China could gain strategic influence in Western economies suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. officials and experts fear, despite anger that the contagion spread due to Beijing’s duplicity.
“We are in that moment where the wife discovers that her rich husband has had an affair, but, that if she divorces him, she and her kids are going to be living in an apartment and driving a 30-year-old car, and so she decides to stay with him,” a senior U.S. official told the Washington Examiner.
“The world has seen the romance of China before now,” the official added. “And I think that romance is giving way to a clear sense of Chinese malevolence, but equally coupled with a recognition of dependence.”
U.S. officials fear China will continue to expand its Belt and Road initiative to gain economic and political influence around the world.
“To the extent that the Chinese can show up to countries that need those things and provide those things then, yeah, I think they’re going to find a lot of need,” the Hudson Institute’s Rob Spalding, a retired Air Force general who helped craft President Trump’s national security strategy, told the Washington Examiner. “Money basically makes it easy for these countries to forget, and that’s just the way it is.”
“We have a really fundamental crisis coming in both Europe and the United States,” the senior U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, told the Washington Examiner. “I think that in a year or two years, China will have made enormous, enormous strides in terms of its position in the financial system, ownership in supply chains, positions in key tech. And along with that, you will have an increasingly worried West.”