China has invested billions of dollars and exports military hardware to Pakistan. The Muslim-majority country’s prime minister, Imran Khan, has repeatedly declined to comment publicly on the condition of China’s Uighur Muslims. As many as a million of them are detained in prison-like camps in China’s far west region of Xinjiang.

Sri Lanka, a major recipient of Chinese loans and investment, even praised “great diplomatic relations” with China for allowing evacuations of their citizens.

For many dependent on China’s trade, investment or tourism -- including jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, which are under pressure from residents to implement wholesale travel bans -- there is an additional risk: Once a restriction is in place, it could prove very difficult to reverse it. And with the virus predicted not to peak for months, that could have huge consequences.

“Once these measures are in place, they can be sticky -- they can take a long time to rescind,” said Yanzhong Huang, who directs the Center for Global Health Studies at Seton Hall University and is a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. “And that can cause economic damage, not just to China but to the countries that implement these measures -- and it could be a lose-lose situation.”

Stringent Precautions

While China has criticized the U.S. response, including an entry ban on any foreign national that has been to China in the last two weeks, several Southeast Asian countries have taken more stringent precautions.

On Friday, Singapore suspended the visas of Chinese citizens wishing to travel to the city-state. At the same time, it imposed a similar restriction on any foreign national having recently visited China.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday the restrictions were “purely to protect our public health” and complementary to China’s border control efforts, Today Online reported. He denounced anti-Chinese sentiment, and said all countries must work together to stop the outbreak.

“We wish China well in their efforts to fight the virus,” Today quoted Lee as saying. “We have confidence that China and the other countries will work together to win this battle.”

--With assistance from Dandan Li, Ismail Dilawar, Khine Lin Kyaw and Siraphob Thanthong-Knight.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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