In the initial days of 2020, American establishment took delight in the ebb of the giant geopolitical bubble of the present era. China seemed miserable in its response to coronavirus. Then, China recovered as the virus brought the Western world to a halt. China has won the “people’s war’ against COVID-19, and its political model has been vindicated.
Kevin Rudd, former prime minister of Australia, however, shows, “Despite the best efforts of ideological warriors in Beijing and Washington, the uncomfortable truth is that China and the United States are both likely to emerge from this crisis significantly diminished”. There will be no new Pax Sinica or a renewed Pax Americana.
World order will go on without a guardian. Though, three factors will shape this future global order: “changes in the relative military and economic strength of the great powers, how those changes are perceived and what strategies the great powers deploy”. China and U.S. both will fare badly on these three levels.
China’s national power is evaporating. Economic retrenchment among China’s trading partners will impede economic recovery plans because trade represent 38 per cent of GDP. Growth in this year is likely to be zero. While the United States’s power has taken a spin-off under Trump, the economy will shrink between six and 14 per cent. Public debt has pushed U.S. near to wartime debt level. The analysis highlights, “U.S. has seen what ‘America First’ means in practice: don’t look to the U.S. for help in a global crisis because it can’t even look after itself”.
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How will the U.S. and Chinese relationship play out in these conditions? Rudd delineates that previous tactics of “strategic engagement” will give way to a decoupling and excruciating competition under a second Trump term. In a Biden administration, the competition will continue with some scope for cooperation in areas, such as climate, pandemics and global financial stability. Meanwhile, China under Xi “has become significantly more assertive, taking calculated – and so far successful – risks”, demonstrated by the reclamation in the South China Sea and Belt and Road Initiative. Friction between the U.S. and Chinese relations has resulted in a chaotic world and will continue to be so.
( In the International Eye section of the magazine we summarise articles from best publications around the world for our readers who do not have access to their paywalls. The longer version of this article was published by Foreign Affairs Magazine. Here is the original link for deep read: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-05-06/coming-post-covid-anarchy )