Imtiaz Raffi Butt
The COVID-19 virus began its onslaught in the beginning of the year 2020. The World Bank, IMF and History academia around the globe are calling it, “the Great Lockdown”, and that is how it will be known after many centuries have passed. It is a pandemic that shook humanity to its core and brought it to the knees. The epicenter of the virus was initially China, after that the epicenter became Italy in Europe and now it is in New York, USA. It seems in stages, nations large and small are passing through this challenge. The short term shocks have been felt and some nations like Germany, Japan and Singapore have successfully mitigated the effects, but the same cannot be said regarding the long term impact of the virus outbreak. The power circles are in complete transformation and the pace for the New World Order has changed drastically. The world will never be the same again. Global dynamics, alliances, leadership roles are in flux and it is critical for every nation to weight their options and draft a strategy that increases their chances of survival and well-being. Covid-19 and the world it has created, needs to be analyzed critically.
In the eyes of geo-political researchers like Victor David Manson, Covid-19 has exposed the lack of co-ordination and robustness of democratic institutions. As we can clearly observe, China was the first country where the virus began. The authoritarian Government and the Central Communist party put up an impressive vanguard against the virus. Starting from Wuhan, the Chinese Government implemented a comprehensive lockdown, which became the role model for the rest of the world. Although, the virus could not be contained within China but only within three months, Bei Jeing was able to contain the situation and controlled the spread. There were strict laws and curfew-like environments seen all around China. Only after three months, the numbers of Covid patients began dropping. China was able to setup record examples of building field hospitals within weeks, which normally take months to make in other developed nations. As of last week, Shanghai opened their Disneyland and the economy is recovering lost GDP. Could this level of performance and efficiency be achieved in a democratic country? I would beg to differ.
In Europe, US and other democracy-oriented countries, lockdowns have not been as effective. In democracies, pressure groups are able to set agendas and influence policies of the Government. Unfortunately, in many countries, these pressure groups are composed of elitist groups and businessmen who are more concerned with profiteering than the safety of the common-folk. As a result, we can see that many such nations failed to respond promptly and the number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 could not be controlled. Donald Trump is now set to lose the election by a landfall for listening to bad advice over delaying the lockdown. There are 1500 deaths every day and the numbers are set to rise. Similarly, Italy became the worst example of an inefficient response because of pressure groups influencing the Government not to take action. Thousands of dead bodies and a destroyed medical infrastructure are the outcome of inefficiency attributed to democratically elected Governments. The Covid pandemic has been a reality check for Western democracies. It is only logical that the Governments of the future will have to jeopardize the liberties enjoyed by the citizens of liberal societies. If freedoms cannot save lives, it is not freedom at all. Many a regimes are set to fall and votes will be casted to leaders who affirm that they will be able to take tough decisions to protect the masses. Covid-19 has created a dent on the armor of capitalism and liberal democracy.
Since the year 2000, globalization was the most researched and the most often used word in the forums of United Nations. The idea was that as a result of global trade, commerce, social media, electronic media and ease of travel, a global village has been created. An American company can mass produce its goods with components made in Europe manufactured in a Chinese factory. IT and mass communication and Internet made it possible to generate demand overseas. Branding, marketing and entertainment industry made way for a cosmopolitan consciousness but Covid-19 is set to change that as well. 2020 is the year of De-Globalization. Social Distancing is the new norm, handshakes are out of fashion and isolation in homes is the order of the day with covid pandemic threats. Countries have closed borders and immigration. There will be considerable “inward looking”. Leaders like Narendra Modi and Trump will be able to use Corona as an excuse to build more walls. In the name of protection, there will be global isolation instead of globalization. Nationalism and protectionism will be boosted in the world to come. Regional and Global co-operation will come to a standstill and the only hope will be the strengthening of International Government Organizations like WTO, UN, WCO and others that thrive on the co-operation of nations.
China became the first victim of Covid-19 but it is also the first to recover. US and the EU are wary of this fact. Already, the hostility between China and the US on the origins of Covid-19 has become a hot topic but the US has to admit that it is now dependent on China. Majority of American Corporations have their production houses and factories in China. China has become the chief producer of medical supplies, products and trading services. America is having difficulties in dealing with the pandemic and China has already recovered.
This alone is cause enough to initiate a cold war. If a joint front is not created between the US and Europe versus China; there will be no hurdle in the path of China to global dominance, especially in the wake of revival of the Silk Route of Trade and Commerce in Asia and the Middle East in the form of One Belt One Road Project. Covid-19 has changed the face of global power in the world and the scenario is in rapid transformation. Europe needs to make a decision whether they will side with America for economic well-being or they will prefer Xi Jinping as the new global leader.
In the world after Covid-19, many industries will cease to exist or will be minimized beyond measure. Oil sector has lost its worth in billions of dollars. It will not be able to recover its original value for many years. Nations that were reliant on oil for their economic prosperity will join the poor nations of the world. Sectors related to oil will also suffer the same fate.
Middle East will be worst hit by Covid-19. Similarly, Africa with its below average health infrastructure will be devastated by the pandemic. Similarly, travel, entertainment, tourism will not be able to recover their former glory. The focus will shift to building modern and expansive medical facilities. IT companies, service providers and basic services will be in high demand. Due to negative impact on the economy, lockdowns will be eased gradually but there will always be a threat of resurgence of virus outbreaks. The war against Covid-19 is going to be a long war of attrition and it will change the outlook of humanity until there is a successful vaccine. Till then, every nation, every person on this planet, should be ready with resolve and determination to be well-informed to survive and if possible, to thrive in the post COVID world.