As the COVID-19 crisis has progressed, US-China relations have begun to acquire a logic of comprehensive, zero-sum confrontation. Even in the event that a lengthy pandemic reaffirms the need for international cooperation, the processes that have now been initiated will be difficult to undo. Mutual suspicion has become rife and talk of a “new Cold War” is now ubiquitous, reinforced by the possibility that the pandemic could strengthen Chinese influence in Eurasia and accelerate the division of the world into new spheres of influence.
As a country that has a vital interest in a robust global trading regime and an international order rooted in a rules-based framework, Canada must forcefully resist any notion that the world is descending into bipolarity. Given the growing importance of Asian countries in the global economy, a Pacific theatre framed by Sino-American rivalry poses a direct threat to Canadian security and prosperity. Such a development would adversely affect Canada’s ability to diversify and deepen its global economic relationships, while also imposing restrictions on the independence of Canadian foreign policy.