FarmLink Welcomes Jacob Shapiro to our guest blogger series
This week, Jacob Shapiro, geopolitical analyst and owner of Perch Perspectives, is answering our questions about geopolitics in relation to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We sincerely thank him for his time and incredible insights.
You might remember Jacob Shapiro’s geopolitical presentation from Grain World 2019. The world he described then has become somewhat a reality now. At the time of Grain World, no one had heard about COVID-19 or knew the impact it would have on the economy. We’re living in a different world and who better to shed some light on what is going on than Jacob Shapiro.
Mr. Shapiro, how will this impact U.S./ China relations?
Those who were at Grain World know that even before COVID-19, I was very pessimistic about U.S.-China relations in the long-term. Indeed, that pessimism is what informed all of my analysis and writing about China. I thought that even though the trajectory of U.S.-China relations was negative that it was not yet too late for the two countries to reverse course. The best way to do that was for both sides to be honest with each other: to lay out their interests very clearly and then find a way to compromise; to coexist in a globalized world rather than to compete in a fractured one.
I am afraid that is not possible anymore. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the degradation in the U.S.-China relationship and it has removed some of the options for improvement that might have been on the table. Consider that during the height of the 2008 financial crisis, the first thing the US did was call China to coordinate their respective responses. It took over two months for U.S. and Chinese officials to talk after it was clear COVID-19 was a pandemic, and not only that, far from coordinating a response, China and the US have used COVID-19 as a tool of zero-sum, geopolitical competition.
China, for instance, began hoarding masks and medical equipment in January at the same time it was telling the WHO everything was ok – and now is using its position as the world-dominant producer of so many of the goods that are essential in combatting a pandemic to cover-up its mistakes, to build its global prestige, and to undermine the US. The US is no better on this score: U.S. politicians bandied conspiracy theories about China creating the virus. The US also bears partial responsibility for the generally hostile and suspicious attitude that exists between the two countries. After all, when China admitted African Swine Fever was decimating its domestic pork industry, the US took advantage of it by pressing for better terms in trade negotiations and demanding China buy U.S. agricultural products. I can understand completely why China was nervous about being transparent about COVID-19 even if I think it was the wrong thing to do.
I think COVID-19 locks a long-term U.S.-China strategic competition into place. COVID-19 is the point of no return; I don’t think it is possible for the two sides to walk this back. One of the few things the American electorate seems to agree on these days is that China represents a threat, and if Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party wasn’t already convinced of the same thing, they most certainly are now.
Mr. Shapiro has been busy since Grain World. He recently launched a new business and political consulting firm called Perch Perspectives. You can contact Mr. Shapiro directly via e-mail ([email protected]) or on Twitter or LinkedIn.
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