The US is still the world’s largest economy and dominant geopolitical power, but American influence – already waning – is likely to take another step back in the wake of the pandemic.
Since the early 2000s, the US has shifted its focus increasingly to local issues, at the expense of some of the global leadership it used to provide.
This trend has accelerated in recent years. Instead of promoting global, cooperative efforts to combat Covid-19, the Trump administration has often made decisions which are unilateral and, where they involve other countries, the tone has often had a harder edge than we have been used to - announcing that the US would withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) and preventing export of key medical supplies, and seeking to label the pandemic the “Wuhan virus.”
These shifts in the US’s global leadership position and its eroding relations with China create a challenging economic, business, and political landscape in the Asia- Pacific region.
Australia has found it more challenging to balance its regional interests and global history. Other Asian countries, including Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam, remain caught in the balance of US-Chinese economic competition, as well the two powers’ technological rivalry and strategic tensions in the East and South China Seas.