A Strain on Relations
As the UK confirmed the Oxford-AstraZeneca for emergency approval, days later a new strain of COVID-19 is spreading through 33 countries and once again proving a test for world leaders across the globe. The new variant, B.1.1.7 has been analyzed as carrying a variety of mutations which allows it to spread and multiply at a faster rate than its previous strain. Whether this is through a natural process of mutations in which viruses commonly go through, or an actual resistance that the virus has responded to is too early to confirm. However, one thing for sure is that scientists around the world are worried about 2 possible mutations that could render current treatments ineffective, the N501Y mutation and deletion of H69/70. To put it in short, the N501Y mutation would make the virus bind more tightly to our cells, thus making it easier for infection and for transmission at a higher rate. Deletion of H69/70 means that previous coronavirus antibodies would be less effective at targeting this strain and in turn makes it harder for your body to produce an immune response.
Although these mutations are part of a natural process, it is hard to tell whether these mutations actually produce a significant threat to the efficiency of the vaccine. Reports indicate that although the strain has evolved, symptoms remain roughly the same, and hospitals around the world urge to continue practicing social distancing as well as frequent disinfection. Nevertheless, there is a clear and present urge to push for wide distribution of a vaccine that can handle all the above-mentioned obstacles. This will no doubt lead to a new era in relations between countries as each state defends the strength and confidence of their self-made vaccine. In a sense, this dawn of “vaccine diplomacy” could inherently pose a challenge and strain ties between nations if they begin opting out of a vaccine in favor of another.
Slander over which country has the most effective vaccine has already erupted debate between companies regarding the safety of their products. Reports now indicate China’s Sinovac vaccine to be only 78% effective while also inhibiting the largest variety of side effects, but whether this has been confirmed we are still closely monitoring.
China - EU Investment Deal
As the country that was the hub of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has no doubt come out of 2020 with great strides in its economic development. While it continues to take advantage of the coronavirus’s effect on other states, it has been able to sign major economic deals, most recently the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Experts have continued to reiterate the fact that these agreements not only consolidate China’s economic power but also its push for a stronger Asia to add to its BRI. Now, what has been over 7 years of back and forth constructive dialogue has come to a conclusion as China and the EU have signed a major Comprehensive Agreement of Investment. This deal, according to the EU, includes a guarantee to unprecedented levels of access to EU investors in China and allows EU companies to buy or establish new companies in key sectors. Currently, almost half of all investment for EU companies in China goes toward the auto sector and/or basic materials including natural resources and chemicals. The EU urges that this type of agreement will help level the playing field for EU companies in China as it will commit China to rules on state-owned enterprises and transparency in subsidies.
Across the Atlantic, leaders in Washington D.C see the agreement with little optimism as the United States continues to lose its status as the dominant hegemony in economic diplomacy. Earlier in the week Matt Pottinger, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, admitted that “Leaders in both U.S. political parties and across the U.S. government are perplexed and stunned that the EU is moving towards a new investment treaty right on the eve of a new U.S. administration.” Indeed, this clearly demonstrates a China which is taking full advantage of a United States paralyzed by an array of domestic policy issues as it pursues its solidification of an equally competitive hegemon in the world.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that this is strictly the view coming from Washington, and other states in the world do not necessarily find themselves on the same side as the US. Countries around the world will always act accordingly to progress their agenda as it is the very definition of Realism that nothing in global politics is ever personal. This investment deal not only reaffirms China’s race in global strategic competition but also serves as a continued reminder to the US of an up and coming Asian century.
The Siege of Capitol Hill
What does the violent aftermath of Thursday’s “Save America March” mean for American democracy at home and abroad moving forward?
As US lawmakers gathered in a joint session of Congress to confirm the results of the Electoral College on January 6th, protestors, at the President’s behest during the last moments of his hour-long speech, made their way towards Congress from the White House. “We’re going to the Capitol, and we’re going to try to give our Republicans the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country”, proclaimed Trump. Thus, his supporters marched, all the way up the steps of Capitol Hill.
What followed consisted of several hours inundated with violence, mayhem, anarchy, and an unprecedented assault on the oldest continuous democracy in the world. America’s starkest and most brazenly wielded soft power, as well as the ideological backbone of its military hard power—the aegis of democracy, freedom, and liberty—in a fortnight became as revered as a sitting President holding a bible upside down outside of St. John’s Church. Has Wilsonian democracy finally reached its feeble end at the hands of a lame-duck presidency? Or would the incoming administration be enough to undo the damage and decay that festers beneath America’s crumbling image?
The Taiwan Center for Security Studies (TCSS) is closely monitoring the impact of Thursday’s events on the attitudes of US’ Asia-Pacific allies as well as its adversaries. Unpacking how American values are being swept away in places most susceptible to Beijing’s influence, we examine the impacts on Asian democracies and the US’ role in the global community. Next week we will deliver a Special Edition: The US Election Story, to our readers for a deep dive into the ramifications of the events unraveling in the cradle of the West.