China is emerging from the coronavirus crisis as an even more powerful opponent

The greatest irony of the coronavirus crisis is that it shows every sign of working to China’s geopolitical advantage. Six months from now, the country where the virus was born and that initially suppressed the news of it has every chance of being more powerful.

There are many reasons for this. The most immediately apparent is that the Chinese economy looks likely to recover more rapidly than that of any nation in the West. The very same totalitarianism that led to cover-up and denial at the beginning has permitted ruthlessly effective suppression of the virus once its potency was acknowledged. China has managed to confine the infection to certain areas, while any hope of doing that in Britain or America has been abandoned. The initial data suggests a quick rebound in Chinese industrial production, while every week of lockdown makes that less likely here…

Third, and less obviously, China will gain from the new age of the surveillance state that will be summoned into existence around much of the world in the coming months. Already some countries are requiring citizens to wear a wrist-tag that sounds an alert if they are too far from their phone for their movements to be tracked. Dozens of states will conclude that their only way of getting their economies to work will be to isolate infected individuals, requiring intrusive technology and invasion of privacy. And guess who will be well placed to supply the systems, software, and data, and to do so quickly and on a large scale? Yes, of course, China.

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