According to the latest media reports, more than 1.5 million people have died worldwide due to coronavirus, a third of them in the last two months alone. Nearly 65 million people have been infected by COVID-19 and in the past week, more than 10,000 died on average every day.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday the world could be fighting the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic for decades to come even if vaccines are quickly approved.
Academics and policymakers are now looking at the post-COVID-19 World Order to determine the nature of the governance system the states tend to adopt. Several research and policy papers have been published in this regard.
Farah Adeed, a Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Management and Technology (UMT), and Saleha Anwar, a Research Scholar at the University of the Punjab, Lahore, wrote an article on the changing nature of the global order; who is likely to lead the world?
The paper argues that COVID-19 does not impact the World Order as much as exaggerated by the scholars and opinion makers around the world. Global politics was already witnessing some significant changes. Secondly, it identifies that the issues between China and the US existed before the pandemic. The pandemic is not responsible for the US-China rivalry.
Some scholars and several political commentators have argued that the world after the COVID-19 shall not be the same. Henry Kissinger has argued that “the reality is that the world will never be the same after the coronavirus”. The main focus remained on an intriguing question; how does a country (authoritarian or democratic) respond to the COVID-19? The supposed success or failure to contain the spread of the virus was tantamount to the success of failure of the political system (ideology) a country is following.
The writers mention that there is an ideological insecurity prevailing among the western scholarship that China may present its success against the COVID-19 outbreak to expand its autocratic model of governance. The debate has been reduced from China vs. America to democracy vs. authoritarianism.
Due to three interlinked reasons, the writers argue that the COVID-19 is neither about democracy vs. autocratic rules nor it is going to alter the basis of the current international system.
First, generally, people do not start questioning the basis of a political system during a time of crisis. However, if the system is already shaky and based upon a contestable political philosophy, it is likely to shamble.
Second, a system loses its credibility if all the states with similar systems (here meaning liberal democracies) behave in the same way. In the present context, the US did not effectively contained the virus but, at the same time, New Zeeland did it. In such scenarios, citizens tend to question the administrative skills of their rulers, not the legitimacy of the system.
Third, there are unlikely to be mass demands for replacing democracies with authoritarian regimes because of the fact that economic impacts are shared, not limited to any one state. Apart from a few exceptions, economies of democracies as well as autocratic regimes have been hard hit by COVID-19.
While commenting on the decline of the US as the sole superpower of the writer, Adeed and Anwar point out that Francis Fukuyama and Joseph Nye so sure about the supremacy of the US that they did not explore the nature of the challenges the country is facing. They argue that America is facing three interlinked crises; 1) legitimacy crisis 2) Economic stagnation 3) Diminishing soft power. These crises, argue the authors, are not due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
To counter those claiming the 21st century to be the Chinese century, the writers point out that China is facing three challenges: 1) political 2) ideological 3) cultural. Without addressing these challenges, China cannot be what the US has been for years.
The writers also argue that China wants to dominate the world rather than lead it. The point seems to be valid as China has made a presence in 83 of its Belt and Road (BRI) partner countries and continues to further its interests via economic diplomacy.
In addition to this, the paper hints towards the ascendance of regional organizations rather than global ones. However, the BREXIT and retreat of the European Union (EU) raises questions over this claim.
Finally, it makes the claim that the world will witness autocratic regimes and authoritarian capitalism. It quotes China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia as examples to empirically prove the point. Some scholars, however, believe that the world is becoming ever democratic due to information communication technologies (ICTs) especially the internet. Social media has given voice to the citizens. There has already been a manifestation of technological impact in the form of the Arab Spring that changed the Middle East forever.
The paper covers and addresses areas that are most often ignored by scholars. It contains comprehensive research on global politics, world order, and the current pandemic and its impacts. Most importantly, the thesis presented by the paper can largely be agreed upon.