these arguments a newfound salience. This would provide decoupling the kind of political momentum it needs to make it real.

And it is important to remember that it is not just the United States that is interested in de-linking. Within the PRC some elites have felt that the country was too dependent on the US, both for export markets and for industrial know-how and that it needed to become more self-reliant and resilient. 

If the pandemic led to a region in which the US and China inhabited very different economic and technological spheres, then the geopolitical logic of competition, already ascendant, would likely become all consuming. Lacking the stabilising force of shared economic interests, the region would enter a period of unrestrained military contestation. This environment would also be more conducive to China’s efforts to remake the norms and institutions of regional order as the forces of economic decoupling would have wiped out the status quo bias of the existing arrangements, which give the US and its allies a distinct advantage.

A second path involves not decoupling but an effort to rebuild the economic infrastructure of the recent past. Instead of seeking to rapidly transform Asia’s production chains this scenario sees the region scrambling to restart growth by reconnecting the existing systems. But this would occur in the shadow of a pandemic that the great powers will each use to advance their political positions. Under this scenario there would remain some economic ties to restrain each side, but it would be weaker than before.

At this point we have yet to see how badly the virus will damage India and Indonesia. There is a strong chance that it will scupper their economic growth for many years and thereby further strengthen the grip that US-China relations has on the region as a whole.

After the pandemic Asia will be a more dangerous place. Geopolitics will be ascendant, mistrust and rivalry accentuated. At this point China looks as though it will have had a better crisis than the US – both in economic and political terms – but it is early days yet. When this is all over, the US and its allies will need to dig in for a long-term contest with an emboldened Beijing.