“Health will be a national security concern going forward” – Bonnie S. Glaser


Ms. Bonnie S. Glaser is a Senior Adviser for Asia and the Director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, where she works on issues related to Asia-Pacific security with a focus on Chinese foreign and security policy. Prior to joining CSIS, she served as  consultant for various government offices of the United States, including the Department of Defence and Department of State. CSIS was named as number the number one think-tank of the US by University of Pennsylvania’s “Global Go To Think Tank Index”.

In an exclusive interview with NEPAL FIRST, Ms. Glaser discusses the impacts of the coronavirus on world politics, US-China relations and upcoming US presidential elections.

How could the novel coronavirus shape the history of humanity and world politics?

Health issues and having the ability to protect the health of a country’s population will be considered national security concerns going forward. Governments that have the wherewithal will keep large stockpiles of medical supplies and equipment and be wary of relying too much on a single supplier. Many countries will develop emergency preparedness plans and procedures in anticipation of the next novel coronavirus threat. Safety procedures at labs that conduct research on dangerous viruses will almost certainly be reviewed and bolstered where needed, even if it is determined that Covid-19 occurred naturally.

Will this event reduce United States influence in the world and lead to China’s rise?

I do not believe that Covid-19 will by itself result in a major shift in global politics. Many other factors will be more important in determining the relative power balance in the world including who emerges as dominant in key strategic technologies, demographic profiles, economic structures, and soft power. Neither China nor the US have responded effectively to the virus. They have both failed their people. The Chinese Communist Party took actions to cover up information about the virus early on, suppressing efforts by courageous doctors who tried to warn the public. The CCP may have destroyed virus samples, not shared information with the international community in a timely manner, and discouraged experts from investigating the origins of the virus.

The US did not use the early months of the year while the virus was spreading in China to make effective preparations. Testing was slow to get underway. All 50 states implemented different policies. Too many people got infected and many have died. The US has so far failed to flatten the curve. Other governments have done far better including South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand. There are aspects about their governance models that are worth emulating.

It is evident that the world economy will fall into a recession. Does such a scenario lead to a scope of US-China economic cooperation instead of a confrontational behavior? 

The novel coronavirus presented an opportunity for the US and China to cooperate, but both governments opted for zero-sum competition instead. If they could not set aside their differences to collaborate on a major threat to the world, it is hard to imagine that they will agree to cooperate to bolster the world economy or on other matters such as global warming. The US-China relationship is more acrimonious today than it has ever been, and I fear it has not yet hit bottom.

What role could Covid-19 possibly play in the outcome of the upcoming US Presidential elections?

The handling of Covid-19 is already a central issue in the US presidential campaign. The Republicans are pinning blame on China and claiming that they responded effectively to the virus given the circumstances. The Democrats contend that the Trump administration ignored the pandemic playbook developed by the Obama administration and disassembled emergency response capabilities. The state of the economy is usually foremost in the minds of American voters, so whether the US economy and employment have recovered next November will be key determinants of the presidential election. China will also be a hot and controversial issue in the campaign as President Donald Trump and Senator Joe Biden portray themselves as more capable than their opponents to effectively compete with China and protect US interests.





About the author

Nepal Forum of International Relations Studies (NEPAL FIRST) is a Kathmandu-based independent, not-for-profit and non partisan organization in the field of International Relations that focuses on issues related to Nepal’s foreign policy and diplomacy.

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