China’s post-COVID-19 woes to flow through the Mekong

As China shows signs of recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak, speculations abound about what a post-COVID-19 future will look like. Amid the cacophony of voices, consensus is gathering that global power balances will shift. What this shift might entail is fiercely debated. Some see China rising to global leadership and offering resources and experience to those currently battling the pandemic. Others suspect that China is engaging in a sinister campaign to push other countries further into dependency.

While China seems well positioned to lead the global economic revival, the damage to its economy is severe and prospects for a swift recovery look dim. 2020 GDP growth forecasts vary between 1.7 and 3.5 per cent, well below the official target range of 6 per cent. China will struggle to rebuild its productive capacity, supply chains and markets. Therefore, China is likely to turn to consolidating power in its own backyard — the Mekong region of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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Heidi Dahles, Griffith University