Increasingly bipolar power structure . . .
The Lowy Institute’s 2020 Asia Power Index, released this week, spotlights changes in the distribution of power in the Asia Pacific amid ongoing China-U.S. discord and countries’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australian think-tank has produced the Asia Power Index annually since 2018. It is a weighted average of 128 indicators reflecting countries’ resources and influence capabilities. In 2020, the U.S., the leading global power, fell by three points, with its economic capabilities and relationships showing the steepest decline. China’s power (in second place), which now stand only five points behind the U.S., has not changed from last year, although the Index shows that it made major gains in cultural influence but lost in diplomatic influence.
COVID-19 weakens power across the region . . .
Overall, the power of 18 jurisdictions in the Asia Pacific declined this year over last. Vietnam, Australia, and Taiwan, which have dealt with the pandemic relatively successfully, are the only ones to have gained power in 2020. The Lowy Institute projects that the long-term effects of COVID-19 will continue to undermine Asia Pacific economies’ power and narrow the power gap between global leaders. For example, while the economic recovery could take seven years in Japan, and four years in the U.S., China is already on track to recover this year.
Diluting power at the top heightens middle powers’ importance . . .
The increasing rivalry between the U.S. and China, which is eroding their diplomatic influence and economic capabilities, has opened up space for middle powers to gain influence in the region. By co-operating, Australia, India, and Indonesia all gained power through economic diplomacy in 2020. However, the pandemic prevented most middle powers from strengthening their economic capabilities and increasing their power to any significant degree this year. Notably, India, the highest performing middle power on the Index, has seen its 2030 GDP forecast shrink by 13 per cent, more than any other country in the region. Canada, another middle power, is not included in the Asia Power Index.
- The Diplomat: What does the new Asia Power Index say about the Quad?
- Lowy Institute: Asia Power Index 2020 Edition
- Lowy Institute: Asia Power Index Findings Report