus: Views from Comparative Law and Regulation’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2023

Matthew Erie*
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Abstract

Pandemics have a history of interrupting civilisations. From the Greeks and Romans to the British Empire, pandemics have eroded political authority and caused economic instability. The twenty-first century has been hailed as the ‘Asian century’, with China's ascent as central to a reconfiguration of global capital and power. The COVID-19 pandemic, that began in 2019 and still rages as of this writing, started in China and was exacerbated by initial repression by the local government authorities before the central government could implement appropriate disaster response. Since then, COVID-19 has been one of the most devastating pandemics in the history of globalisation. Its mortality has been coupled with regulatory responses which at times have been debilitating to national economies, no less is this true for China's own regulatory response which has been anomalous across the world. This Special Issue explores the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Chinese overseas direct investment and the concomitant forms of capital (symbolic, social, and political). It features collaborative research and writing by early career experts from throughout the world, as part of the ‘China, Law and Development’ project, based at the University of Oxford. It examines how China, its trade partners, and transnational orders have responded to the pandemic through law and regulation across an array of fields: dispute resolution, legal services, immigration law and policy, digital surveillance, global health governance, and democratic fragility.

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Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the National University of Singapore

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12 World Health Organisation, ‘WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard’ <https://covid19.who.int/> accessed 7 Dec 2022. But for estimates that include unreported cases, see David Adam, ‘The pandemic's true death toll: millions more than official counts’ (Nature News, 18 Jan 2022) <https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00104-8> accessed 1 Dec 2022.

13 Kelsey Piper, ‘Here's how Covid-19 ranks among the worst plagues in history’ (Vox, 11 Jan 2021) <https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/21539483/covid-19-black-death-plagues-in-history> accessed 1 Dec 2022.

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20 Adam Tooze, Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World Economy (Penguin 2021) 53–54.

21 ibid.

22 ibid 58.

23 National Bureau of Statistics of China, ‘National Economy Withstood the Impact of COVID-19 in the First Two Months’ (16 Mar 2020) <http://www.stats.gov.cn/english/PressRelease/202003/t20200316_1732244.html> accessed 1 Dec 2022.

24 ibid.

25 See Tooze (n 20) 61–62.

26 Qiao Long & Emily Chan, ‘China Stops Issuing New Passports, Slaps Entry, Exit Curbs on Citizens’ (Radio Free Asia, 6 Aug 2021) <https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/curbs-08062021095546.html> accessed 1 Dec 2022.

27 UK Government, ‘Foreign Travel Advice: China’ <https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china/entry-requirements> accessed 11 Mar 2022; US Department of State, ‘China Travel Advisory’ <https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/china-travel-advisory.html> accessed 11 Mar 2022.

28 See Ramraj & Little (n 18) 14.

29 ibid.

30 ibid.

31 ibid.

32 See deLisle & Kui (n 14) 70–118; Shen Kui, ‘The Delayed Response in Wuhan Reveals Legal Holes’ (The Regulatory Review, 20 Apr 2020) <https://www.theregreview.org/2020/04/20/delayed-response-wuhan-reveals-legal-holes/> accessed 24 Nov 2022; Renninger, Phillipp, ‘The “People's Total War on COVID-19”: Urban Pandemic Management through (Non-)Law in Wuhan, China’ (2020) 30 Washington International Law Journal 64, 8285Google Scholar.

33 See deLisle & Kui (n 14) 70–118.

34 Compare the death tolls (as of 7 Dec 2022) in China (World Health Organisation, ‘WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard: China’ <https://covid19.who.int/region/wpro/country/cn> accessed 9 Mar 2022), with that of India (World Health Organisation, ‘WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard: India’ <https://covid19.who.int/region/searo/country/in> accessed 9 March 2022).

36 World Bank, June 2020 Global Economic Prospects (2020) xv. See also United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Trade and Development: Transitioning to a New Normal (2020) 8.

37 See Tooze (n 20) 5.

38 For projected slower global growth rates, see International Monetary Fund, ‘World Economic Outlook Update: Rising Caseloads, a Disrupted Recovery, and Higher Inflation’ (Jan 2022) 3–4. For an assessment of Southeast Asian countries’ recovery as ‘mostly not promising’, see Roland Rajah, ‘Southeast Asia's Post-Pandemic Recovery Outlook’ (Brookings, 15 Mar 2021) <https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/03/15/southeast-asias-post-pandemic-recovery-outlook/> accessed 24 Nov 2022. For an in-depth analysis of African economies’ prospects, see UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, ‘Analyzing Long-Term Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19 Across Diverse African Contexts’ (2021).

39 Matthew S Erie, ‘BRI v. COVID-19’ (China, Law and Development Research Brief No 5/2020, 24 Mar 2020) 3 <https://cld.web.ox.ac.uk/file/590881> accessed 24 Nov 2022.

40 ibid.

41 ibid.

42 Sumathi Bala,‘Disruptions in China can lead to ‘ripple-effects’ across global supply chain, says HSBC’ (CNBC, 31 Jan 2022) <https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/31/china-covid-zero-disrupts-supply-chains-impacts-global-recovery-hsbc-.html> accessed 24 Nov 2022; Lauren Lewis, ‘China “is worsening global supply chain issues and inflation rises with its zero-Covid policy”’ (MailOnline, 9 Feb 2022) <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10494295/China-worsening-global-supply-chain-issues-inflation-rises-zero-Covid-policy.html> accessed 24 Nov 2022.

43 Zhongguo maoyi waijing tongji nianjian (中国贸易外经统计年鉴, 2019) [China Trade and Economic Statistics Statistical Yearbook, 2019] (China Statistics Publishers 2020) 659.

44 See Erie, ‘BRI v. COVID-19’ (n 39) 3–4.

45 ibid.

46 Katherine Jones, Sanushka Mudaliar & Nicola Piper, Locked Down and in Limbo: The Global Impact of COVID-19 on Migrant Worker Rights and Recruitment (International Labour Organisation 2021) 6.

47 ibid.

48 ‘Coronavirus: Ukraine protesters attack buses carrying China evacuees’ (BBC, 21 Feb 2020) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-51581805> accessed 24 Nov 2022.

49 Xiaoyuan Li, Alexander S English & Steve J Kulich, Anger Among Chinese Migrants Amid COVID-19 Discrimination: The Role of Host News Coverage, Cultural Distance, and National Identity’ (2021) 16 PLoS ONE 2.

50 Guido Alberto Casanova, ‘Weaponizing Commerce: Trump, China, and CFIUS’ (The Diplomat, 29 Mar 2018) <https://thediplomat.com/2018/03/weaponizing-commerce-trump-china-and-cfius/> accessed 24 Nov 2022; Harry G Broadman, ‘Trump's TikTok Tactics Provoke China's Countering CFIUS As New Data Portend Decoupling’ (Forbes, 31 Aug 2020) <https://www.forbes.com/sites/harrybroadman/2020/08/31/trumps-tiktok-tactics-provoke-chinas-countering-cfius-as-new-data-portend-decoupling/?sh=5b9dbf9667d8> accessed 24 Nov 2022.

51 Zhonghua renmin gongheguo shangwu bu (中华人民共和国商务部) [Ministry of Commerce of the PRC], Guojia tongjiju (国家统计局) [National Bureau of Statistics), Guojia waihui guanliju (国家外汇管理局) [State Adminitration of Foreign Exchange], 2019 niandu Zhongguo duiwai zhijie touzi tongji gongbao (2019 年度中国对外直接投资统计公报) [2019 Statistical Bulletin of China's Outward Foreign Direct Investment] (2020) 3.

52 Zhonghua renmin gongheguo shangwu bu (中华人民共和国商务部) [Ministry of Commerce of the PRC], Guojia tongjiju (国家统计局) [National Bureau of Statistics], Guojia waihui guanliju (国家外汇管理局) [State Adminitration of Foreign Exchange], 2020 niandu Zhongguo duiwai zhijie touzi tongji gongbao (2020 年度中国对外直接投资统计公报) [2020 Statistical Bulletin of China's Outward Foreign Direct Investment] (2021) 3, 6.

53 Zhonghua renmin gongheguo shangwu bu (中华人民共和国商务部) [Ministry of Commerce of the PRC], ‘2019nian wo dui “yidaiyilu” yanxian guojia touzi hezuo qingkuang (2019 年我对“一带一路”沿线国家投资合作情况) [China's Investment and Cooperation with Countries Along the “Belt and Road” in 2019]’ (21 Jan 2020) <http://www.mofcom.gov.cn/article/tongjiziliao/dgzz/202001/20200102932445.shtml> accessed 24 Nov 2022; Zhonghua renmin gongheguo shangwu bu (中华人民共和国商务部) [Ministry of Commerce of the PRC], ‘2020nian wo dui “yidaiyilu” yanxian guojia touzi hezuo qingkuang (2020 年我对“一带一路”沿线国家投资合作情况) [China's Investment and Cooperation with Countries Along the “Belt and Road” in 2019]’ (21 Jan 2021) <http://hzs.mofcom.gov.cn/article/date/202101/20210103033292.shtml> accessed 24 Nov 2022.

54 Zhonghua renmin gongheguo shangwu bu (中华人民共和国商务部) [Ministry of Commerce of the PRC], ‘2021nian wo dui “yidaiyilu” yanxian guojia touzi hezuo qingkuang (2021 年我对“一带一路”沿线国家投资合作情况) [China's Investment and Cooperation with Countries Along the “Belt and Road” in 2021]’ (24 Jan 2022), <http://www.mofcom.gov.cn/article/tongjiziliao/dgzz/202201/20220103239000.shtml> accessed 24 Nov 2022.

55 Alicia García Herrero, ‘Will the Belt and Road Initiative Be Another Casualty of the Pandemic?’ (SFS Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, 11 Nov 2022) https://gjia.georgetown.edu/2022/11/11/will-the-belt-and-road-initiative-be-another-casualty-of-the-pandemic/ accessed 7 Dec 2022.

56 Iris Jin & Valentine Ostaszewski, ‘Differing Methodologies Cause Stark Discrepancies in Chinese and Canadian Statistics’ (Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, June 21, 2026) <https://www.asiapacific.ca/blog/differing-methodologies-causing-stark-discrepancies-chinese> accessed 7 Dec 2022; Arendse Huld, ‘Explainer: Why are MOFCOM's and the Exchange Bureau's China FDI Statistics Different?’ (China Briefing, 8 Apr 2022) <https://www.china-briefing.com/news/explainer-why-are-mofcoms-and-the-foreign-exchange-bureaus-china-fdi-statistics-different/> accessed 7 Dec 2022.

57 Zhonghua renmin gongheguo shangwu bu (中华人民共和国商务部) [Ministry of Commerce of the PRC], Guojia tongjiju (国家统计局) [National Bureau of Statistics], Guojia waihui guanliju (国家外汇管理局) [State Adminitration of Foreign Exchange], 2017 niandu Zhongguo duiwai zhijie touzi tongji gongbao (2017 年度中国对外直接投资统计公报) [2017 Statistical Bulletin of China's Outward Foreign Direct Investment] (2018) 15.

58 Ministry of Commerce of the PRC (n 51) 17 and Ministry of Commerce of the PRC (n 52) 17.

59 Compare Ministry of Commerce of the PRC (n 57) 104 with Ministry of Commerce of the PRC (n 52) 111.

60 Compare Ministry of Commerce of the PRC (n 57) 98 with Ministry of Commerce of the PRC (n 52) 105.

61 Ralph Jennings, ‘China's COVID-19 Vaccine Diplomacy Reaches 100-Plus Countries’ (Voice of America, 18 Sep 2021) <https://www.voanews.com/a/china-s-covid-19-vaccine-diplomacy-reaches-100-plus-countries/6233766.html> accessed 24 Nov 2022.

62 Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye Sanny & Edem Selormey, ‘Africans Welcome China's Influence But Maintain Democratic Aspirations’ (Afrobarometer, 15 Nov 2021) 2 <https://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/publications/Dispatches/ad489-pap3-africans_welcome_chinas_influence_maintain_democratic_aspirations-afrobarometer_dispatch-15nov21.pdf> accessed 24 Nov 2022.

63 AFP, ‘IMF's Gopinath Says Time to ‘Recalibrate’ Covid Restrictions’ (France24, 26 Jan 2022) <https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220125-imf-s-gopinath-says-time-to-recalibrate-covid-restrictions> accessed 24 Nov 2022.

64 Brian Larkin, ‘The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure’ (2013) 4 Annual Review of Anthropology 327; Nikhil Anand, Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructure of Citizenship in Mumbai (Duke University Press 2017); Nikhil Anand, Akhil Gupta & Hannah Appel (eds), The Promise of Infrastructure (Duke University Press 2018); Dimitris Dalakoglou & Penny Harvey, Roads and Anthropology: Ethnography, Infrastructures, (Im)mobility (Routledge 2015); Alessandro Rippa, Borderland Infrastructures: Trade, Development, and Control in Western China (Amsterdam University Press 2020), Manu Karuka, Empire's Tracks: Indigenous Nations, Chinese Workers, and the Transcontinental Railroad (University of California Press 2019); Matthew S Erie & Thomas Streinz, ‘The Beijing Effect: China's Digital Silk Road as Transnational Data Governance’ (2021) 54 New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 1.

65 Elias (n 5) xiii.

66 See Erie & Streinz (n 64) 53–59.

67 See Erie, ‘Chinese Law and Development’ (n 6) 56.

68 ibid.

69 On legal infrastructures, see Katharina Pistor, The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality (Princeton University Press 2019) 17, 134; Gillian Hadfield, Rules for a Flat World: Why Humans Invented Law and how to Reinvent it for a Complex Global Economy (Oxford University Press 2016) 3–4, 7, 9; Jeffrey S Kahn, Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire (University of Chicago Press 2019) 10, 17.

70 See Matthew S Erie, ‘Legal Systems Inside Out: American Legal Exceptionalism and China's Dream of Legal Cosmopolitanism’ University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law (forthcoming).

71 John Borneman & Abdellah Hammoudi, Being There: The Fieldwork Encounter and the Making of Truth (University of California Press 2009).

72 On collaborative research and writing in the social sciences, see eg, Douglas Holmes & George E Marcus, ‘Collaboration Today and the Re-Imagination of the Classic Scene of Fieldwork Encounter’ (2008) 1 Collaborative Anthropologies 81; Timothy K Choy et al, ‘A New Form of Collaboration in Cultural Anthropology: Matsutake Worlds’ (2009) 36 American Ethnologist 380; Tara Schwegler & Michael G Powell, ‘Unruly Experts: Methods and Forms of Collaboration in the Anthropology of Public Policy’ (2008) 1 Anthropology in Action 1; James W Endersby, ‘Collaborative Research in the Social Sciences: Multiple Authorship and Publication Credit’ (1996) 77 Social Science Quarterly 375.

73 See eg, William J Norris, Chinese Economic Statecraft: Commercial Actors, Grand Strategy, and State Control (Cornell University Press 2016); Xiaohan Gong & Anatole Boute, ‘For Profit or Strategic Purpose? Chinese Outbound Energy Investments and the International Economic Regime’ (2021) 14 Journal of World Energy Law and Business 345; Guillermo Garcia Sanchez, ‘The Footprint of the Chinese Petro-Dragon: The Future of Investment Law in Transboundary Resources’ (2020) 94 Tulane Law Review; Li-Wen Lin & Curtis J Milhaupt, ‘We Are the (National) Champions: Understanding the Mechanisms of State Capitalism in China’ (2013) 65 Stanford Law Review 697; Curtis J Milhaupt & Wentong Zheng, ‘Beyond Ownership: State Capitalism and the Chinese Firm’ (2015) 103 The Georgetown Law Journal 665.

74 See eg, Rush Doshi, ‘The Long Game: China's Grand Strategy to Displace American Order’ (Brookings, 2 Aug 2021) 5.

75 See eg, Lee, Ching Kwan, The Spectre of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa (University of Chicago Press 2018)Google Scholar; Sautman, Barry & Yan, Hairong, ‘The Chinese are the Worst?: Human Rights and Labor Practices in Zambian Mining’ (2012) 3 Maryland Series in Contemporary Asian Studies 1Google Scholar; Webster, Timothy, ‘China's Human Rights Footprint in Africa’ (2012) 51 Columbia Journal of Asian Law 626Google Scholar.

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77 See Erie & Streinz (n 64).

78 Félix Tréguer, ‘US Technology Companies and State Surveillance in the Post-Snowden Context: Between Cooperation and Resistance’ (CERI 2018) <https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01865140/document> accessed 24 Nov 2022.

79 Zuboff, Shoshana, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (Profile Books 2019) 383Google Scholar; Farrell, Henry & Newman, Abraham L, ‘Weaponized Interdependence: How Global Economic Networks Shape State Coercion’ (2019) 44 International Security 42, 46CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

80 State Council Information Office of the PRC, ‘China's International Development Cooperation in the new Era’ (10 Jan 2021) <http://english.scio.gov.cn/whitepapers/2021-01/10/content_77099782.htm> accessed 11 Mar 2022.

81 Agamben, Giorgio, State of Exception (University of Chicago Press 2005) 3Google Scholar.

82 Gu, Weixia, Dispute Resolution in China: Litigation, Arbitration, Mediation, and their Interactions (Routledge 2021) 94CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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