Covid-19, geopolitics and the way forward


M Omar Iftikhar
THE geopolitics of the world seems to remain in a state of flux. With the Covid-19 affecting politics, socio-economics, trade, industry, and life in general, the world is experiencing a far greater geopolitical change than before. The Covid-19, while having direct social and healthcare implications, has been touching base with political structures. Leaders of the countries, where general elections are edging closer, will use this virus to promote the shortcomings of their opponents.
The United States of America, with Donald Trump in his first tenure as the President, will be facing a serious question of his life in November 2020. Will he be re-elected or will his fairy tale end? There is a higher probability for the latter to transpire. The Covid-19 has changed the USA’s persona and image that it had maintained over the world. Its healthcare system has been questioned for its limitations. While the Covid-19 is itself a menacing virus, the USA’s policies have come under the limelight that has agitated the masses for sure. In 2021, the US may not have the dominating role it once enjoyed. Speaking of US ties with the world, there has been a ruckus when it comes to US-China relations. The Trump Administration has taken several steps against the Chinese government and its native companies over the last couple of years. The future will see both superpowers exercising their influence coupled with a trade war, currency war, and issues relating to national security. When speaking about the US versus China debate, China overcame the Covid-19 while the US is still trying to fight against it. This is perhaps a rarity that the US is not being able to lead the global relief effort because of its unresolved Covid-19 predicament. The fact that many countries, including the US, consider Covid-19 to have been manufactured and spread from Wuhan, China, this narrative will also affect the relations between Washington and Beijing.
China is already ahead of the United States when it comes to manufacturing and supplying products from various categories to the world. It has managed to train its manpower to work and deliver large batches of products. While this was a steady process, the United States could have worked on similar lines. However, it seems Washington never wanted to exert an influence over the world but opted to maintain its hegemony through wars and invasions.
While the US-China conflict is spread across two continents, the regional skirmishes will also be of concern in the times to come. Pakistan-India ties along with the Af-Pak crisis will affect South Asia. The policies to stifle journalism and activism in Myanmar may affect its adjoining countries. The on-going crisis in England because of the Brexit has left the country reeling for economic recovery. Recently, the Bank of England reported that Britain’s economy may be heading for its sharpest annual slump in GDP in more than 300 years. It cited that Britain may face a 14% fall in 2021 and fears a 15% decline in 2021. These are alarming numbers. They will affect Britain’s trade and economic ties with the regional countries and with the world. Europe, on a whole, is fighting against the Covid-19. Each country under the European Union umbrella will be deciphering a way to come out of this predicament. After what transpired in Italy and Spain, with unprecedented deaths in a short time, the socio-economic fabric will take time to mend itself. Until then, their focus will be on rebuilding their society.
It seems the world may never return to its state that it was in during the pre-Covid-19 era. Countries are now focusing on utilizing their internal and innate resources. They are relying less on globalization but on mobilizing their resources of human, land, labor, and capital. Covid-19 has presented to the world a war-like scenario. Without any country firing a single weapon, the world has come under the consequences of how a world war would have changed the socio-economic and political dimensions. Countries – from the developed and developing categories – would need to streamline their resources and work on their own. Diplomatic affairs, bilateral ties, and trade will continue but until the adverse effects of the Covid-19 are not eliminated, geopolitical affairs will remain rickety.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Karachi.