The Powers and the Pandemic

Experts: The corona crisis could accelerate the economic and political decline of Germany and the West.

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/BEIJING | | chinausa

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Own report) - The corona crisis could accelerate Germany and the western powers' economic and political decline, according to recent economic projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and analyses by US foreign policy experts. As the US magazine Foreign Policy writes, Trump’s handling of the crisis has been an "embarrassing debacle" that tarnished the United States’ reputation as a country "that knows how to do things effectively." Other states are more willing to orient themselves on countries which are "past the peak of infection," such as China, concludes the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. The EU has also failed in the crisis. According to the IMF, China will economically suffer less under the pandemic than western countries: its economic performance will bypass that of the eurozone quicker than expected and will approach that of the United States. In the West, this emerging shift in power is being accompanied by aggressive anti-Chinese propaganda.

Facing the Crash

The western industrialized countries, and particularly those of the eurozone, will be strongly impacted by the global economy's dramatic crash, according to by the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) recent economic projections. Whereas the IMF forecasts a 3.0 percent decline in the global economic growth in the current year, it predicts a slump of 6.1 percent for the industrial nations - a 5.9 percent for the United States and 7.5 percent for the eurozone. Germany is facing a 7.0 percent decline in its GDP. The IMF emphasizes that its predictions only apply if the Covid-19 pandemic peaks within this quarter and can subsequently be contained. In that case, the industrialized nations could achieve a 4.5 percent growth next year, 4.7 percent in the USA and the eurozone and 5.2 percent in Germany. However, the West's economic growth in 2021 would still be well below that of 2019.[1] If the pandemic's rapid containment fails, the IMF notes, and a second or even third wave sets in, the economic losses could be much more severe.

"Surprisingly well Recovered"

The development in China contrasts significantly with the projected slumps in the West. After initial mistakes, the Chinese government took vigorous action and was able to contain the pandemic by imposing harsh restrictions on the society and economy. New domestic infections are nearly zero, while the total number of the infected and deceased has now been surpassed not only by the United States, but also by several European countries, including Germany. The Chinese economy had dramatically contracted during the first quarter. According to a recent poll, the GDP shrunk by a massive 6.5 percent compared to the same period in 2019 (January-March) and respectively by 9.9 percent compared to its previous quarter (October-December 2019).[2] Nevertheless, the recovery has been gaining new momentum. At the beginning of the month, it was reported that most Chinese factories were already operating at 80 percent of capacity, some are even nearing 100 percent.[3] The President of the EU's Chamber of Commerce in China, Jörg Wuttke, noted, "the manufacturing industry is recovering quite well, surprisingly well."[4] For the current year, the IMF projects a growth of 1.2 percent for the People's Republic. That would be the lowest since 1976, but still significantly higher than the dramatic slump in the West. According to the IMF, China could achieve a 9.2 percent growth in 2021.[5]

On the Way to the Top

This demonstrates that, for the second time since the 2008 crash of the financial markets, China has withstood a global crisis better than western powers and ultimately emerged even stronger. If the IMF's forecasts are correct, China's GDP will increase from US $14.2 billion in 2019 to US $15.69 billion in 2021, and close the gap more rapidly than had been previously predicted between its and the US' GDP, which will drop from US $21.2 billion (2019) to 20.89 (2021). The eurozone, whose economic output in 2019 had reached US $14.0 billion, will fall further behind - to only US $13.56 billion in 2021. Whereas western nations will be forced to make serious cuts in their expenditures, Beijing will be able to continue to invest in its economic-technological upsurge. The crisis has provided a new boost to its rise to become the world's leading economic power. Thus, Berlin and Washington are doing their best to restart their industry and trade as quickly as possible, to keep the West's crisis-provoked business slump at a minimum. They are taking great risks in doing so. Whereas, already in March, through their - ultimately unsuccessful - attempts to avoid restrictions on public life, to favor short-term business interests, they had allowed the Covid-19 pandemic to spread much further than in China (german-foreign-policy.com reported [6]), and with a premature lifting of these restrictions, they will now be risking a second wave of the pandemic.

"An Embarrassing Debacle"

Alongside an economic loss of influence for western powers, a political loss of influence is also becoming increasingly apparent. Not least among the causes is the West's insufficient preparations for the - since mid-January - clearly evident spreading pandemic. Whereas, they are suffering more under Covid-19 than the People's Republic of China and still lack sufficient protective gear, for either their medical personnel or their populations, China, after having successfully bringing the virus under control, holds not only the blueprint for fighting the pandemic, but also the necessary medical equipment ready as humanitarian assistance or for sale.[7] Back in March, foreign policy experts in the USA pointed out that the Trump administration's handling of the crisis was "an embarrassing debacle" that has tarnished the United States’ reputation as a country "that knows how to do things effectively." "Other voices" - for instance Chinese - are receiving "more respectful attention," declared Stephen Walt, Professor for International Relations at Harvard University, in the journal Foreign Policy.[8] In the lack of "U.S. leadership" other countries are turning to those "past the peak of infection, such as China, for assistance," notes Richard Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, in the journal Foreign Affairs.[9] Haas also points to the fact that the EU hardly provides assistance to its stricken member countries. They are receiving help from Beijing.[10]

"The Chinese Virus"

The western powers' impending loss of influence is accompanied by a massive increase in aggressiveness towards a continuously emerging China. Whereas, in January, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that his government had the virus "under control," and that he trusts the information coming out of China on the coronavirus,[11] he has now begun to blame China for the pandemic outbreak and speak in terms of a "Chinese virus."[12] A comparable upsurge of aggression can also be noticed here in Germany. german-foreign-policy.com will soon report.

 

[1] International Monetary Fund: World Economic Outlook. April 2020.

[2] Kevin Yao: Coronavirus to push China's first-quarter GDP into first decline on record: Reuters poll. reuters.com 15.04.2020.

[3] How to reopen factories after covid-19. economist.com 08.04.2020.

[4] Produktion in China läuft gut an - EU-Firmen besorgt über Nachfrage. handelsblatt.com 13.04.2020.

[5] International Monetary Fund: World Economic Outlook. April 2020.

[6] See also Berlin's Priorities and Berliner Prioritäten (III).

[7] See also Die Solidarität der EU and Acceptance Denied.

[8] Stephen M. Walt: The Death of American Competence. foreignpolicy.com 23.03.2020.

[9] Richard Haas: The Pandemic Will Accelerate History Rather Than Reshape It. foreignaffairs.com 07.04.2020.

[10] See also The New Global Health Powers.

[11] Matthew J. Belvedere: Trump says he trusts China’s Xi on coronavirus and the US has it 'totally under control'. cnbc.com 22.01.2020.

[12] Mario Parker, Billy House: Trump's GOP Blames China for Coronavirus With Eye on 2020. bloomberg.com 15.04.2020.