How would you expect a Great Power and Leader of all Nations to guide the rest of the world through and out of a global pandemic? If you could start with a blank sheet of paper?
I think you would be right to expect a Great Power to display at least three key strengths:
- To demonstrate high levels of capacity, competence and capability in dealing with their own domestic response to the pandemic and meeting the challenges they face to contain and suppress the virus within their own borders. You would expect the world’s leading power to clearly demonstrate their undisputed capabilities in managing a domestic crisis like this, and to emerge with the best track record in terms of numbers of infections, deaths and economic fallout.
- To provide international support and guidance to other countries in dealing with the challenges, for example providing PPE equipment, supplies and scientific expertise to bolster the domestic capabilities of other countries, especially those developing and emerging countries with limited means and resources.
- To act as a convenor and facilitator of groups of other countries to facilitate the sharing of best practice and information, to put the world’s best minds to work in tackling the global challenges and opportunities (e.g. testing procedures, vaccine development, scientific research) and, where necessary, to provide financial, economic and moral support.
I think we can all agree that the world’s top three economic powers (USA, China and Japan) have so far failed to provide sufficient global leadership in these three areas during the world’s time of need. It could be argued that China has done the best, certainly in terms of 1 and 2 above (they would argue that they haven’t been given a chance with 3) and that the USA, which by all accounts was well prepared for this crisis, has done the worst on every measure.
With Covid 19 still raging around the world, and no sign of slowing, we now need China to be the Great Power that leads the world out of this crisis. Historians will look back at this moment for signs of a turning point and shift in the global world order which has existed for the past 100 years.