Chinese President Xi Jinping visits a hospital in Wuhan, China, March 2020
Xie Huanchi Xinhua / eyevine / Redux

With hundreds of millions of people now isolating themselves around the world, the novel coronavirus pandemic has become a truly global event. And while its geopolitical implications should be considered secondary to matters of health and safety, those implications may, in the long term, prove just as consequential—especially when it comes to the United States’ global position. Global orders have a tendency to change gradually at first and then all at once. In 1956, a botched intervention in the Suez laid bare the decay in British power and marked the end of the United Kingdom’s reign as a global power. Today, U.S. policymakers should recognize that if the United States does not rise to meet the moment, the coronavirus pandemic could mark another “Suez moment.”

It is now clear to all but the most blinkered partisans that Washington has botched its initial response. Missteps by key institutions, from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have undermined confidence in the capacity and competence of U.S. governance. Public statements by President Donald Trump, whether Oval Office addresses or early-morning tweets, have largely served to sow confusion and

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  • KURT M. CAMPBELL is Chair and CEO of the Asia Group and was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2009 to 2013. 
  • RUSH DOSHI is Director of the Brookings Institution’s China Strategy Initiative and a Fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center.
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