The last few years have witnessed a change in America’s status as the global leader, which it enjoyed since 1991 with the down fall of the Soviet regime. It is now challenged by new bi-lateral or multi-lateral alliances with common interests. Some strategists tend to dismiss such alliances as marriages of convenience, stating that it is only USA, with its Western allies that can lead the world out of any crisis; the current CoVid-19 crisis that all countries are grappling with, however, may, as and when it settles down, show a new world order with China at the helm.
Trump’s belligerent foreign policy posturing has caused USA to gradually lose its dominant role in world affairs; pulling out of treaties to belittling allies to starting trade wars, the brash and often reckless actions of Trump are only accelerating its diminishment in the world order. Not only are China and Russia contesting America’s global role, other nations too are asserting themselves in regional economic and security developments; face-offs between the West and Russia, and between the US and China, go well beyond competing interests in eastern Ukraine or over uninhabited rocks in the South China Sea.
The CoVid-19 pandemic, a truly global calamity, is providing an indication towards a new world order. China is being lauded for its handling the crisis notwithstanding that it has its origins in Wuhan; other nations, especially America and its Western allies, are in a deplorable state, when so much was expected from them; the pandemic is being termed as America’s ‘Suez moment’!
It is now clear to all but the most blinkered partisans that USA and its allies have botched their initial response, considering the spread of the virus and the high casualties, exposing their unpreparedness to lead a global response. Even as some analysts claim a conspiracy by China to spread the virus, its leaders have been applauded by WHO. Taking advantage of the opening created by America’s mistakes, China is moving in cleverly to position itself as the numero uno in pandemic response, though not always in a transparent manner! It is touting its own crisis-management system, and providing material assistance to other countries; China stepped in to urgent appeals for medical equipment and protective gear from Italy, Spain, and Serbia, thus exploding the myth of European solidarity (never mind the quality of the material provided!); it has also dispatched medical teams and masks to Iran, which continues to reel under punishing sanctions from USA. China’s propaganda machinery is working overtime to expound its success in battling the virus, through a series of articles, and the social media, in many languages, while any contradictory narratives are snuffed out.
China understands that it being seen as leading, and USA and its allies, being seen as unable or unwilling to lead, could fundamentally alter America’s position in global politics and the contest for leadership in the twenty-first century.