According to an Australian study organization, China's decision to maintain "zero-COVID" for 2022 has harmed its status in the Asia-Pacific region, allowing the United States to solidify its position as its most prominent force.
The Sydney-based Lowy Institute's Asia Power Index for 2023 reveals that China registered the most significant loss among the 26 nations and territories included in the survey, whilst the United States' economic solid and defence linkages cemented its position as the leading power in the Asia-Pacific.
The index evaluates a country's diplomatic, economic, and military influence based on 133 variables grouped into eight key topics. The United States was ranked top, followed by China, Japan, India, and Russia.
According to Susannah Patton, project leader for Lowy's Asia Power Index, China's links with the rest of Asia dropped "sharply" during zero-COVID.
"We've heard about the economic impact of China's border closures, but I believe this demonstrates for the first time the strategic impact," she said.
China's cultural impact and economic capacity rankings decreased the most due to Beijing's decision to isolate its population and enterprises from the rest of the world for most of the year. The gap between its military strength and that of the United States will narrow from 27 points in 2018 to 23 points in 2022. The paper details the massive army exercises conducted surrounding Taiwan.
Only Australia and Indonesia defied the trend among the top 10 powers in the Asia-Pacific region in 2022, according to Patton, who noted that practically other nations had witnessed a decline in their rankings due in part to the pandemic's repercussions.
Patton stated that despite a modest fall in the United States overall ranking, the country maintained its top place due to the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden's diplomatic stance and the relatively robust American economy.
Regarding the prognosis for the upcoming year, Patton stated that China's quick re-opening and diplomatic outreach to nations such as Australia might impact the following rankings. At the same time, the United States will need to seek to strengthen its alliances with the Philippines and South Korea.
In the coming year, she warned that China would be a far more formidable opponent to the United States.