There are at least some fronts, however, on which they will likely, and properly, pursue more widespread, sustained coordination in managing Beijing’s resurgence, with global supply chains and technology standards being among the most significant.
Global supply chains
Some policymakers worry that China could use its manufacturing prowess to exert coercive leverage.
The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the dangers of relying too heavily on any one country for vital commodities. Especially in the early months of the pandemic, many countries with limited domestic supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) — and a minimal capacity for rapid production — could do little to assist their frontline medical workers until PPE shipments from China arrived.
Though it will likely take decades to recalibrate these various production pathways, such efforts are prudent first steps.
Advanced industrial democracies are also poised to play a more active role in shaping the standards that will govern core emerging technologies.
Here, too, it will take time for these initiatives to bear fruit. Technology standards emerge gradually, and democracies have significant disagreements amongst themselves over what those standards should be — not just concerns over those Beijing is promulgating. Still, they should continue trying to shape norms around the technologies that will undergird this century’s economic development.
Cooperation on China is likely to be selective, resembling more of an issue-specific patchwork of agreements between different groupings of countries than a coherent set of strategic policies. That cooperation should inform, not dictate, the agenda that the United States and its longstanding allies and partners pursue; they should focus above all on ensuring that whatever world emerges from the pandemic is better able to withstand and recover from both short-term crises and longer-term stresses.