According to a report on division of national influences in the Asia-Pacific, China is closing in on the US as the most powerful country in the region, as America’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected its reputation.
While America retained its place as the region’s top superpower, its 10-point lead on China two years ago has been halved, according to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index for 2020, which ranked 26 nations and territories across Asia and Australia.
The index measures power using 128 indicators including economic relations, defense spending, internal stability, information flows and projected future resources.
The US “lost prestige” due to its poor response to the pandemic, multiple trade disputes and President Donald Trump’s moves to withdraw from multilateral deals and agencies, according to Herve Lemahieu, the study’s research chief and director of Lowy’s Asian Power and Diplomacy Programme.
The US economy could take until 2024 to recover to pre-pandemic levels, the institute said. In contrast, China’s economy has rebounded from the virus and is the only large economy forecast to recover in 2020, while India's recovery is predicted to take till 2022.
India, the fourth most powerful nation on the index after Japan, lost economic growth potential in the pandemic and is also ceding strategic ground to Beijing. Lowy projects India will reach 40% of China’s economic output by 2030, compared with the 50% estimated in last year's report.
Russia, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia round out the top 10 influential countries in the report.
Nations like Australia, Singapore, and South Korea have more influence than their raw capabilities would indicate, the report stated. This points to their ability and willingness to work collaboratively with other countries to pursue their interests.
Overall, Asia’s economy, which was poised to become larger than the rest of the world economy combined in 2020, now faces “a perfect storm of public health, economic and strategic challenges” due to the pandemic, the Lowy report said.