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Letter from the Editors
It is difficult for anyone living through the Covid-19 pandemic that began spreading across the globe early this year not to feel that this is a seminal moment in contemporary history. After millions were infected, hundreds of thousands died and the global economy was effectively shut down, it seems the world will emerge as a permanently changed place. For many, that change will be embodied foremost in the tragic loss of loved ones. More widely, it will be remembered for the terror of whole communities and even nations under siege, the loss of confidence in healthcare systems and the lingering anxiety that many governments across the world failed their people in different ways during the crisis. To be sure, there were instances of cogent and effective responses to Covid-19. But the overwhelming reaction was one of growing doubt about the right way forward and who is best positioned to lead.
Into that volatile mix has entered the increasing rivalry between the United States and China for global leadership, a rivalry that in recent years has emerged as a “whole of government” Cold War on both sides. The pandemic has radically sharpened the conflict between the two countries, and they are vigorously developing and promoting competing narratives about the pandemic to the rest of the world. It remains to be seen who prevails, but the definition of this seminal moment in contemporary history is at stake.
In October 2019, the 2nd International Forum on China and World Order was held in Beijing. For the cover package of this issue of Global Asia, we commissioned a number of pieces from that forum under the co-editorship of Chu Yun-han and Yang Guangbin to explore the issue of China’s efforts to establish a new world order. We didn’t count on the outbreak of Covid-19, but the pieces we’ve assembled here are updated to include that context in elucidating the topic of a new, Beijing-led world order.
Elsewhere in this issue of Global Asia, our Debate section looks at the risks to Hong Kong of Beijing’s new national security law for the city. In our Features section, we examine how the latest conflict between China and Vietnam in the South China Sea draws attention to the importance to Hanoi of developing a sea-based, or blue, economy. We also look at how Taiwan’s success in dealing with Covid-19 hasn’t, unfortunately, bolstered its continuing efforts to win international legitimacy in multinational bodies such as the World Health Organization. Finally, we look at the complex role that India plays in shaping Nepal’s relations with China.
In our Features section, we examine how resistance to Beijing from Xinjiang and Hong Kong is fueling insecurities in China’s leadership; what triangular diplomacy among Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump might mean for great power relations; how the issues related to the Indo-Pacific vision being forged by India, Japan and the US are playing out; and how a newly commissioned national gas pipeline between Russia and China could upend energy ties in the region.
We have devoted our In Focus section to tangential issues that have emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, such as human rights, the plight of marginalized communities and ASEAN’s efforts to forge a common approach to the pandemic.
As always, our Book Review section provides you with a look at some of the best writing on the region.
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