The virus will chart the future direction of global politics
Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi
Our attention is focused on the impact of the coronavirus on the domestic contexts of states, but this pandemic also has varied implications for the future direction of global politics. Some of the current issues have been pushed to the background, others are being redefined and some new issues are surfacing.
Traditionally, global politics is dominated by competition and rivalries among powerful states. The rivalry between the US and Soviet Union that characterized post-World War ll politics, came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. The post-Soviet era of global politics saw the emergence of several power centers in global politics. However, competition between the US and China attracted much attention, and some analysts even describe the 21st Century as the Asian or Chinese Century.
But the coronavirus has shaken the primacy of powerful military and economic powers in global politics. It has shown that states like China, the US and many European states are vulnerable despite their political influence and military and economic power. These major states manifested helplessness when the virus hit them hard. This implies that global politics can no longer ignore natural calamities of global dimension.
The virus may not prove to be as dangerous as nuclear weapons, but its challenge cannot be ignored because it can negatively impact relations among states if they start blaming one another for the outbreak. Some American leaders described the coronavirus as the Chinese Virus or the Wuhan Virus. No doubt, China was the first country that was hit by the epidemic. However, its source of origin is yet to be determined and the issue is likely to figure in the discourse of international relations in the post-corona period.
The virus has hit at the roots of an important feature of current international relations, that is, globalization. It argues that modern communication and travel technologies have turned the post-Cold War world into a global village and the success of an economy depends on its linkages with the rest of the world within the neo-liberal economic framework that emphasizes the movement of people, ideas, goods and services across the territorial boundaries of the world. These notions of western economic liberalism and globalization were first challenged by global terrorism.
Now, the coronavirus has hit humanity harder than terrorism. After its initial eruption in Asia, it has targeted some European countries and the US in an overwhelming manner. The lockdown of cities and towns in a large number of countries and the disruption of international travel and the movement of people and goods across territorial boundaries of states has shown the non-enduring nature of globalization and the notion of the world turning into a global village.
The virus is expected to come under control and become manageable in a month or so, but its after-affects will haunt humanity, especially the underdeveloped and relatively poorer countries, for many years.
In countries like Pakistan and India, where poverty and underdevelopment are widespread, the virus has increased the challenge. A good number of people have lost their jobs, or their commercial activities have been suspended due to the lockdown of cities and towns. This has increased unemployment or caused the drying up of income. Most states are unable or unwilling to look after their most vulnerable.
Even if the situation returns to normal in a month or so, it will not be easy for these people to revert to normal commercial activities, and if the issue is neglected, several developing countries will face internal political uncertainty and instability. Such states will need international support and cooperation to cope with the misery caused by the virus epidemic.
These states will also find it difficult to repay old debts and interest on such debts. The global economic system will need to review its lending system for saving these states plunging into a new debt crisis.
The current virus epidemic has underlined that hard or military security is not the only requirement for the survival of the state. There is a need to recognize non-military security challenges. The state can collapse or face an acute internal crisis due to natural and human-made calamities. An epidemic, floods and cyclone and famine can undermine a state and society. Similarly, internal strife and conflict, ethnic or religious conflict or a widespread alienation of the people from the state can make a state dysfunctional.
Internal chaos or a collapse of the state can spillover to a neighboring state, causing damage beyond territorial boundaries. Therefore, greater attention needs to be given to creating mechanisms for societal or human security and helping the state to guarantee minimum social and economic security to its people.
This calls for active international and regional cooperation to meet the challenges of the post-corona world.