The relationship between Great Powers in the epidemic control stage: Not a zero-sum game

By Dr. Yuan ZHANG

The number of people diagnosed with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been rising, and a second wave of coronavirus might worsen the situation. The pandemic has triggered a global recession; unemployment rate reached an all-time high, and the public’s anxiety surges.

People are anxious about economic decline. In the meantime, with the purpose of shifting domestic focus, the United States, a superpower continuously created artificially offensive external environment.

In the context of fighting the pandemic, the communicate relationship between great powers countries is stumbling. No matter what relation pattern for great power would be in the future, at least it should not be a zero-sum game. A benign cooperative relationship between countries would be better to avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments. On the contrary, a pursuing of zero-sum game political model will result in disaster, which harming national prestige, missing the timing of the implementation of more important domestic policies, undermining the unity of existing alliances, and ultimately dissipating country power.

To handle even greater challenges caused by this pandemic, the mutual assistance model between major countries is far superior to the aggressive confrontation model.

  1. Political strengthening of global hegemony will not help prevent the spread of virus

As the world’s only superpower, the United States does not have enough moral responsibility. The U.S. government’ responding to the epidemic is not efficient enough, while the Trump administration, with the ambition of maintaining global hegemony without taking up more international responsibilities, still turned its political focus to criticizing China. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center statistics, more than 60% Americans say compared with other wealthy countries, the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak has been less effective.

Today, if the superpower merely emphasizes political hegemony and attempts to protect itself in isolation, but does not use its comprehensive strength to help other countries fight against the epidemic and boost global economy, in the end, spreading virus and recession would have a boomerang effect on itself. An irrational and unpredictable superpower cannot eternally sustain its original centripetal forces.

  1. Propaganda war undermine the confidence of mutual trust

Currently, the active form of confrontation is propaganda war. The superpower actively selects opponents in diplomatic situations, use fierce words, unfounded accusations, and fabricated information to discredit so called opponents’ political system and ideology. On one hand, the propaganda war is to cater to superpower’s rising domestic populism; on the other hand, it is to shirk its responsibility to solve fragmentation of society problem. Beneath the superficial hostile policy lies a fading hegemony that is no longer confident and tolerant.

Groundless propaganda war will not really destroy a country’s hard power, but really damages the country’s credibility, and more seriously, it will destroy the psychological foundation of state-to-state cooperation. The goodwill and mutual trust between civilians are the basis for long-term, stable and effective cooperation between countries.

  1. Artificially create tensions deteriorate pre-existing security situation

China’s staged success in the battle against COVID-19 has contrast with the failure of those reckless and indulgent anti-epidemic policies in the US. As far as China is concerned, in the recent epidemic control stage, China is obviously facing hostility from the United States and some rich Western countries. Many of them deny China’s achievements in fighting the epidemic, stigmatize China and demonize China by blaming China for those countries’ own virus control failure.

Dr. Zhang

As for the connivance of rumors targeting specific country’s technology, suppression of technology companies of specific countries, interfering other countries’ internal affairs, closure of consulates, expediting arms sales, etc., measures created unnecessary tension have worsened relations between great powers, complicated the political situation.

  1. Healthy relations between great powers need political wisdom

Responsible great powers should have forged the idea that the world is a community of shared future, and have confidence in responsible global community members, who believe that it must jointly deal with risks, jointly maintain peace and stability, and jointly create opportunities for economic development, rather than inciting conflicts and confrontations. The cold war mentality is not helpful in solving this serious crisis. Promoting new cold war will cover up more important global issues, such as social injustice, racism, child hunger and so on.

China believe globalization should be proceed by the international community. However, the ‘Five Eyes Alliance’, which include five Anglo-Saxon nations, have been engaged in decoupling,erecting walls and deglobalization that will do harm to active international exchanges and cooperation which could have saved more lives. Development requires international cooperation, while the decision of who are the close friends and how to cooperate are more sophisticated of political wisdom.

To avoid zero-sum games between great powers, we must be aware of the red line of interests that the other side will not compromise. A mature great power does not take the initiative to launch confrontation, but will not be afraid of injustice as well. The Chinese nation has never been driven down by adversity. What’s more, the United States or the “Five Eyes Alliance” simply cannot represent the entire international community.

Dr. Yuan ZHANG is Professor and Director of the Religion in the Middle East Research Program of the Middle East Studies Institute (MESI) of Shanghai International Studies University (SISU).

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Foreign Policy News

Foreign Policy News is a self-financed initiative providing a venue and forum for political analysts and experts to disseminate analysis of major political and business-related events in the world, shed light on particulars of U.S. foreign policy from the perspective of foreign media and present alternative overview on current events affecting the international relations.

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