Сountering СOVID-19 as a tool for Hybrid Influence of Russia and China on Regional Subsystems of International Relations: European and Asian Dimensions

Main Article Content


In the XXI century the system of international relations has undergone transformations, including non-traditional determinants. This research drew attention to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on modernization of the policies of great powers, which began to use pandemic countermeasures as a tool of their influence on future post-COVID international order. The authors analyze the peculiarities of using “hard power” (economic pressure) and “soft power” (economic aid, cultural interaction), and sometimes a combination of these tools on the example of Russia and China in order to lobby their own position under the pandemic of COVID-19 in the relevant geopolitically close regions – Europe and Southeast Asia. This research analyses all above mentioned peculiarities based on chronological period – at the beginning of pandemic situation in 2020.

It was found that Russia most actively used the effects of the beginning of global pandemic on the European direction of foreign policy, under the impact of energy factor and the formation of the image of “peacemaker” and the role of “messiah” in the region. In the study, Italy is an example of the use of hybrid influence from Russia, the spread of fakes and the presentation of the “weakness” of the EU at the beginning of the pandemic in a rapid political response to the threat. Southeast Asia became the region of Chinese foreign policy in counteracting COVID-19, where China’s “mask diplomacy” acts as a countermeasure to overcome conflict in the South China Sea, form a system of “subordination” and realization the idea of “community of common destiny”.

The findings reveal that Russia and China can be characterized as states that have political regimes with special tools and mechanisms for policy implementation. Beijing and Moscow not only aim to strengthen their influence in neighboring regions, but also to oppose the United States. Analyzing political actions and mechanism that Russia and China used at the beginning of pandemic, the authors confirmed that both countries aim to use “vaccine diplomacy” as an effective tool for influencing the coronavirus international order.


Download data is not yet available.

| Abstract views: 35 | PDF Downloads: 102 |

Article Details

How to Cite
Shevchuk, O. and Tykhonenko, I. (2022) “Сountering СOVID-19 as a tool for Hybrid Influence of Russia and China on Regional Subsystems of International Relations: European and Asian Dimensions”, Problems of World History, (17), pp. 158-182. doi: 10.46869/2707-6776-2022-17-7.

Author Biographies

Oleksandr Shevchuk

Shevchuk Oleksandr – Doctor of Political Science, Professor, Professor of Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University.

Iryna Tykhonenko

Tykhonenko Iryna – PhD in Political Science, Associated Professor of Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University.


Honcharuk, A. (2020). Socializm iz kytajs’koyu specyfikoyu v borot’bi z koronavirusom [Socialism with Chinese specifics in the fight against coronavirus]. Ukrayina-Kytaj [Ukraine-China]. №1(19), pp. 8-13. [In Ukrainian].

Matthews, M., Migacheva, K., Brown, R. A. (2021). Superspreaders of Malign and Subversive Information on COVID-19: Russian and Chinese Efforts Targeting the United States. Santa Monica. [In English].

Bobo Lo (2020). Global Order in the Shadow of the Coronavirus: China, Russia, and the West. Sydney. [In English].

Maslova, E. A. (2020). Ital’janskij koronakrizis i ego posledstvija: nacional’noe, obshheevropejskoe i global’noe izmerenija [The Italian coronacrisis and its consequences: national, pan-European and global dimensions]. Mezhdunarodnaja analitika [International Analytics]. No. 11(1), pp. 58-70. [In Russian].

Gamza L., Zakljaz’minskaja E. (2020). Pandemija COVID-19 kak faktor vneshnej i vnutrennej politiki Kitaja [The COVID-19 pandemic as a factor in China’s foreign and domestic policy]. Puti k miru i bezopasnosti [Paths to peace and security.]. 2020. No. 2(59), pp. 63-80. [In Russian].

Ngeow Chow-Bing (2020). COVID-19, Belt and Road Initiative and the Health Silk Road: Implications for Southeast Asia. Jakarta. [In English].

Lye Liang Fook (2020). China’s COVID-19 Assistance to Southeast Asia: Uninterrupted Aid amid Global Uncertainties. ISEAS Perspective, No. 58, June. 13 р. [In English].

Bojang, A. S. (2018). The Study of Foreign Policy in International Relations. Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 1-9. [In English].

Gvalia, G., Siroky, D., Lebanidze, B., Iashvili, Z. (2013). Thinking Outside the Bloc: Explaining the Foreign Policies of Small States. Security Studies, Vol. 22, pp. 98-131. [In English].

Nye, J. (2013). Miagkaia sila i amerikano-evropeiskie otnosheniia [Soft Power and American-European Relations]. Smart Power Journal, 07.04.2013. [Online]. Available from: http://smartpowerjournal.ru/soft-power/ [In Russian].

Kapitonenko, M. (2010). “M’yaka syla” u suchasniy svitoviy politytsi: teoretychni aspekty [“Soft power” in modern world politics: theoretical aspects]. Aktual’ni problemy mizhnarodnykh vidnosyn [Actual problems of international relations], 94 (Part II), рр. 20-29. [In Ukrainian].

Raimzhanova, A. (2015). Power in International relations: hard, soft, and smart. Institute for cultural diplomacy, [Online]. Available from: http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/academy/ content/pdf/participant-papers/2015-12_annual/Power-In-Ir-By-Raimzhanova,-A.pdf. [In English].

Kuprin, D., Tuliuliuk, E. (2017). Elementy miagkoi i zhestkoi sily v formirovanii imidzha gosudarstva [Elements of soft and hard power in the formation of the state’s image]. Kommunikologiia: elektronnyi nauchnyi zhurnal [Communicology: electronic scientific journal], No. 1(2), pp. 61-72. [In Russian].

Tykhonenko, І. (2017). Іslamska Respublіka Pakistan u sistemі regіonalnoi bezpeky (1998-2016)” [Islamic Republic of Pakistan in the regional security system (1998-2016)] Ph.D. Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University. [In Ukrainian].

Mansurov, T. (2011). Teoretiko-metodologicheskie podkhody k probleme regionalnoi identichnosti v politicheskoi nauke [Theoretical and methodological approaches to the problem of regional identity in political science]. Uchenye zapiski Kazanskogo universiteta, T. 153(1), рр. 181-190. [In Russian].

Xiong Guangkai (2009). Vseobyemlyushchaya kontseptsiya natsionalnoy bezopasnosti Kitaya: shankhayskiy dukh i puti yego ukrepleniya [China’s Comprehensive National Security Concept: The Shanghai Spirit and Ways to Strengthen It]. Rossiya v globalnoy politike [Russia in Global Affairs], No. 3, pp. 92-98. [In Russian].

Konstitucionnaja popravka ob obnulenii srokov Putina raskolola rossijan [Constitutional amendment to nullify Putin’s terms split the Russians], Vedomosti. 02.03.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.vedomosti.ru/society/articles/2020/03/26/826370-konstitutsionnaya-popravka [In Russian].

Ukaz o merah po obespecheniju sanitarno-jepidemiologicheskogo blagopoluchija naselenija v svjazi s rasprostraneniem koronavirusnoj infekcii [Decree on measures to ensure the sanitary and epidemiological welfare of the population in connection with the spread of coronavirus infection]. President of the Russia Federation. 02.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: http://kremlin.ru/acts/news/63134 [In Russian].

Srochnoe obrashhenie Putina k rossijanam iz-za situacii s koronavirusom ot 25.03.2020 [Putin’s urgent appeal to the Russians because of the situation with the coronavirus of 03.25.2020]. Russia 24, 25.03.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkgP1gsQo_w [In Russian].

Makarychev, A., Goes, M., Kuznetsova, A. (2020). The COVID Biopolitics in Russia: Putin’s Sovereignty versus Regional Governmentality. Mezinárodní vztahy [Czech Journal of International Relations]. Vol. 55, No 4, pp. 31-47. [In English].

Mokretskii, A. (2019). Kitaiskaia diplomatiia v epokhu Si Tszinpina [Chinese diplomacy in the era of Xi Jinping]. Mezhdunarodnaia zhizn [The International affairs], No. 3. [Online]. Available from: https://interaffairs.ru/jauthor/material/2163[In Russian].

Amendment to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. The National People’s Congress of of the People’s Republic of China, 21.11.2019. [Online]. Available from: http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/constitution2019/201911/36a2566d029c4b39966bd942f82a4305.shtml [In English].

Boisseau de Roche, S. (2020). The Belt and Road: “China’s community of destiny” for Southeast Asia. Asie. Visions. No. 113, June. [In English].

Lancaster, K., Rubin, M., Rapp-Hooper, M. (2020). Mapping China’s Health Silk Road. Council on Foreign Relations. 10.4.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.cfr.org/blog/mapping-chinas-health-silk-road [In English].

Mosiakov, D. (2007). IUVA i amerikano-kitaiskoe sopernichestvo [Southeast Asia and the US-China rivalry]. IUVA: aktualnye problemy razvitiia [SEA: topical development problems], No. 10, рр. 78-89. [In Russian].

Su, S. Blas, J. (2020). Flood of $25-a-Barrel Saudi Arabian Oil Is Headed for Europe. Bloomberg. 11.03.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/ articles/2020-03-11/a-tsunami-of-25-a-barrel-saudi-arabian-oil-is-headed-for-europe[In English].

Smith, G., Bla, J. (2020). OPEC+ agrees on deep oil-output cuts to fight market slump. BNN Bloomberg, 09.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/opec-agrees-on-deep-oil-output-cuts-to-fight-market-slump-1.1419740 [In English].

Klimkin: Dogovorennost’ o sokrashhenii dobychi nefti – hudshee porazhenie Rossii za 20 let [Klimkin: The agreement to reduce oil production is Russia’s worst defeat in 20 years]. GORDON, 10.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://gordonua.com/news/politics/klimkin-dogovorennost-o-sokrashchenii-dobychi-nefti-hudshee-porazhenie-rossii-za-20-let-1495043.html [In Russian].

Rossija otkazalas’ priznavat’ porazhenie v sdelke OPEK+ [Russia refused to admit defeat in the OPEC + deal]. LENTA.RU. 10.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://lenta.ru/news/2020/04/10/ustupki/ [In Russian].

Denisenko, K. (2020). Koronavirus: vremja smerti Evrosojuza [Coronavirus: the time of the European Union death]. Rossiiskii sovet po mezhdunarodnym delam [Russian International Affairs Council]. 23.03.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://russiancouncil.ru/blogs/dkristiana/vremya-smerti-evrosoyuza/ [In Russian].

Nosovich, A. (2020). Koronavirus postavil pod vopros sushhestvovanie Evrosojuza [Coronavirus called into question the existence of the European Union]. Analiticheskii portal RuBalticRu [Analytical portal RuBalticRu]. 13.03.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.rubaltic.ru/article/politika-i-obshchestvo/13032020-koronavirus-postavil-pod-vopros-sushchestvovanie-evrosoyuza/ [In Russian].

Dzhubili, F. (2020). Italija razocharovana reakciej Evrosojuza na koronavirus [Italy is disappointed with the EU’s response to coronavirus]. Evraziia Ekspert [Eurasia Expert]. 16.03.2020. [Online]. Available from: http://eurasia.expert/italiya-razocharovana-reaktsiey-es-na-koronavirus/ [In Russian].

V Italii prigrozili vyhodom iz Evrosojuza iz-za promedlenija v pomoshhi po bor’be s koronavirusom [Italy threatened to leave the European Union because of the delay in helping to combat the coronavirus]. 112.ua. 28.03.2020. [Online]. Available from:https://112.ua/mir/v-italii-prigrozili-vyhodom-iz-evrosoyuza-iz-za-promedleniya-v-pomoshhi-po-borbe-s-koronavirusom-530835.html [In Russian].

Militari di Mosca acquartierati nella foresteria dell’esercito italiano, i timori di un’ “occupazione” russa in Italia [Moscow soldiers headquartered in the guesthouse of the Italian army, fears of a Russian “occupation” in Italy]. La Stampa. 25.03. 2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.lastampa.it/topnews/primo-piano/2020/03/25/news/militari-di-mosca-acquartierati-nella-foresteria-dell-esercito-italiano-i-timori-di-un-occupazione-russa-in-italia-1.38635908?fbclid=IwAR3hMvFXMXPPKAO110tdkAje19tQV-HDQScDrf0EDriSw2hlhamw 16OKV_I [In Italian].

Le accuse di Mosca e la nostra risposta [Moscow’s accusations and our response]. La Stampa. 03.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.lastampa.it/lettere/2020/04/03/news/le-accuse-di-mosca-e-la-nostra-risposta-1.38672825?fbclid=IwAR3nuZxugKxilppRJ898JIENXhhX lRro2rk9ONK7kmv0LkaGpuvBEkINhik [In Italian].

V Italii zadumalis’ o pamjatnike rossijskim voennym [Italy thought about the monument to the Russian military]. LENTA.RU.06.04. 2020. [Online]. Available from: https://lenta.ru/news/2020/04/06/monument/ [In Russian].

Sarovic, A. (2020). Evropa proigryvaet bitvu obrazov [Europe loses the battle of images]. SPIEGEL Politic. 23.03.2020, [Online]. Available from: https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/corona-krise-europa-verliert-den-kampf-der-bilder-a-d2264aee-41aa-4c82-9fa6-9f6837b04079 [In Russian].

Hlava MZS Pol’shhi zvynuvatyv RF u vykorystanni pandemiyi dlya poshyrennya dezinformaciyi [Тhе Polish Foreign Minister accused the Russian Federation of using a pandemic to spread misinformation]. Yevrorpeys’ka Pravda [European Pravda]. 03.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.eurointegration.com.ua/news/2020/04/3/7108315/ [In Russian].

“YeS skoro rozvalyt’sya”: RF prodovzhuye shyryty fejky dovkola pandemiyi – zvit [“The EU will soon collapse”: Russia continues to spread fakes around a pandemic” - a report]. Yevrorpeys’ka Pravda [European Pravda]. 01.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.eurointegration.com.ua/news/2020/04/1/7108223/ [In Russian].

Vladimir Putin prinjal uchastie v jekstrennom sammite “Gruppy dvadcati” 26 marta 2020 g. [Vladimir Putin attended the G20 emergency summit on March 26, 2020]. Putin-today.ru. YouTube. 26.03.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-ahqb2es7U [In Russian].

Rosiya prahne vykorystaty COVID-19 shhob rozvalyty Yevropejs’kyj Soyuz – posol Ukrayiny v OON [Russia seeks to use COVID-19 to overthrow the European Union, Ukraine’s ambassador in the UNO]. The Voice of America. 04.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://ukrainian.voanews.com/a/oon-ukraina-koronavirus/5359463.html [In Ukrainian].

RF khoche ne lyshe znyaty z sebe sankciyi, a j dobytys’ uzakonennya aneksiyi Krymu, - diplomat [The Russian Federation wants not only to lift the sanctions, but also to secure the legalization of the Crimea annexation, - the diplomat]. ESPRESO.TV.01.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://espreso.tv/news/2020/04/01/rf_khoche_ne_lyshe_znyaty_z_sebe_sankciyi_a_y_dobytys_uzakonennya_aneksiyi_krymu_dyplomat [In Ukrainian].

Ukrayina zablokuvala v OON manipulyatyvnu rezolyuciyu Rosiyi shhodo COVID-19 – Kyslycya [Ukraine has blocked Russia’s manipulative resolution on COVID-19 – Kyslytsia]. UKRINFORM. 03.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-polytics/2911141-ukraina-zablokuvala-v-oon-manipulativnu-rezoluciu-rosii-sodo-covid19-kislica.html [In Ukrainian].

Global solidarity to fight COVID-19. Resolution A/74/L.52, 36. General Assembly of the United Nations. 30.03.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.un.org/pga/74/2020/03/30/global-solidarity-to-fight-covid-19/ [In English].

Komentar MZS Ukrayiny shhodo uxvalennya proyektu rezolyuciyi HA OON “Hlobal’na solidarnist’ dlya borot’by z COVID-19 [Comment by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine on the adoption of the UN General Assembly draft resolution “Global Solidarity to Combat COVID-19”]. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. 03.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://mfa.gov.ua/news/komentar-mzs-ukrayini-shchodo-uhvalennya-proyektu-rezolyuciyi-ga-oon-globalna-solidarnist-dlya-borotbi-z-covid-19 [In Ukrainian].

Vengriia pervoi v ES poluchila vaktsinu Sputnik V iz Rossii [Hungary was the first in the EU to receive the “Sputnik V” vaccine from Russia]. Izvestiia. 20.11.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://iz.ru/1089660/2020-11-19/vengriia-pervoi-v-es-poluchila-vaktcinu-sputnik-v-iz-rossii [In Russian].

Si Tszin’pin pryyikhav v Ukhan’ vpershe z pochatku spalakhu koronavirusu” [Xi Jinping arrived in Wuhan for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus]. Ukrinform. 10.03.2020. [Online]. Available from:https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-world/2892878-si-czinpin-priihav-v-uhan-vperse-z-pocatku-spalahu-koronavirusu.html [In Ukrainian].

The Fifth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was Held in Vientiane. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of People’s Republic of China. 21.02.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/zxxx_662805/t1748375.shtml [In English].

International assistance to Southeast Asia. July 8. Center for Strategic and International Studies. 2020. [Online]. Available from: https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/200708_Covid_Tracker.pdf [In English].

Lye Liang Fook (2020). China’s COVID-19 Assistance to Southeast Asia: Uninterrupted Aid amid Global Uncertainties. ISEAS Perspective, No. 58, June. [In English].

Cambodian PM’s special Beijing visit reflects nations’ profound friendship, solidarity. The Cambodia Daily. 07.02.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://english.cambodiadaily.com/politics/spotlight-cambodian-pms-special-beijing-visit-reflects-nations-profound-friendship-solidarity-159699/ [In English].

Ngeow Chow-Bing (2020). COVID-19, Belt and Road Initiative and the Health Silk Road: Implications for Southeast Asia. Jakarta. [In English].

Tanakasempipat, P., Zhai, K. (2020). China tests its soft power with neighbors over coronavirus outbreak. Reuters. 20.02.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health-asean-idUSKBN20E0TM [In English].

Declaration of the Special ASEAN Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). ASEAN. 14.04.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://asean.org/storage/2020/04/FINAL-Declaration-of-the-Special-ASEAN-Summit-on-COVID-19.pdf [In English].

Xi says anti-epidemic cooperation becomes new highlight of China-Singapore ties. Xinhua. 15.07.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.vtibet.cn/en/news_1746/world/202007/ t20200715_1011685.html [In English].

Speech by President Xi Jinping at opening of 73rd World Health Assembly. Xinhua. 18.05.2020. [Online]. Available from: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-05/18/c_139067018.htm [In English].

Strangio, S. (2020). Southeast Asia’s Coming COVID-19 Vaccine Windfall. The Diplomat. 04.08.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://thediplomat.com/2020/09/southeast-asias-coming-covid-19-vaccine-windfall/ [In English].

Korolev, A.(2020). Dengami goriu ne pomozhesh KNR ASEAN i problema IUzhno-kitaiskogo moria [Money can’t help grief: China, ASEAN and the South China Sea problem]. Rossiia v globalnoi politike [Russia in global affairs]. 23.07.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://globalaffairs.ru/articles/dengi-gore-more/ [In Russian].

China-ASEAN Ties: Foreign ministers tackle COVID-19, economic recovery, South China Sea issue.China Global Television Network. 10.09.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://news.cgtn.com/news/7867444f32514464776c6d636a4e6e62684a4856/index.html [In English].

China’s claims in South China Sea ‘completely unlawful’, says US. Deutsche Welle. 14.07.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.dw.com/en/china-south-sea-dispute/a-54165620 [In English].

Storey, I. (2020). The South China Sea Dispute in 2020-2021. ISEAS Perspective, No. 97, September. [In English].

Elmer, K. (2020). South China Sea: Vietnam seeks talks on Paracel Islands dispute. China Morning Post. 30.08.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/ diplomacy/article/3103704/south-china-sea-vietnam-seeks-talks-paacel-islands-dispute [In English].

Philippines to resume South China Sea oil exploration after Duterte lifts moratorium”. China Morning Post. 16.10.2020. [Online]. Available from: https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/ southeast-asia/article/3105807/philippines-resume-south-china-sea-oil-exploration-after [In English].

Ngeow Chow-Bing (2020). COVID-19, Belt and Road Initiative and the Health Silk Road: Implications for Southeast Asia. Jakarta. [In English].