Think Tank (1/2021)
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COVID-19 and Great Power Competition
16 Feb 2021

On 16 February 2021, as part of the RSIS Webinar Series on Post-Pandemic Multilateralism and Diplomacy, the Centre for Multilateralism Studies hosted a session titled “COVID-19 and Great Power Competition”. Panellists deliberated on the impact of COVID-19 on the already complex great power dynamics in the region — from the risks of antagonism to the opportunities for cooperation.

Dr Beverley Loke, Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Exeter, outlined the four logics of great power dynamics and regional hegemonic ordering in existing literature. She introduced a fifth logic of “coalitional and collaborative hegemonies in a complex hierarchy”, which was anchored in assertiveness, fluidity, and compartmentalisation. The fifth logic suggested that Washington and Beijing would not only form coalitional hegemonies but engage in a collaborative hegemony based on shared interests. Dr Loke highlighted key regional great power trends sharpened by COVID-19: (i) Intensified US-China strategic competition; (ii) Assertiveness-responsibility nexus in China’s foreign policy; and (iii) Diminished US regional standing.

Providing a Chinese perspective, Prof Gao Jian, Senior Researcher and Secretary-General at the Shanghai Academy of Global Governance and Area Studies, spoke of the philosophical questions arising out of the pandemic. He elaborated on the economic, multilateral and cultural fallout of COVID-19, noting the need for inclusive globalisation.

The webinar concluded with Prof Brad Glosserman’s assessment of the continuing US-China competition under the Biden administration. Prof Glosserman who is Deputy Director and Visiting Professor at the Center for Rule-making Strategies, Tama University, said Washington is going to be looking at a foreign and domestic policy that is more inwardly focused. The US will also go about building a national consensus for engaging the rest of the world with its soft and hard power capabilities. Balancing the need to look inward and the need to engage with allies and partners is going to create a new equilibrium.

Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel:

Click here for other webinars under the same series:

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