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The Future of Global Power

Although the Sino-American rivalry was escalating long before the COVID-19 crisis erupted, it has since been thrown into overdrive. But while both countries are pursuing a zero-sum vision of the future, only one is doing so with a long-term strategy.

BERLIN – The COVID-19 pandemic is arguably the first truly global crisis of the twenty-first century. The only modern historical parallels to the economic disruption triggered by a microscopic pathogen are to the last century’s world wars.

The start of World War I, in August 1914, not only ended a long period of peace, but also suspended an earlier epoch of economic integration and globalization. As governments around the world pursued new protectionist agendas, economic growth collapsed across the board. A generation later, another world war followed, after which the Cold War began immediately.

The world, and global politics, looked very different at the end of this period of constant conflict and power politics, from 1914 until 1989, than it did at the beginning. Prior to World War I, the British Empire was the dominant economic and military power. After World War II, it was supplanted by the United States, whose hegemonic position was further strengthened following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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