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World

U.S. influence falls in the Asia-Pacific region due to mishandling of COVID-19, according to a report

  • According to the Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index, while the United States remains an influential presence in the Indo-Pacific region, it has also suffered the biggest relative fall in its regional standing; which can be attributed to the Trump Administration’s isolationist policies and their mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
20 Oct 2020

According to the Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index, while the United States remains an influential presence in the Indo-Pacific region, it has also suffered the biggest relative fall in its regional standing; which can be attributed to the Trump Administration’s isolationist policies and their mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report highlights that while China’s regional standing continues to trail that of the United States, considering the latter’s geopolitical and economic trajectory, it is very likely that China will remain on track to surpass their American counterparts by the end of the decade. On the other hand, Australia was one of the few countries to significantly improve their regional standing (as shown in the index), overtaking a key strategic American ally in South Korea to become the region’s 6th most powerful country.

However, an important observation is that the acceleration in power shifts can mainly be attributed to the blatant under-performance of the preexisting regional behemoths such as the United States, especially as a direct consequence of the pandemic - leaving other countries to occupy these small pockets of regional power. The competent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by Vietnam, Pakistan, and Taiwan led to a marked improvement in their regional standing, far greater than what their current economic and political capacities may suggest.

The Power Index uses a sample of 26 countries spread across the Indo-Pacific and Asia-Pacific regions, and takes into account hard power factors such as military capabilities and defence networks, and soft power factors such as diplomatic and cultural influence. Pakistan also features in this index, and while it ranks 15th overall, it has seen marked improvement in indicators such as military capabilities, diplomatic influence, future resources, and cultural influence, lagging significantly behind on any economic indicators. The report also warns that out of all countries in the Indo-Pacific region, India’s economy has lost the most growth potential as a result of the pandemic, making its position as a future competitor to China far less certain.