A new world order?

by April 2, 2020 0 comments

Apart from raising doubts about the benefits of a global village another major impact of the Coronavirus is the fact that it is challenging and redefining the world order as we know it

The spread of the deadly Coronavirus through human-to-human transmission and the growing number of fatalities is giving birth to all kinds of conspiracy theories, blame games and racism. However, the growing preference for isolation, erection of walls, closing of boundries, restrictions on travel and tourism is also exhibiting that the world is no longer a global village and we are now divided into numerous Google villages.

The ills of globalisation and relative interdependence are visible in the acute dearth of protective gear for fighting the contagion, even in the mightiest of all countries, the US. Since China is the largest producer of protective gear like masks, ventilators, respirators, protective suits and testing kits, America’s helplessness and dependence on China, which controls 95 per cent of the US market for the supply of these kits is easily understandable. This is a warning sign for not just the global super power but also for other nations that they need to reduce such dependence and start production of everything, which used to be outsourced for manufacturing to China or other countries. The Coronavirus is shaping up to be an enormous stress test for globalisation. As critical supply chains break down, nations hoard medical supplies and limit travel, the crisis is forcing a major reevaluation of the interconnected global economy. Not only has globalisation allowed for the rapid spread of contagious disease but it has fostered deep interdependence between firms and nations that makes them more vulnerable to unexpected shocks. Now, firms and nations alike are discovering just how vulnerable they are.

Another major impact of the Coronavirus is the fact that it is challenging and redefining the world order as we know it. The inability of the US to quickly control the spread of this virus and save the lives of its citizens has exposed the weakness and lack of vision of the US leadership in taking stock of the situation and providing the much-needed guidance to the administration. As a result, the number of casualties today in the country has crossed the number of deaths in China, where the whole nightmare began.

The status of the US as a global leader has been built not just on wealth and power but also, and just as important, on the legitimacy that flows from its domestic governance, provision of global public goods and the ability and willingness to muster and coordinate a global response to crises. The Coronavirus pandemic is testing all three elements of US leadership and so far Washington is failing the test.

On the other hand, as this deadly virus travelled from China’s Whuan province to virtually every part of the globe, therefore, primarily China is being considered the villain by the world. This is also in major part due to the fact that it concealed the information about the contagion for a long time. Had it informed the global village in time, the precautions which are being taken now could have been taken earlier and the large- scale spread of the virus could have been averted.

At present, the concerns about the dominance of the world order through economics, expansion of trade, commerce and route connectivity have taken a back seat and the control of the pandemic has taken a front seat.  Though by locking down Wuhan province through draconian measures, China succeeded in containing the spread of the outbreak to other parts of the country, hiding the news of the contagion it was unable to prevent its spread to the rest of the world. Apart from the 42,352 people across the globe who have died because of the Coronavirus, the other big casualty of the pandemic is the global village-based world order, as now every country has sealed its borders and even flights have been grounded for now. Currently, the only thing that is keeping the world united and linked is the internet as the Google village is available for accessing and exchanging information and ideas.

After being castigated and ostracized by the world community for hiding and spreading the virus globally, the Chinese President sought India’s support to confront its isolation and face the world bravely. Even in the time of a crisis China has not forgotten its world-domination ambitions and in order to show its greatness and maintainin its status as a major power on the world stage, as a goodwill gesture China is willing to share its experiences and strategy with India.

As the US fumbles around, China is moving quickly and adeptly to take advantage of the opening created by Trump’s mistakes, filling the vacuum to position itself as the global leader in the response to a major crisis. It is working to tout its own system, provide material assistance to other countries, and even organise other Governments. But the world community, including the US, is not going to forget what China has done and how Beijing is using this opportunity to increase its military and economic might by offering to supply the medical necessities to Europe and the US. 

Beijing’s move to block the recently-called United Nations Security Council meet on the Coronavirus pandemic also indicates that China is aspiring hard to maintain its image of a generous leader of the world ready to help with loans and equipment. Chinese attempts clearly hint that this pandemic will surely change the global scenario but the power game will remain unhampered because China, even in the wake of the crisis, is not leaving any stone unturned to make its presence felt in the Indo-Pacific.

Although it was felt that the COVID-19 outbreak would halt China’s overseas investments, interestingly the signals coming from China right now indicate that it is not likely to stop overseas investment in its ambitious  Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project and will also keep on exploring the possibility of grabbing new markets for its goods, commodities and investments. Because, through this it can fill the power gap and make its presence and power felt in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in the BRI countries.

 According to reports, recently Chinese military aircraft carried out anti-submarine drills in the contested South China Sea (SCS), to respond to patrols by US warships, which suggests that Coronavirus or no Coronavirus, China is not going to mend its ways and tone down its assertiveness and leave any opportunity to exhibit its power politics. The claims of controlling the COVID-19 in Whuan have made it more aggressive than ever. Even though the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) activities on the Tibetan plateau have reduced due to the outbreak, PLA intrusions were recently reported from Naku-la, south of the watershed in Northern Sikkim, a border said to be “settled” by China.

 In view of China’s obvious moves for domination, most of the countries including the World Health Organisation are looking at the other major power in the region, India’s response and efforts to confront this challenge with interest and anxiety.

If this crisis is not handled carefully by India the death toll and the number of sick people would be unimaginable and would take the country back by decades, something which would not be in favour of New Delhi and its allies as they look to India to stop China’s march.

 In this context it would be appropriate to highlight that while in the domestic sector India is taking all necessary steps to contain the outbreak, on the other hand regionally and internationally also India is at the forefront of the fight against Coronavirus.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s call for cooperation to fight the pandemic to the SAARC countries, places the nation at the front and centre of the fight against the pandemic in the region and gives it a place at the global power high table. With the creation of the $10 million SAARC Emergency Fund to fight Covid-19, India has also supplied testing equipment and sanitisers to Maldives, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. In a recent meeting the G-20 group also pledged to introduce $5 trillion into the global economy to blunt the affect of the virus.  Prime Minister Modi has also advocated the need for developing a new crisis management protocol to deal with global health issues, which indicates patient and good leadership and signals India’s effective presence in the global power scenario.  The seriousness and gravity shown by the Indian leadership and appeals to people for restraint and determination are a great example of ethical leadership in the time of a crisis. The well-timed lockdown and appeals by the leadership for social isolation are allowing all of us to forget the concept of global village and just turn into Google village with limited exposure to people but unlimited contacts for our well-being.

(Writer: Annpurna Nautiyal; Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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