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The United States’ struggles to contain COVID-19 has sparked debate over whether the pandemic is compromising its capacity as a global leader. With China appearing to be through the worst of the pandemic, is this moment an opportunity to outshine or even displace the US?

Kurt Campbell, Obama administration Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, recently issued a warning this could be a “Suez moment” for the US, as the 1956 Suez Canal crisis marked the end of the United Kingdom’s reign as a global power. In his latest article for The Australian, USSC Non-Resident Fellow Dr John Lee says the Suez comparison is an "ill-fitting analogy", pointing to indicators of China’s enduring economic health which has been declining since Xi Jinping came into power.

"Beyond the immediate economic hit," Dr Lee says, "the pandemic is already leading to domestic discussions about how better to protect and enhance the US’s already powerful knowledge, industrial and economic base."

"This will be the mission whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden is the president in 2021.”

Dr Lee says there is no doubt China is “trying to use the pandemic to enhance its global standing”, but insists it isn’t underlying US weakness which will determine whether Beijing succeeds. Instead, it will be “distraction, complacency or else losing its nerve” that strikes the definitive blow to the United States in the struggle for global dominance.