The Coronavirus pandemic will shift the East-West power balance
The virus is realigning power dynamics around the world.Asia China Coronavirus Europe Globalisation Health Politics West
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For centuries, power has rested in the West. This is now shifting. While China deals with the aftermath of its crisis - limited through a policy of containment and tracking - Europe flounders.
As Simon Tisdall says in The Guardian, "China’s challenge to US hegemony was already strengthening on many fronts before the Covid-19 crisis erupted. The pandemic may accelerate this shift." This is not just linked to the speed with which the Chinese defeated the virus within their own borders. Their police state successfully used extreme surveillance measures to spy on citizens and use their data to stop the spread. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is in trouble. It is what has happened since then, which is most interesting: the start of a deliberate proxy war, in which China is deploying soft power to assert its position on the world's stage. As Alexander Woolfson writes, "The Jack Ma Foundation, seen as a state proxy by some, has been busy tweeting about their offer of a donation of 500,000 testing kits and 1 million medical masks to the US. It follows the prominent appearance on social media of Chinese aid supplies landing in Italy, Japan, Korea, Iran and Spain. The comparison between the US and Chinese response to Covid-19 may well be one of the most important changes cemented in our collective imagination." The Chinese economy also appears to be recovering from the pandemic already. As the West awaits the start of an imminent economic depression, forecast to last years, China is bouncing back. Without a strong economy the hallmarks of power are lost. The world after coronavirus will be changed enormously. And on a global level, this will be marked by the fall of the West and Chinese ascendance.
Power is hardly pivoting towards the East. This problem is a shared one; it transcends national borders. China may have defeated the virus in Wuhan, but until the world is free from the pandemic, it is not safe either. As world-class international relations Pofessor Joseph Nye writes, "On transnational threats like COVID-19 and climate change, it is not enough to think of American power over other nations. The key to success is also learning the importance of power with others. Every country puts its national interest first; the important question is how broadly or narrowly this interest is defined." Ultimately, national interests are far less important than wider transnational concerns.
[P1] Power rests on strong economies [P2] China's economy is recovering already [P3] European economies are set to flounder for years [P4] Global power lines will shift in favour of China
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P1] Power rests on much more than strong economies