COVID-19 and the Changing Global Order

The world witnessed a new enemy in the form of Novel Coronavirus in the starting months of year 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in 7,646,399 confirmed cases and 425,017 deaths globally till date. The outbreak of pandemic Covid-19 has disturbed the political, social, economic, religious and financial structures all over the world. As Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist in his work “The Art of War” emphasized that,

“If you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”

The world, however, is fighting a battle against an unknown enemy, thus, making it difficult for even the world’s Major Powers to tackle and contain the virus. The World’s topmost economies such as the United States, China, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Brazil and many others are at the verge of collapse. The Post-COVID scenario is uncertain but the world will surely be not the same. While social distancing has helped to some mitigate the spread of the virus, technology has brought people together across the continents, the work space and culture has changed, global environment has changed and above all the negative trends in climate change have reversed.  Moreover, the conspiracy theories revolving around the story of origin of the virus and the blame game between US and China is likely to exacerbate in the post pandemic period. Trump’s withdrawal from WHO amidst the epidemic is also a dangerous call.

As every crisis comes with attendant opportunities, China has taken the lead in doing so. Besides, Stock Markets around the world have been pounded and oil prices have fallen off a cliff.It is clear that these global impacts and risks are highly interdependent and are changing the current and future global risk landscape. As the world is battling the novel coronavirus, the global political order is also undergoing a seismic shift. While it is still too early to predict a post-coronavirus world, some of the ongoing developments might heavily influence the world order—which has been in a state of flux. These include, inter alia, Sino-US rivalry, EU divisions and qualms about the future of international organizations.

As the coronavirus rages and economies reel, US and China are embroiled in what has been called ‘a racially tinged’ war of words. The Trump administration as well as key congressional Republicans have labeled Covid-19 the ‘Chinese Virus’ or the ‘Wuhan Virus,’ while the Chinese government officials have hit back by accusing the US military of bringing the virus to China. The expulsion of US journalists from China added to the tensions between the two states amidst the global crisis and has brought the relations between the leading world powers to an impasse. This relates to the general predicament the world is mired in today with regard to lack of cooperation between sovereign states on relatively new issues like climate change, global health, cyber security and so on. Additionally, rising mistrust between key state actors will have far-reaching implications for the global economy, which has come to an alarming slowdown owing to not only the coronavirus but also protracted trade war between US and China.

China’s prompt assistance in fighting the coronavirus is helping the country boast its soft image and, more importantly, expand its influence in different parts of the world. On the flip side, the US has largely failed to play the role of a global leader during the novel coronavirus crisis.

India, on other hand, used the drug Hydroxychloroquine as tool to mend its relations with world powers. Days after India banned the export of pharmaceuticals amid the coronavirus pandemic, it reversed its decision as US President Donald Trump emphasized that the drug could save lives and prove to be a cure of COVID-19. Though the words of President Trump cannot be followed blindly as he also hinted towards drinking the disinfectant in order to contain the spread of the virus. Anyhow, India’s decision to export the drug is meant to improve its diplomatic ties with states especially US. The analysts in India expressed shock at Trump’s threat of retaliation against India, a close trade and security ally of the US. India’s decision to export the drug, however, seems to have changed the Trump’s expression. The relations between the states, foreign policies and engagements worldwide have been severely impacted and hampered the world activities.

The long-term societal impacts, such as an exacerbation of inequality and changes in consumer behaviors, the nature of work and the role of technology both at work and at home will change our way of life forever, for us as individuals, as a workforce, and as a society. The World is still grappling to perceive what the post-COVID world would look like.  But one thing that is confirmed for sure is that social distancing and wearing masks might become the new normal.

Tehniyat Avais
Tehniyat Avais
M.Phil. Scholar International Relations