After COVID-19, Taiwan will have to navigate a world that will never be the same


Brookings Institute
Date: April 20, 2020
By: Ryan Hass

Editor's Note: 

The coronavirus crisis has exposed a range of fresh challenges and questions about the future of the US-China relationship, writes Ryan Hass. Taiwan's role in this changing environment depends largely on how the people of Taiwan answer a number of looming questions. This piece originally appeared in the Taipei Times.

Unlike virtually every country in the world, Taiwan has weathered the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic admirably well. Taiwan’s governance system has stood firm in the face of crisis, gaining international acclaim for the competence and efficiency of its response to the outbreak. And the people of Taiwan have garnered goodwill through their generosity, reflected in their donations of medical equipment to the United States and elsewhere.

Sadly, others have not fared so well. Both the spread and death toll of the virus already have overwhelmed countries across the world. As the global thinker Fareed Zakaria has observed, we likely are “in the early stages of what is going to become a series of cascading crises.” A health crisis will lead to a global economic recession, which will cause national defaults, which will strain countries’ ability to cope with rising demands for social services, and so on. In other words, the pandemic will change the world as we know it.

In recent weeks, many analysts have stepped forward to offer their views on what the world will look like after COVID-19. For some, this moment would provide a referendum on the relative advantages of democratic versus authoritarian systems. Several warned that China might seize America’s moment of domestic turmoil to eclipse the United States on the world stage, while others suggested that the pandemic would be a permanent stain on China’s international reputation that never would be washed away.

If history is any guide, predictions made about the future from the fog of crisis tend to offer little predictive or explanatory value. I would be surprised if this experience ends up becoming much different.

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