China lost influence in Asia due to anti-Covid restrictions: report

Sydney, Australia, Feb 6 (EFE).- China lost influence in Asia last year due to its zero-Covid policy and self-isolation, but enters 2023 more militarily capable than ever, according to the Lowy Institute’s report on foreign policy in the region, published Monday.

The Asia Power Index 2023, prepared by the Australian independent think tank, places China in second place in a ranking of 26 countries and territories. The ranking is topped by the United States and places other “middle” powers such as Japan, India, Russia and Australia in third to sixth position respectively.

The Index highlights that China saw the greatest drop in power out of all the countries analyzed due to the anti-Covid restrictions that prevented entry and exit to the country, as well as the weakening of economic ties and international investments in 2022.

According to Lowy, China fell 2.1 points for a score of 72.5 out of 100, while closest rival and fellow superpower, the US, fell by 1.5 points to sit on 80.7. The next biggest drop was Russia, which fell 1.4 points to sit at 31.6 points.

Throughout the pandemic, China applied hardline restrictions, including lockdowns and border closures, eventually triggering protests across the country that appeared to prompt the dismantling of its zero-Covid policy after three years.

“China’s Economic Capability – a measure of core economic strength and ability to use the economy to geopolitical advantage – is at its lowest level since 2018,” the study said.

Despite this setback, China has improved its military capability, closing the gap with the US in this specific field from 27 points in 2018, to 23 last year, the text said.

The report noted that in 2022 China deployed its military capabilities “more assertively” in the South China Sea, on its border with India, and in response to then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

“China’s extensive military drills around Taiwan were designed to test the People’s Liberation Army and Taiwanese responses, but also to establish a ‘new normal’ with repeated incursions by Chinese military aircraft across the so-called median line of the Taiwan Strait,” the document said.

Although the US maintains its military influence in Asia, it country has lost significant ground in diplomatic influence in the region despite the creation of or reinforcement of strategic regional agreements such as the Quad (which unites it with Japan, India and Australia) and AUKUS (the defense pact between Canberra, Washington and London).

“Washington is unlikely ever to re-establish a decisive lead. The age of uncontested US primacy in Asia is over,” the report said.

It added that the Asia Power Index “reveals a region increasingly characterized by bipolar competition between two superpowers” in which “China’s overall power still lags the United States but is not far behind.” EFE


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