Home World America Coronavirus is hurting America’s place as a world leader while China appears to rise

Coronavirus is hurting America’s place as a world leader while China appears to rise

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Yesterday in America, 1,940 people died from coronavirus. In a single day, 31,935 new infections were recorded.

I personally know five people who have been told they have COVID-19.

Only one of them was able to get a test and it came back inconclusive.

The rest were told by their doctors “don’t bother” because there weren’t enough test kits to go around.

On the testing front, things have improved greatly in recent weeks, but not everywhere.

A New York ambulance paramedic told the ABC this week tests were still hard to come by, even for frontline health workers.

And yet, since the start of the crisis, the President has boasted about America’s testing capacity.

“Anyone who needs a test gets a test … and they’re beautiful,” Donald Trump said during a tour of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

That was five weeks ago.

America is now the world’s ‘worst-case scenario’

In New York, things are looking so dire that workers are being asked to don protective gear as they dig mass graves on Hart Island in the Bronx.

The island has been used for decades to bury New Yorkers with no next of kin or no money to afford a proper funeral.

As COVID-19-related deaths surge, new trenches have been dug to cope with an expected influx of coffins.

Furthermore, the official death toll in New York hasn’t been counting those who died outside of hospital.

On Monday, that was 280 people.

So, it’s very likely the real number of infections and deaths is much higher than the already-staggering published numbers.

The world is no longer measuring the “worst-case scenario” against Wuhan, Italy or Spain.

For now, America is the benchmark.

A nation accustomed to being a world-beater in business, innovation, sport and on the battlefield, has been reduced to its knees.

The US turns to China for help

American friends have told me they’ve been shocked by what’s happening in their country.

For them, and millions more, it’s been a grim awakening.

“It’s embarrassing” said Michael Green, the senior vice-president for Asia at CSIS, a Washington-based think tank.

“The US was not prepared, particularly in terms of masks and basic equipment like ventilators.”

America has even turned to its biggest strategic threat, China, for help.

In response, China is sending 1,000 ventilators to New York and regular planeloads of other critical protective gear.

Reassessing America’s place in the world order

Robert Spalding, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, believes coronavirus has shattered the “myth” of American global supremacy.

As a former senior director of strategy at the National Security Council — the President’s most important advisory body — he offers a sobering assessment of America’s place in the world today.

“I think the myth was that the US was still the main power acting throughout the world,” he said.

He describes the current crisis, and America’s less-than-optimal response, as a “wow” moment for many in Washington.

“All our pharmaceuticals are manufactured in China. All of our masks are manufactured in China. Basically everything is manufactured in China,” he told ABC.

“We have this incredible logistics capability for deploying [military] forces abroad but it’s all dependent on the help of the Chinese Communist Party.”

And he sees that as a clear and present threat to the United States.

“We don’t have to have a conflict in the traditional sense of the word to actually be threatened by the fact our supply chains are over there [in China].”

China is stepping up to help globally

China has been extending a helping hand to other nations as well.

When Italy appealed for medical assistance, there was silence from the 26 other nations of the European Union.

China answered the call with medical specialists and equipment.

Chinese protective gear has also been sent to Ireland, and Serbia has welcomed Chinese ventilators.

Stepping up as a global citizen is a positive development for China.

Perhaps it feels a greater burden of responsibility because the coronavirus is thought to have originated there.

Michael Green, from CSIS, says China also sees the pandemic as an opportunity to project soft-power in the void created by a more isolationist America.

But he doesn’t see a fundamental realignment of global power just yet.

“There may be small tactical gains [for China] here or there. There may be some losses. There’s no fundamental shift,” Mr Green said.

He believes the pandemic will result in an intensification of US-China rivalries in the months and years ahead, with America being forced to step up as a global leader once more.

Maintaining America’s current course, he says, “will have a tectonic effect on global relations”.

He sees President Donald Trump’s call for a $US2 trillion ($3.2 trillion) investment in infrastructure as a “righting of the ship”.

“So you’re going to see a much different America coming out of the next five years than the last 20,” Mr Spalding said.

Whatever happens, that much is certain.

Will coronavirus be America’s domestic wake-up call?

In a matter of weeks, the pandemic has relentlessly exploited America’s weak spots.

Inadequate health care, rampant inequality, cumbersome bureaucracy, all-pervasive politics and millions of people who trust shock jocks and preachers more than scientists.

The United States of America is still a great nation.

But the coronavirus has blown a hole in its reputation as a world leader.

If this disaster can’t drive a course correction, perhaps nothing will.

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