A pandemic is rarely a unifying experience. For Washington and Beijing, the COVID-19 outbreak could have been a chance to unite in a common cause and moderate recent tensions. Instead, opinion in both capitals has hardened, and a crisis over Hong Kong’s future has emerged as a new point of dispute. For the private sector and the research community, these events mark a departure from the assumptions and regulatory regimes of a generation. Scores of corporate strategies, industry supply chains and R&D partnerships have relied on Western and Asian governments’ embrace of a familiar set of principles: closer connections between China and “developed” economies would bring benefits for all; the private sector was encouraged to build “win-win” patterns of cooperation; and Hong Kong would serve as a meeting point and a gateway, with institutions credited as independent and trustworthy by all sides. The post-outbreak rules of the road are still evolving, as President Donald Trump’s statements on his China trade negotiations and quest for “an open and constructive relationship with China”—by turns hopeful and combative—demonstrate. But some aspects of a more fraught and complex new reality are already clear: 1. Elite consensus has shifted, and will not return to its… Read full this story
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