If the United States is in strategic competition with China, then effective U.S. leadership should be at the service of building something positive out of the crisis rather than trying to use it to isolate and alienate Beijing. The failure of the G-7 foreign ministers to reach agreement on a joint statement (because the U.S. delegation insisted on calling the novel coronavirus the “Wuhan virus,” going against the guidelines of the World Health Organization and the positions of Washington’s closest allies) hardly constitutes an example of effective leadership. For decades, the United States has maintained power, credibility, and influence not only by virtue of its size and capabilities but also by attracting other nations to its vision for security and prosperity. A United States that is churlish and defensive about China right now is not a United States that will earn respect among its friends and allies. A United States that learns from the experiences of Germany, South Korea, Taiwan and others in pandemic management; that embraces practical and meaningful cooperation with China; and that engages with global organizations, such as the WHO, to help them reform is a United States that can use the pandemic as an opportunity to remind the world of what American leadership looks like.

The Pandemic Won’t Make China the World’s Leader