Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, The University of Tokyo

As the world seeks to recover from the impact of the coronavirus, China’s presence lookslarger than before the crisis even in the distant Middle East.

China-Syria economic cooperation agreement signed in Damascus on March 4 was a tiny prelude right before the US and European countries were enflamed by the COVID-19 outbreaks and hindered to play leading roles in the world politics.

Now there is a widely circulated rumor, in which Iran and China are supposed to prepare for a broad partnership agreement which will fend off the U.S. pressure on Iran.

Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif acknowledged to the parliament that the Iranian government is negotiating with China over the strategic partnership that spans 25 years and could bring in $400 billions of Chinese investment.

According to the New York Times report on July 11, the 18-page proposed agreement, which was approved by President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet in June, covers a wide range of sectors including energy, banking, telecommunications and infrastructures such as ports and railways. It is said it also deepens military cooperation between two US foes.

China, which was hit first by this virus and became the epicenter of the global crisis, is now trying to show that it is the first in recovering as well. It seems to be making a desperate effort to regain control of itself and fill the void of the receded influence of the Western countries which are now preoccupied with the disease and busy tackling with the deep divisions within their society.

It’s an expected act for China to make a generous overture to countries on the opposite side of the US to secure support of them, preparing for the long battle to come at the court of world public opinion, when it is blamed by the U.S. president as the chief culprit of the global disaster causing many deaths and shutting many businesses down, throwing many people out of jobs and homes.

There is a theory about the cause of western dominance over the American continents in 16th and 17th centuries in which the western colonists were helped by the fatal power of the novel germs and viruses they brought into the new continent where indigenous people were not immune to them and easily succumbed to the infectious diseases, making it easy for colonists to conquer the land and annihilate the people.

Will history repeat itself again in another setting?