COVID-19 could shake up global politics
Thousands of people have died, the US response has infuriated European allies, and China has gone on a propaganda offensive. The new coronavirus is shaping up to be a cataclysmic event with far-reaching consequences in global politics.
The COVID-19 pandemic strikes a world already in flux with the rise of nationalists such as US President Donald Trump who have scoffed at the rules of the "globalist" order.
"When the dust settles on the COVID-19 world, we won't be in the same place that we were just a week ago," said Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"We know that governments will shake as citizens judge them to have fumbled in their response. We know that economies will be disrupted and some economies are likely to collapse," he said.
Trump, who initially dismissed the risks of COVID-19, late Wednesday abruptly imposed a 30-day ban on most travel from mainland Europe.
Leaders from the European Union voiced outrage at the move and said that they had not been consulted -- which Trump acknowledged.
Kelly Magsamen, the vice president for national security and international policy at Center for American Progress, said Trump's move would only increase questions about Washington's historic leadership role.
COVID-19 first emerged late last year in Wuhan and Beijing initially tried to suppress the news including by detaining the doctor who sounded the alarm.
But China in the past week has sought to turn its COVID-19 response into a sort of soft power, with President Xi Jinping visiting Wuhan to trumpet success at containing the spread.
China has sent medical equipment to Italy and Spain, highlighting its authoritarian model as decisive. It has also used the crisis as leverage against the US, which has been seeking to combat Beijing's influence in all areas.
An article in the Global Times unsubtly hinted that China could stop exports of medical gears if the Trump administration keeps pressing to restrict Huawei.
China as well as Russia has also promoted unfounded conspiracy theories to discredit the US.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks of the illness as the "Wuhan virus" and Senator Tom Cotton has vowed that the US will "hold accountable those who inflicted it on the world."
Michael Green, who was an advisor to former president George W Bush, doubted that China would ultimately find many buyers for its "arguments about the failures of democracy." But he added: "That does not mean that the US will win this information battle."
Trump's 2016 upset win, Britain's vote to leave the EU and other populist victories had been seen as proof "that the technocrats failed" following the Great Recession of the late 2000s and the Iraq war, Green said.
"I think it's very possible that the macro result this time could be that the political populists failed and it's the technocrats who emerge as the heroes," Green said.
"We'll see. But that may be how political history turns in this chapter."