Kurt M. Campbell, an American diplomat and political analyst declared Coronavirus pandemic a “Suez moment” for the United States. The Suez Canal fiasco of 1956 proved to be the last nail in the coffin of Britain’s global leadership. According to him, if the United States fails, Beijing will fill the vacuum. And so far the US is failing.
Coronavirus along with its impacts on global health and economy is also shaping geopolitics. Firstly, it emerged in China and then spread to almost every corner of the world. Apparently, China has succeeded in overcoming its impacts, while the United States is still bogged down with it.
Is the US no longer a worthy leader?
In the past, the US has played a leading role in all major crises be it wars, epidemics, or earthquakes. From the Spanish flu to the world wars — and the great depression — countries would always seek assistance from the United States for their survival. The US provided financial, moral, technological, and humanitarian aid to the countries from East Asia to Latin America.
In the interwar era, the purpose of the United States’ generosity was to build its international posture of an emerging power. During the cold war, it shifted its focus toward the fall of the Soviet Union to extend its sphere of influence. However, in the post-cold war era, the US tried to preserve its position as a global leader.
— James Grant Hay (@JamesGrantHay) April 18, 2020
For the last thirty years or so, the United States remained immensely influential but now things are rapidly changing. Its influence was based on the world’s perception that it would come to rescue in times of crises. But, the coronavirus has exposed the vulnerabilities of the superpower. Being a world leader, it was supposed to help the international community during the hour of this great need, but its helplessness against this pandemic shows it is no longer worthy of being the world leader.
Decades of neoliberal policies have abridged the states’ capacities to respond to such crises. In the United States, one-third of people don’t have any health care insurance. In European welfare states, the situation is no different.
China: Cashing in on the pandemic
On the other hand, China did not spare any effort in turning this pandemic into an opportunity to achieve its geopolitical purposes. Beijing was negligent in the initial stages to contain the spread. Experts believe that the situation could have been different had Beijing not hidden the virus for weeks. Even then, it is now portraying its apparent success to the rest of the world to undermine the United States’ international clout.
Beijing has an edge in material assistance while the United States lacks sufficient resources to even meet its own demand. In the US, the share of Chinese medicines is ninety-five per cent. Hence, in the health sector, America is dependent on China. Trump has already requested China for ventilators and other protective materials.
China is using its alleged success in tackling the coronavirus to enhance its geopolitical position and image as the next global leader, argues my latest comment for @GIS_Reports on Beijing's geopolitics, Europe and the loss of freedom. https://t.co/WHM5MZqELS.
— MvLiechtenstein (@MvLiechtenstein) April 17, 2020
In Europe, the situation is no different. China came to help Italy even before the European Union. It sent its team of experts with all the required material to Europe and other parts of the world. According to the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, China has so far provided medical assistance to almost 127 countries.
China is taking maximum advantage of this pandemic. It is using this emergency to increase its influence all over the world. It brought central and eastern European states closer to itself through the 17+1 mechanism. It has also extended its aid to SCO, African and ASEAN countries. China’s purpose is to use this opportunity to undermine the world’s confidence in the United States’ capacity, credibility, and the system.
Moreover, China is portraying its initial success as a result of its authoritarian system. Its apparent success in this pandemic and unparalleled economic growth shows that countries don’t need democracy to develop and to deal with such crises. Portraying its system superior to the United States is longstanding agenda of the Communist Party and this pandemic is further giving impetus to it.
Casting doubts on the Americans’ political, economic and social model is a part of the Chinese grand strategy. China desires to weaken and dissolve the US alliance system and replace its primacy in Asia. The recent situation aptly suits China to undermine democracies all over the world and replace them with its political model based on the ideology of the Communist Party. After all, Politics is a struggle for power.
Syed Usama Shirazi is pursuing MPhil in international relations from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.