The global consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic are going to be profound both strategically and economically. World trade is in free fall with no rapid turnaround in sight, and the prospect of a new world order emerging from this pandemic is increasingly likely, with China at the helm.
America's response, thrown into sharp relief by the two countries' contrasting approaches to containing the Coronavirus, has been aggressive and disparaging. The remarkable economic achievements of China have fostered a highly defensive level of suspicion and concern by the US as it is forced to recognise China's emerging strategic and economic authority within the Asia Pacific region.
With the election of President Trump the suspicion of China as a serious economic competitor has morphed into an increasingly aggressive confrontation at all levels.
While it is true that China was clearly guilty of a political coverup by local officials when the virus first emerged, and the consequent delayed response, the country has since responded with a remarkable degree of social cohesion and discipline that contrasts sharply with the response in many other countries and the frankly shambolic response at presidential level in the US.
Certainly China is an authoritarian one-party state - but it is not North Korea. What we are witnessing is the global emergence of a highly disciplined and ordered society, albeit one that is seriously authoritarian. But it has become, and is, an uniquely important trading partner and a legitimate member of the international community. It is premature and wrong to discount its economic and social progress as a danger to the world order as we know it. It is ridiculous to suggest China is a danger to the free democratic social and political values that we subscribe to.
We should therefore treat China with the dignity and respect accorded to a friendly nation. And we should certainly not engage with the US's increasingly aggressive antagonism to China and all things Chinese.
We should also bear in mind the fact that New Zealand has a $30 billion two-way trade with China in comparison with $7b with the US, and has developed a constructive and responsible relationship with China that deserves to be respected and supported.
The challenge for New Zealand is not whether we see ourselves in opposition to the US therefore, but rather the extent to which we continue to engage with China as it increasingly exercises its very real economic and strategic entitlement to involvement in the Asia Pacific region.
The high drama and reality of the coronavirus pandemic has simply accelerated its emerging global authority. I would hope New Zealand has the capacity and vision to handle this new reality dynamically and responsibly.
Philip Burden was Trade Minister in the Bolger government and is a former chair of the Asia New Zealand Foundation. He is the owner of Meadow Mushrooms.
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