Current Developments

Security Commentaries - January 25th 2021

From Asia-Pacific 

How China’s Economy is still managing to grow , even during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As nations around the world are fighting off waves of infection, China is returning its economy to the pre-COVID-19 status and continuing its growth as the top economy in the world. - Jaime Ocon


Even in the midst of a pandemic, while many countries are still struggling to find their footing, China’s National Bureau of Statistics has reported a GDP growth rate of 2.3%. Although this was the slowest growth rate China has had since the 1970s , it goes without saying that supply chains were almost completely halted due to the pandemic. 


"In and out of lockdown ahead of everybody else, the Chinese economy powered ahead while much of the world was struggling to maintain balance," stated Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC, in a Monday research report.


Experts and data indicate that the Chinese economy not only experienced a magnificent V-shaped comeback but clearly seems to be on track to continue its pursuit as the top economy. According to a report from China’s National Bureau of Statistics the “National Economy Recovered Steadily in 2020 with Main Goals Accomplished Better Than Expectation”.  


Better in fact than anyone expected, But how? In a time where the majority of the world is still in lockdown, it's hard to imagine places where life is still mundane and unaffected. In order to understand this , we have to go back to last year. 


In the beginning of 2020 , as China began feeling the full effects of COVID-19, China quickly mobilized a slew of policies in 2020 to combat the inevitable economic shock from the pandemic. As a result , hundreds of billions of dollars were focused on investment measures that served as a liquidity-boost from the country's central bank.


What's even more remarkable is that 2020 marked a number of records for China as it saw full-year grain production set a new high while at the same time industrial production continues to power ahead. In the spring of 2020 , China was determined to shift its global image from pandemic originator to pandemic fighter and thus evolved its BRI into that of “health silk road”. As the rates of COVID-19 infections increased, so did the number of imports of Chinese medical supplies to the rest of the world. Which is why to no surprise that when the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic reached a climax in Spain, a  Chinese supply train loaded with medical equipment was quickly on its way (Global Policy 2020) Public view on China has increasingly become more friendly towards COVID-19 assistance as many countries in Europe see it as a better alternative to the US, which is still struggling to even support itself. 


Originally seen as harsh and restrictive, the rigorous lockdowns that were put in place could arguably be seen to some as justified since life in China is more or less back to normal with a comparatively low death toll. However as availability of a COVID-19 vaccine increases, many countries will be looking to enter a recovery mode and seek to catch up to a China that is already months, if not years ahead, in terms of a return towards a sense of economic stability. ---

*At the time of writing this piece, cases in several parts of China have been spiking; as is the stuitation in many parts of the world. TCSS is closely monitoring the situation as to how China manages in controlling their most recent outbreak.*


From Around the World

In America, Joe Biden is Sworn In. What Next?

Building back trust and alliances, rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, managing coopetition with China—the new U.S. President is turning a page on American foreign policy in this COVID-ridden world.- Richard Chen


As U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden took his oath of office on January 20th, 2021, the inauguration was attended not by crowds of his supporters or well-wishers on the National Mall in Washington. Rather, the inauguration of the 46th U.S. President was in many ways quite different than that of his predecessors, namely the one that came before him. Contrary to exacerbating numbers on the size of attendance, Biden gave a seismic showing of his commitment and intention to combat the pandemic, bring unity back to the U.S domestically, and return American leadership back to the world stage.


In the Days Ahead

So how do we view the days and months ahead through the lens of the Asia Pacific? If any indication can be taken from the flurry of executive actions that President Biden signed on his first day in office, rejoining the Paris Agreement and revoking the licensing permit for the controversial Keystone Pipeline project, shows that Biden’s “Climate First Foreign Policy” is very much going to be a trademark of his First 100 Days as President. Biden is signalling to America’s allies and to the rest of the world that the U.S. abides by its commitments and international agreements, ending the turbulent nature of Trump-era U.S. foreign policy. Just yesterday, America’s leading expert on infectious diseases attended a WHO meeting virtually, pledging to resume engagement and fulfill its financial obligations to the organization. Fauci was the first member of the Biden administration to make a statement to an international audience.


“We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.” 


Priorities and Foreign Engagement

Three priorities that the Biden administration has announced to be the first on his agenda are controlling and combating the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the issue of climate change, and confronting racial injustice in America. As this shows, domestically the United States has more on its plate than it may have had in modern history, but according to Biden: “the forces that divide us are deep and they are real, but I also know they are not new”.


Despite this apparent focus on ameliorating internal strife and divide within America, President Biden further proclaimed that: “America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.” Strikingly, President Biden is already seeking a New START Treaty with the Russian Federation, in an attempt to advance American national security and bring a more stable world-at-large.


In the Asia-Pacific region, Biden’s foreign policy team has highlighted their intentions to align global interests with America’s interest once more. To collaborate in the fields of climate change, COVID-19, a regional security framework, as well as post-COVID economic development in the region. Perhaps the recently declassified U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific can shed some light on how America could, in the coming years, lay out a unified and coherent strategy to address the changing tides in Asia. 


How Asian countries will then respond, react, and reposition themselves to these Great Power dynamics will be dependent on the strategic interests of each nation.