The US remains the top power in the Indo-Pacific, but has suffered the biggest relative fall in its standing in the region over the past year, partly because of the loss of prestige over the mishandling of COVID-19, the Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index shows.
Releasing the latest annual results yesterday, the Australia-based foreign policy think tank said while China’s standing had stalled, it remained in second place and was believed to be on track to match the US by the end of this decade.
Australia was one of the few countries to gain in the scores of comprehensive power this year, overtaking South Korea as the region’s sixth-most powerful country, helped by growth in its regional cultural influence and expanding defense cooperation.
Photo: David Chang, EPA-EFE
Taiwan (ranked 14th) and Vietnam (12th) were also on the rise.
“This year we’ve seen an acceleration in power shifts, but driven really more by underperformance than anything else,” project director Herve Lemahieu told the Guardian Australia. “That’s as a direct consequence of the pandemic.”
The competent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by Taiwan, Vietnam and Australia “was a necessary, but not sole condition” for improving their regional standing, the institute report said.
The annual index aims to provide a snapshot of the shifts in influence in the fast-changing Indo-Pacific region, ranking 26 countries and territories by the overall power they wield.
The scores are based on 128 indicators, including three new indicators added this year to track perceptions of the handling of the pandemic, major ecological threats and defense dialogues.
While power shifts “happen only slowly outside of wartime,” the pandemic has triggered “a race to the bottom,” with 18 states in the Indo-Pacific region experiencing significant downward shifts in their relative power, the report said.
US President Donald Trump’s administration’s unilateral instincts was one reason why the US underachieved against its ability to wield broad-based power in Asia, it said.
“America has suffered the largest reputational hit in the region for its domestic and international handling of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report said. “The result is a powerful reminder that legitimacy and leadership on the world stage start with the capacity of leaders to govern well at home.”
The report said that Taiwan had one of the biggest gains in diplomatic influence (+9.0), but lost the most points in resilience (-0.9). It also improved in cultural influence (+1.1), future resources (+0.8) and economic relationships (+0.4), while trending down in economic capability (-0.9), defense networks (-0.6) and military capability (-0.2).
“Taiwan exerts less influence in the region than expected given its available resources, as indicated by the country’s negative power gap score. While Taiwan is a net underachiever in Asia, its negative power gap improved in 2020,” the report said.
Additional reporting by staff writer
VIGILANCE: From tomorrow all arrivals must provide the result of a PCR test issued within three days of boarding, and the CECC asked people to report anyone who has faked their result The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) expects an increase in the number of returning travelers in the coming days, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday, adding that the varying qualities of COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test reports from other countries is a big concern. Chen, who heads the center, was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a Taiwan Foundation for Rare Disorders scholarship award ceremony in Taipei. “As the global COVID-19 situation is worsening, and with some holidays coming up, there might be an increase in the number of overseas Taiwanese returning to Taiwan,” he
SKIN, ENTRAILS: Placards also dotted the legislative chamber, with slogans such as ‘Oppose ractopamine pork — not US pork’ and ‘Much ado about nothing’ Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday pelted Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) with pig skin and entrails as he addressed the Legislative Yuan on pork imports for the first time since the KMT’s boycott began on Sept. 18. Opposition lawmakers have been demanding an apology from the government for its decision to lift its ban on the importation of US pork containing residues of the livestock drug ractopamine. After Su arrived at 10am for his 13th attempt to deliver a regular policy report, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus moved to change the agenda to accommodate the premier. The motion resulted in cries of
CECC RULES: The autumn-winter COVID-19 prevention program, including mandatory mask wearing in eight types of public venues and indoor facilities, begins today A temporary, two-week ban on Indonesian migrant workers entering the nation is to begin on Friday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday as it reported 24 new imported cases of COVID-19. Twenty of the new cases are Indonesian migrant workers who arrived between Nov. 11 and Friday last week, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center. The cases were discovered during a special project on Friday to conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on all 939 recently arrived Indonesian migrant workers in centralized quarantine facilities, as the majority of imported cases in the past
Passports with a redesigned cover highlighting Taiwan would be issued starting on Jan. 11, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. The new cover design, which was announced on Sept. 2, highlights Taiwan by printing the word in a larger font. While the new passport cover retains “the Republic of China” in Chinese, the English name is printed along the outer circle of the national emblem, which would enable other nations to clearly identify that it is a Taiwanese passport, not a Chinese passport, the ministry said. The costs and application procedures for the new version are the same as