By Slik Mgbeahurike
In 1956, a botched Anglo-French-Israeli intervention (checkmated by the United States) in Suez laid bare the decay in British power and marked the end of the United Kingdom’s reign as a global power. Is the U.S. facing the same fate in this coronavirus era?
Admittedly, the U.S. has been a global power for over the past seven decades. The three elements – wealth, power and legitimacy of domestic governance – that made the U.S. a global power are being challenged.
For instance, coronavirus is a global pandemic that requires a global response, but the only global power (the U.S.) is MIA. This is because, the U.S. has not been able to solve its own coronavirus problems due to lack of capacity to meet its own demands, let alone to provide aid in crisis zones elsewhere. The U.S. Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s reserve of critical medical supplies, is believed to have only one percent of the masks and respirators and perhaps ten percent of the ventilators needed to deal with the pandemic. The rest will have to be made up with imports from China. Similarly, China’s share of the U.S. antibiotics market is more than 95 percent, and most of the ingredients cannot be manufactured domestically.
With the vacuum created by the inability of the U.S. to lead a global response against COVID-19, China is maneuvering for international leadership as the U.S. falters. It’s working to tout its own system, provide material assistance to other countries, and even organize other governments by videoconference, to share information about the pandemic and lessons from China’s own experience in battling the disease.
For example, Italy – a NATO and EU member – overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases made a general urgent appeal for medical equipment and protective gear; China, Russia and Cuba came to its rescue, before Germany and France – another NATO and EU members – responded. China sent 1,000 ventilators, 2 million masks, 100,000 respirators, 20,000 protective suits 50,000 test kits and medics. It’s instructive to note that, Russia sent military doctors and military equipment by military planes. This is to say that, Russia – a former Warsaw member – deployed its troops on a NATO soil. Cuba also sent medics and medical aid to Italy. These are countries that would like to see the existing world order led by the U.S. revised in their favor. For instance, Russia is under EU sanctions since 2014, which is renewable every six months and all 27 EU members must agree for it to be renewed. Do you think Italy would agree to that, considering the help Russia renders in their time of need, when EU members ignored them? Only time will tell.
Moreover, China has also dispatched medical teams and 250,000 masks to Iran, Spain, Africa and Serbia – whose president dismissed European solidarity as “a fairy tale” and proclaimed that “the only country that can help us is China.”
In addition, Jack Ma – Alibaba co-founder, China’s richest man and a member of CCP – signed up on Twitter this March, and his first tweet was medical aid sent to the U.S: 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks. He also donated 2 million masks, 400, 000 test kits, 104 ventilators to 24 Latin American countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Peru. Another donation of 1.8 million masks, 210, 000 test kits, 36, 000 protective suits, plus ventilators & thermometers to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. To each of the 54 African countries, he donated 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 medical use protective suits and face shields.
It doesn’t stop in donation, he has also launched an online platform for doctors and nurses around the world to exchange ideas, lessons and know-how to fight the virus. In addition to that, a handbook of treatment and care protocols has been developed by clinical practitioners on the frontlines of China’s fight against COVID-19 and he’s sharing it for free.
Na so China generous reach?
By contrast, the U.S. is yet to figure out how to contain the virus on its soil, no wonder it now has the high number of COVID-19 cases in the world, whereas China has not only contained the virus, but also making plans to reopen Wuhan city – the epicentre of the outbreak – and is leading a global response against COVID-19.
It’s understandable that Beijing’s edge in material assistance is enhanced by the simple fact that China is the factory of the world, therefore much of what the world depends on to fight the coronavirus is made in China. For example, it was already the major producer of surgical masks, produces roughly half of the N95 respirators critical for protecting health workers and vast majority of active pharmaceutical ingredients necessary to make antibiotics critical for addressing emerging secondary infections from COVID-19. But, this is not the first time China is showing international leadership.
The Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, an ambitious trade project that aims to link China to the rest of the world through infrastructure
initiated by President Xi Jinping in 2013, is one of the largest infrastructure and investment projects in history, with an estimated cost of $4-8 trillions and to be completed in 2049. This initiative is already challenging the world order, with China signing cooperational documents with 138 countries and 30 international organisations on ports, railways, highways, power stations, aviation and telecommunications projects.
This Writer personally doesn’t want a world led by China, simply because he dislikes a unipolar world. A multipolar world where Sino-Russian empire on one hand, balancing the powers of Anglo-American empire on the otherhand is ideal for this present world.
How the U.S. wants to respond to this geopolitical challenge posed by China is a matter of time. But, like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the coronavirus is going to change the world forever.
Slik Mgbeahurike is a public affairs analyst