Earlier this year, as what would become known as Covid-19 struck Wuhan, there was some discussion about how China’s GDP might temporarily fall and what impact that fall might have on the world economy. There was little sense that the disease might become a pandemic and affect the whole world. Now, with most Western countries facing unprecedented falls in economic output, China appears to have ridden the storm remarkably well.
One common observation in recent years about China is how internal dissent has been quietened by economic success. As long as the economy grew strongly, challenges to the Communist Party, like strikes and protests, were not uncommon but they had little wider consequence. What will happen if the economy does slow down markedly? How has China seemingly coped so well – and will that continue?
Meanwhile, more and more British and EU voices now join with American ones in arguing against further ‘appeasement’ of China: for Covid-19 reparations, an end to CCP ‘disinformation’ abroad, and boycotts of Beijing in trade, foreign investment and technology.
Yet, like it or not, the UK, EU and US are remarkably dependent upon on China – and not just for PPE. Beyond the tempers on all sides, what real cleavages – China vs the West, China vs its neighbours, and among Western allies over tactics toward Beijing – can we expect to develop in 2020-21?
director, Future Cities Project; senior lecturer, Dept of Architecture, Kingston University, London; honorary research fellow, XJTLU, Suzhou, China; author, China’s Urban Revolution: understanding Chinese eco-cities
visiting professor, London South Bank University; co-author, Energise! A future for energy innovation; co-author, Why is construction so backward?