China analysts believe these countries’ close political and economic relations with the Chinese regime led them to enact ineffective disease prevention policies—as they became more concerned about offending the Chinese regime or disrupting economic interests in China.
Bruce Lui, a lecturer at the journalism department of Hong Kong Baptist University, said: “Because these countries are highly integrated with China, they are almost unguarded to some extent.”
Italy, the most heavily-affected country outside China as of March 10, was the first G-7 nation to sign onto China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. In an attempt to prop up its weakening economy, Italy has also sought to capture the Chinese market for selling its luxury goods.
With the outbreak, such prospects have been put on hold.
Italy has also signed 74 sister-city agreements with China—Milan, Venice, and Bergamo included among them. These are the regions among the hardest-hit by the virus.
In South Korea, the public has grown increasingly critical of President Moon Jae-in for refusing to ban Chinese tourists at large from entering the country—only barring entry for those who recently traveled to Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak in China. 1.46 million people have signed a petition to the Presidential Blue House calling for Moon to be impeached. The petitioner wrote: “Seeing Moon Jae-in’s response to the new epidemic, I feel that he is more of a President for China than Korea.”
Iran has also seen a surge in the number of infections, particularly among its government officials. Iran has had a comprehensive strategic partnership with China since 2016. In violation of international sanctions, Iran has imported embargoed materials from China, while Iran continues to sell oil to China.
Meanwhile, Iran allowed flights in and out of China’s four major cities until the end of February.
China analyst Heng He said: “The inefficiency in disease prevention can be traced back to policies. These hard-hit countries have a tight relationship with the Chinese regime. Their political and economical policies outweigh the needs of disease prevention. Some are deceived by the lies of the Chinese regime, and others deliberately turn a blind eye.”
In contrast, Taiwan has seen a relatively small number of infections, despite its proximity to mainland China. On Jan. 26, John Hopkins University identified Taiwan as the second-highest risk of epidemic spread outside China. However, robust preventive measures proved its effectiveness. Taiwan officials began to board planes and assess passengers on December 31, 2019, after Wuhan authorities first confirmed the outbreak. In early February, Taiwan banned foreign nationals who have traveled to China. To date, there are 45 confirmed cases in Taiwan.
“These measures were adapted earlier than all other countries. It is also because Taiwan has a clear understanding of the Communist regime. Taiwan may be the only state that has learned lessons from the 2003 SARS outbreak. Taiwan is fully prepared to implement the measures. Having been rejected by the World Health Organization (WHO), the isolated Taiwan is free of being misled by it. Taiwan also distrusts the Chinese regime’s propaganda and data. Well, these [factors] have prevented the virus outbreak in Taiwan. Taiwan’s experience is clear. Only by understanding the Chinese Communist Party and staying away from it, can countries set the foundation to fight this pandemic. In other words, God helps those who help themselves,” Heng He said.
In the era of globalization, it’s challenging for the leader of every country to use their political wisdom, discretion and judgment to avoid making wrong decisions that affects the rest of the world.