Foreign-policy observers have long debated: What if Beijing were handed a golden opportunity to strut on the world stage, absent a more powerful United States? Would it seize the opportunity, acting for the good of all and convincing the globe of its peaceful intentions? Or would it pursue a cramped vision of national interest? The world has inadvertently run that very experiment since January.
The combination of China’s early coronavirus recovery, the catastrophic health and economic situation in the United States, an administration whose “America First” instincts have turned the country inward, and a mostly every-country-for-itself response to the global pandemic has put China in the geopolitical driver’s seat. So far, Beijing has squandered the opportunity in dramatic fashion.
The news of Chinese diplomats burning documents in Houston represents just the latest, most dramatic development in Washington’s quickly deteriorating relationship with Beijing. The United States is not the only country with worsening ties. In the first half of 2020, Beijing has been ecumenical in its assertiveness: Britain, Japan, Australia, India, Canada, and others have been on the receiving end of China’s so-called wolf-warrior diplomacy