China is a stronger and more influential power than a year ago. The manner in which it has navigated the Covid-19 pandemic has earned it respect and prestige, especially among developing countries. They can count on its vaccines and economic support to help them through the crisis and take a leading role in the global recovery. But while the position gives Chinese leaders a powerful hand in setting agendas and directing foreign policy, they should be pragmatic, keep a cool head and not get overly optimistic. A low coronavirus infection rate, robust government spending and strong export growth have ensured a bullish outlook for the Chinese economy this year. The International Monetary Fund expects the nation’s gross domestic product growth to be 8.2 per cent against a better-than-expected 2.3 per cent for 2020 and a global forecast of 4 per cent. Donald Trump’s mishandling of his country’s Covid-19 epidemic has assured a challenging recovery, likely leading to a faster-than-anticipated narrowing of the economic gap between the world’s two biggest economies. The IMF suggests China’s economy will increase from two-thirds to three-quarters the size of that of the United States this year. Some analysts predict it could overtake the US in 2028, five years earlier than previously thought. There is unlikely to be a dramatic shift in American policy towards China under President Joe Biden. Bipartisan anti-Chinese sentiment is rife among lawmakers and the tough line on trade and technology will continue. The coronavirus crisis will initially occupy his time, leaving limited attention for China and foreign policy. That will be an opportunity for Beijing to further improve its international standing. State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi started the new year with back-to-back trips to Southeast Asia and Africa. During visits to Myanmar, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines and Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Botswana and the Seychelles, he promised Beijing’s help in providing Covid-19 vaccines and cooperation on trade and infrastructure to power a post-pandemic recovery. With much of the developed world struggling with the disease, Chinese assistance and support is much-needed. But there also has to be caution; while China’s is the first major economy to recover, its foundation remains weak. Beijing has turned to domestic consumption and technology to push growth and development. But China’s long-term future lies not in becoming insulated, but integrating with the global economy. The recent landmark investment deal struck with the European Union shows Chinese leaders have not lost sight of that need. The post-coronavirus world is uncertain. The leadership must stay true to policies and not be excessively confident.