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FIU experts assess global impacts of China’s coronavirus outbreak
Image credit: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

FIU experts assess global impacts of China’s coronavirus outbreak

As the death toll surpasses 200 and the World Health Organization declares a global health emergency, FIU professors discuss the social, political and economic impacts of the crisis

January 31, 2020 at 2:00pm

Just moments after the World Health Organization declared China’s coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency, FIU experts went live online to break down the crisis – from how the virus is spread to the effects the outbreak will have on global trade, travel and financial markets, as well as politically inside China and beyond. 

“That the WHO declared this a public health emergency of international concern is very responsible and appropriate,’’ said Dr. Aileen Marty, professor in the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and an expert in infectious diseases. “This one is far more contagious (than other similar viruses), and we’re seeing it spread at rates we’ve never encountered … despite our best efforts to contain it.’’

Sheng Guo, an economist with the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs, is from the region in China where the outbreak began. He has been communicating by text message with his parents, who live 45 miles from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

“They are holed up in their apartment, afraid of going out and trying to stay calm,’’ said Guo, who hasn’t been to China in several years. “I just heard from them today that there is a confirmed case in a neighboring community so there are further restrictions of communication and travel.’’

Because the outbreak escalated just before the Chinese New Year – one of the country’s biggest spending seasons – it has dealt a major blow to the nation’s economy, the second largest in the world, said Julie Zeng, a professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations.

“This is typically a peak season of travel,’’ she said. “But now the streets are empty and many of the stores are closed.’’

That slowdown is already having profound ripple effects on the region and around the globe – on trade, tourism and financial markets, added Thomas Breslin, professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations and an expert on U.S.-China relations.

“Chinese tourists are the most free-spending tourists in the world,’’ he said. “They keep Paris afloat. Louis Vuitton and all the sellers of luxury good are going to lose a fair amount of their market.”  

Beyond economic impacts though the crisis is also having a disturbing effect on Chinese individuals living abroad, he said.

“There’s a great deal of apprehension,’’ he said. “There’s been some anti-Chinese feeling in Japan, even in New York City. There’s a concern that there will be an upswelling of anti-Chinese feeling or fear of the community that will isolate them.”