The fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which strikes countries irrespective of their ideological or economic positions, could have been an opportunity to bring together yesterday's enemies – China and the United States in particular – in a common fight against the disease. However, that is not the case. On the contrary, Dominique Moïsi explains the war against the coronavirus has aggravated tensions between China and the Western world. And it is most likely only the beginning.
London, April 3, 1848. Queen Victoria could hardly hold back her tears as the rain began to fall. For more than twenty minutes, with her forehead stuck to the ground as a sign of respect and allegiance, she has been waiting for the arrival of high dignitaries from China.
It is with this imaginary tale that English historian Ian Morris opens his book, Why the West Rules – For Now, published in 2010.
This rewriting of history has the merit of shedding light on China's intentions. Fundamentally, the Chinese intend to turn the page on a world for too long dominated by the West, first European, then American.
It is interesting to read Ian Morris' book in light of recent events. The coronavirus crisis did not pan out as it should have, neither for the Americans, nor the Chinese, nor for advocates of a united international community.
The new Cold War
The pandemic could have been the occasion for a rapprochement between today’s two great powers. Washington could have seized the opportunity presented by the pandemic, originating from China, to extend a generous and compassionate arm to Beijing. Health aid and masks would have travelled from West to East, just as the Marshall Plan had done economically almost seventy-five years ago.
Things are not going quite that way , to say the least. The coronavirus crisis has, in fact, led to an accelerated deterioration of Sino-American relations, further undermining the world’s geopolitical balance and economy. For example, in the first quarter of 2020, China's direct investment in the United States was only $200 million, compared to $2 billion for the same period in 2019. The new cold war that has been slowly developing between the two countries in recent years is now taking a new and worrying turn. How can trust be rebuilt when it has so completely evaporated on both sides?
America's accelerated decline