Geopolitics in the time of Pandemic: How COVID 19 is defining a New World Order
While we are confined in our homes, the world is changing faster than ever. The transformation is happening in almost all the walks of life but the million-dollar question is – Who will lead the post-pandemic world?Siddheshwar Shukla | Updated: 25-03-2020 20:19 IST | Created: 25-03-2020 20:19 IST
Novel Coronavirus (COVID 19) is an invisible enemy to the human race but its impacts are visible throughout the world. It's not only killing humans but deserting megacities and shaking the very foundations of economies. There is no known agent of change in this world that had ever impacted the entire population on this planet that too all regions simultaneously.
Initially confined to Wuhan city, the adverse effects of the virus on economies are now clearly visible from China to the USA. The impact on economies is so thundering that the democracies are tumbling and fearing collapse. Several countries of the world have been forced to proclaim lockdowns and all the civil rights have been suspended. The situation is no less than a world war except human armies are not involved against each other.
However, the initial sufferer China seems to have passed the worst. According to the media reports, the dragon is going to lift travel restrictions in Wuhan city on April 8. The city, original epicenter of novel coronavirus (nCoV) also known as Wuhan Coronavirus, has been facing complete lockdown since January 23, 2020.
Pre-COVID 19 Scenario
After the US-China trade war of about two years, both the superpowers finally agreed to strike a trade deal on January 15, this year. Though the trade deal was largely considered tilted in favor of the US, it was singed at a time when only China was aware of the magnitude of contagiousness of the virus. Why Chinese President Xi Jinping did not attend this historic event is still a mystery.
According to the media reports, the mysterious pneumonia outbreak was reported in the Wuhan in November and China reported first death on January 11. Within a week of signing the trade deal, Wuhan city was put under complete lockdown. Initially, the World Health Organization (WHO) had to struggle to get access to the city but ultimately, health emergency was declared on January 30.
Even in the days of the trade war, economists were predicting China's lead on the global market. An analysis published by the World Economic Forum on June 24, 2019 highlights the strengths of China in the days of a trade war or pre-COVID 19-period. According to the report, China was leading in space science, artificial intelligence, information technology, renewable energy, unicorns, high growth rate, and tourism, etc. The strengths and prospects of China as an emerging global superpower were very clearly predicted by the US Republican senator Mitt Romney on December 6, 2019.
Addressing the International Democratic Union, Romney, who was the presidential nominee for the Republican Party in 2012, put forward three scenarios, " First, China becomes the sole global superpower - economically, militarily and geopolitically - by the middle of this century. Second, China's ascension will be disrupted and halted by internal turmoil. Or third, China will be dissuaded from seeking global domination and instead becomes a responsible member of the global order,". He further emphasized, "The first scenario is the most likely because of what China is doing and because of what we are not doing," Romney said. "China has a comprehensive, rigorous strategy to achieve global domination and the tip of its spear today is economic aggression," he said. Besides, he highlighted all the measures and technological strategies China was adopting to ensure technological and economic dominance. Thus the only major obstacle in the path of China was – internal turmoil. Though coming from the opposition, the Trump administration was seen repeatedly hitting at the weakest point of China – Hong Kong Democratic Protests – in the second half of 2019. Despite China's strong protests, Trump signed the bill supporting pro-democracy Hong Kong protestors on November 28, 2019.
This is around the same time a mysterious pneumonia virus was reported in Wuhan. The situation of international turmoil was getting complicated for China by the day. It reportedly became alarming for China after Hong Kong protestors organized a rally in support of Uighur Muslims, to which China is accused of executing ethnic cleansing.
COVID 19 Epidemic in China: Sarcastic comments from the US and Europe
Despite the signing of the first phase of the US-China trade, the bitterness and confidence level between both the superpowers was alarmingly low. The US diplomats and policymakers were so desperate in overpowering China that they overwhelmed with the outbreak of a disease and subsequent lockdown in the Wuhan.
The sarcastic comments and pokes came from high offices such as Wilbur Ross, US Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien and Republican Senator Tom Cotton. In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry alleged that the virus was a handiwork of the US troops that visited the Wuhan. The allegations and counter-allegations between the US and China on novel Coronavirus continue even today. Despite the WHO naming the virus as COVID 19 on February 11, the Trump and his senior officials continue to refer it as 'China Virus' or 'Wuhan Virus'.
The news of lockdown in Chinese cities was reportedly perceived as good news by the strategists in Europe as well. This is probably because European economies were also fighting against the dominance of China in their domestic and regional markets. The fight was very loud and clear during the COP 25 negotiations in Madrid. Until China and its neighboring countries of East and South-East Asia were suffering, European and American nations were mute spectators. The World Economic Forum, on the basis of a poll by 40 eminent economists, concluded that the growth rate of China will fall from 6.0 percent to 3.5 percent.
Pandemic and the changing global equations
The economists throughout the world are predicting a disastrous global recession. Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Momentary Fund (IMF) has issued a statement on global growth, "For 2020 it is negative - a recession at least as bad as during the global financial crisis or worse. We expect a recovery in 2021. To get there, it is paramount to prioritize containment and strengthen health systems - everywhere,".
The economic impacts of the pandemic are widespread. The tourism sector in Europe and Arabian countries have been devastated. The spread of COVID 19 is so fast and devastating in Europe that the WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had to issue a stern warning to the European countries – Don't let this fire burn. The impact of COVID 19 on the economy is being felt across the regions and continents as the virus had demolished the vision of globalization and free trade economy. All the nations of the European Union have sealed their boundaries to prevent disease. The concept of trade agreements and cooperation among the members of various regional and trade associations such as EU, Commonwealth, OPEC, BRICS, G-20, G-8, and NATO, etc. have evaporated overnight. Now, every country is overburdened with its own domestic problems caused by the Pandemic.
A report published in the Washington Post has estimated that the Coronavirus curve shows whole Europe will face Italy like situation. According to WHO, the virus has now spread in 196 territories including all the 189 member nations of the United States, deaths and infections continue on a daily basis.
A recent analysis by the USA's Forbes Magazine suggests that the economic recovery will be led by China and East Asia, then Southeast Asia. Besides, there are several studies to suggest that China will recover faster than any other country in the world.
Estimating a loss of up to $2 trillion in 2020 to the global economy due to the pandemic, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTD) has urged the member nations to minimize the impact of the novel coronavirus. Replying on a specific question on how the two superpowers are likely to handle their financial crises, the Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, UNCTD, Kozul-Wright said that the Chinese Government would likely introduce significant "expansionary measures" – shorthand for increasing spending or tax cuts.
"It will almost certainly do that," he said. "Will the US Government in an election year, which is where we are…also, need to respond in a way other than simply cutting taxes and reducing interest rates? I suspect it will do." Turning to Europe and the Eurozone, Mr. Kozul-Wright noted that its economy had already been performing "extremely badly towards the end of 2019". The senior UN economist also suggested that Europe is heading towards a severe recession and the situation will be the same for heavily indebted developing countries. Besides, the Chinese state-controlled Xinhua News has also reported China's plans for quick recovery from COVID 19's adverse effects on its economy. The experts in the WEF have also predicted fast recovery and a better future for the Chinese economy.
In a very planned manner, China has announced to lift the restrictions from Wuhan from April 8. However, Donald Trump has also announced to lift lockdown by April 12 but his announcement looks more a panic-stricken decision.
A recovered China will have a huge market for all those products it has burnt while handling COVID 19 pandemic. There is a huge requirement for masks, sanitizers, ventilators and the whole of the COVID 19 gear adorned by the health experts and security forces engaged in the handling of the suspects and patients. China has already sent a team of experts to Italy along with entire safety gear and medicines. If China has discovered, as claimed in some media reports, some medical formulation to treat the COVID 19 patients or vaccines or anything to minimize the spread of the disease, there is a virgin global market. There is no news of protest in Hong Kong. We don't know but it seems China has solved the internal rebellion which was one of the hurdles coming in its the way of becoming a superpower.
The ensuing election in the US also seems to have blunted its response at domestic as well as global fronts while the up-gradation of Xi Jinping to the level of Mao Zedong has made him the non-challengeable leader of China whose dictates will be incorporated in the Constitution. The authoritarian rule in China has also helped in controlling the COVID 19 while the USA is stuck with humanitarian issues and court cases are piling up against the Trump administration for human rights violations.
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- Novel Coronavirus
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- Trump administration
- Hong Kong Democratic Protests
- COVID 19 Epidemic in China
- COVID 19 Pandemic
- Global Power Equations
- Mao Zedong
- Xi Jinping
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