The Coronavirus Could Reshape Global Order; ‘Washington is Failing the Test’

The ultimate success of China’s pursuit will depend as much on what happens in Washington as on what happens in Beijing

DESPARDES — The novel coronavirus pandemic has become a truly global event and its geopolitical implications may in the long term prove just as consequential as matters of health and safety are now —especially when it comes to the United States’ global position, according to Foreign Affairs.

Global orders have a tendency to change gradually at first and then all at once, it says. “In 1956, a botched intervention in the Suez laid bare the decay in British power and marked the end of the United Kingdom’s reign as a global power. Today, U.S. policymakers should recognize that if the United States does not rise to meet the moment, the coronavirus pandemic could mark another “Suez moment.””

Containment (Blue); Spread outside China (Red)

The prestigious magazine of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is critical of the administration’s handling of the virus outbreak in US: “It is now clear to all but the most blinkered partisans that Washington has botched its initial response. Missteps by key institutions, from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have undermined confidence in the capacity and competence of U.S. governance”

The pandemic, FA says, has exposed just how unprepared Washington is to lead a global response — “internationally, the pandemic has amplified Trump’s instincts to go it alone”.

The report highlights that a) during the 2014–15 Ebola crisis, the United States assembled and led a coalition of dozens of countries to counter the spread of the disease. b) The Trump administration has so far shunned a similar leadership effort to respond to the coronavirus. c) Even coordination with allies has been lacking. 

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According to the analysis, America’s status as a global leader was not built just on wealth and power but also on the legitimacy that flows from the United States’ domestic governance, provision of global public goods, and ability and willingness to muster and coordinate a global response to crises. “The coronavirus pandemic is testing all three elements of U.S. leadership. So far, Washington is failing the test.”

According to geopolitical analyst Dr. Syed Ali, “Coronavirus will test global political and economic system more deeply than WW2″….”It is the biggest challenge to the western liberal order”.

Major point in the analysis appears to put China one up though on coronavirus handling — the outbreak is not China’s “Chernobyl”, the report says.

Some other key observations pointed out by the analysis are:

A) As Washington falters, Beijing is moving quickly and adeptly to take advantage of the opening created by U.S. mistakes, filling the vacuum to position itself as the global leader in pandemic response.

B) Beijing understands that if it is seen as leading, and Washington is seen as unable or unwilling to do so, this perception could fundamentally alter the United States’ position in global politics and the contest for leadership in the twenty-first century.

C) Beijing is working to turn these early signs of success into a larger narrative to broadcast to the rest of the world—one that makes China the essential player in a coming global recovery while airbrushing away its earlier mismanagement of the crisis.

D) China’s achievements highlight the effectiveness of its model of domestic governance. “China’s signature strength, efficiency and speed in this fight has been widely acclaimed,” declared Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. China, he added, set “a new standard for the global efforts against the epidemic.” Central authorities have instituted tight informational control and discipline at state organs to snuff out contradictory narratives.

E) These messages are helped by the implicit contrast with efforts to battle the virus in the West, particularly in the United States.

F) Beijing has seized the narrative opportunity provided by American disarray, its state media and diplomats regularly reminding a global audience of the superiority of Chinese efforts.

G) China’s chief asset in its pursuit of global leadership—in the face of the coronavirus and more broadly—is the perceived inadequacy and inward focus of U.S. policy. The ultimate success of China’s pursuit, therefore, will depend as much on what happens in Washington as on what happens in Beijing.

It adds, ” The United States, by contrast, lacks the supply and capacity to meet many of its own demands, let alone to provide aid in crisis zones elsewhere. The picture is grim”.

Syed Javed Hasan, an Islamabad-based scholar and a former ambassador with 11 years of stint in Beijing in various positions, says “COVID 19 has proven to be the trigger”.

In his opinion, “This phase is only introduction. Global Order will be redrawn whether anyone likes it or not”.

Hasan, who has authored 3 books and 13 Research papers adds, “I have all along (for) past five years (been) saying this but everybody appeared amused.

The article urges U.S.-Chinese cooperation… “it would go some way toward restoring faith in the future of U.S. leadership”.

The Foreign Affairs report…