The COVID-19 virus hit China first and hard, stalling its rapid economic growth for the first time since the Great Recession. But China’s economy grew by a blistering 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 2020, keeping it solidly in place as the world’s second-largest economy. Many now believe that China, rather than the U.S., may drive the global recovery from the pandemic.
It’s not yet clear that this current rebound means China has regained its former growth rate. But if it does, I believe it will set off a global contest over which form of government will have a dominant influence over global affairs in coming decades: Western-style democracy or China’s brand of authoritarianism.