COVID and US Decline Vs China and Etc….

We’ve all seen the “USA is in Global Decline Versus China” pieces.  Now mostly with a COVID spin on them.  I wrote this up as a strawman counter-argument.  I’m not entirely sure I believe this argument, but figured I’d share it.

COVID could end up actually IMPROVING the world order.  Leave the US Less Powerful, But Still Hegemon of a More Robust World Order. 

Here’s the logic (vs the “decline” argument).

  • Point of agreement.  Trump and the virus response has unquestionably destroyed global complacency about the US’s ability to act as a global backstop.  The 737 Max destroyed confidence in the FAA.  CoVID destroyed confidence in the CDC.  Etc Etc.  Lets hope the economic crisis doesn’t destroys confidence in the Fed (weak grin).  BTW, I blame Trump less than 40 years of “starve the beast” assaults on government apparatus, but that is water under the bridge.
  • However.  COVID has ALSO destroyed any faith we could have in China.  Their credibility has been even MORE shattered – especially from a “auditioning for a role as the new hegemon” perspective.  COVID (and other actions) show China’s institutions are totally unqualified to replace the FAA, CDC, Fed, etc…
  • So that leaves the US as the only game in town.  But a substantially less comforting one.  To quote Reagan, other countries will have to “trust but verify” instead of just blindly accepting whatever the US says (That new 737 is just fine to fly!  Take our word for it!).
  • A new era of mutually self-reinforcing realism?  That leaves the rest of the world working a little harder towards the collective global self interest.  The US remains “first among equals” but everyone else raises their game instead of free-riding on the US’s policy direction.  Countries invest in their own aviation authorities, CDC’s, defence capabilities, and the like.
  • That makes life more complicated for the US, but it also spreads the burden and introduces much-needed heterogeneity and resilience into the system
  • Oddly, in that scenario China probably ends up even more frozen out.  If everyone else raises their game to be less dependent on the US, they also need depend less of China.

I’m reminded a bit of how Microsoft reigned supreme as “the” trusted hegemon in compute for so long.  Then we all collectively figured out a lot of their stuff was absolute crap.  Up came Apple OS and Linux and all sorts of other heterogeneity.  Computing is a LOT better off for that diversity.  Making us ALL better off.  Arguably even MSFT is better off shouldering less of that burden.

Although the slogan “Make America Less Great, Making the Rest of the World Greater, Making For a More Robust System.” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.  Nor does it fit on a hat.

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