Post-pandemic world: Is China going to replace U.S. as superpower?

Coronavirus pandemic is changing world order. While the U.S. has abandoned its allies, China takes charge as the world leader. Will the U.S. & NATO continue to dominate global political stage while facing the pandemic?

China

Amid opacity hovering over post-pandemic world — one thing is certain — the prevailing global contagion is likely to alter the course of the world. A chronological account of the world reveals, major natural catastrophes have toppled some of the greatest empires and annihilated many dynasties; the ongoing calamity is moving on the same trajectory with similar intensity and enormity. Hence, it is likely to undergo comparable outcomes.

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The most probable consequence of the prevailing crisis may be, nationalisation and emergence of centrifugal forces, within the economic system. Nicolas Tenzer, chair of the Cerap think tank in Paris argues, “rising barriers in response to the virus will strengthen the populist and nationalist forces that have long called for reinforcing borders, it is a true gift for them”.  Another veteran U.S Market commentator writes, “the corona virus depressing effects on the global economy and disruptions of supply chain is…driving the last nail into the coffin of the globalists”.

However, the process of disintegration of globalized world, in fact, has been underway for quite some time. Donald Trump’s rejection of the trans-pacific Partnership trade pact (TPP) and the subsequent launch of trade war against both allies and adversaries, along with Brexit, are a true manifestation of this trend. The covid-19 pandemic will add momentum to this process — by encouraging businesses in Europe and the US — to move their critical supply lines away from Asia and towards local supplies.

US-China trade war

Trump has sought to disengage the US economy from China by imposing harsh tariffs on Chinese goods. He’s also urging American companies to dismantle their supply lines in China, and move them home, or to more reliable countries elsewhere. Last summer, Apple urged its suppliers in China, into relocating 15 to 30 percent of their production capacity to Southeast Asia.

Read more: Russia comes out in support of China after US allegations on coronavirus outbreak

Now, as a result of the coronavirus, US-based multinational corporations like Apple are accelerating plans to establish alternative supply lines outside China or to move them back home. The pressure is mounting on Washington, to adopt tough measures aimed at reducing US reliance on China for security-related technologies; advanced computers and electrical gear — and for their expanded production at home.

On the other hand, China is likely to reduce its dependence on the American Market and place greater emphasis on clients in Africa and Asia. The belt and road initiative (BRI), Beijing’s primary vehicle of trade, as of now, is experiencing a slowdown as a result of the pandemic, but nevertheless it will experience a fresh impetus once Chinese achieve rehabilitation. As part of this endeavor, China is likely to demand greater use of yuan in trade and development agreements, progressively edging out the dollar and euro.

America’s worsening ties with Europe

Europe is inclined to drift away from Washington because of Trump’s hostility to NATO and punitive tariffs on European goods. European leaders, once the current crisis recedes, are likely to enhance their distance from Washington and seek greater autonomy in both their economic and political affairs.

All this suggests we are going to witness an increasingly segmented world in the future. Three major blocs or trading zones will be operating. They will employ different rules and devise separate currencies; dollar will be used in the Western Hemisphere, the euro in Europe and Africa, and the yuan in Asia.

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Moreover, coronavirus pandemic will also test the performance of various regimes and governments. Those who manage the crisis effectively may enjoy an upsurge in public support. On the contrary, those performing poorly, will lose public support, and may be ousted. The Communist leadership of China, for example, has come under severe criticism from ordinary citizens over its failure to act swiftly in Wuhan, and then attempting to cover up its malfeasance.

In Japan, more than a million posts on Twitter have called for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resignation, because of his failure to contain the virus outbreak. Iran’s clerical regime may also face a popular backlash for concealing the extent of the outbreak, and then responding to it in a haphazard fashion. Eventually, every government will be judged on its performance in addressing the coronavirus.

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Furthermore, in the aftermath of this dismal outbreak, many industries are going to suffer heavy losses. The industry which is more vulnerable and is most likely to suffer huge losses, is oil industry. Oil is the most essential and valuable commodity for international trade, and its sale in international markets is critical to the economies of oil-exporting states.

When oil prices are high, the leaders of these countries invest huge sums on major infrastructure projects and bolster social services, thereby reaping public support. On the contrary, when prices are low, they are forced to minimize government expenditures; resulting in agony and pain for the masses, and hence inviting revolt. With the Covid-19 pandemic —   collapsing economic activity around the world — we can expect a long period of low prices—with severe and possibly fatal consequences for the current leadership of major oil producers.

Among other global shifts, we can also expect many other geopolitical consequences of Covid-19 pandemic. The progressive unraveling of the overarching strategy is one example. This strategy has governed the US military since the end of World War II aka “forward deployment” and “coalition warfare”. It holds that American forces should fight the nation’s enemies on their borders. This entails permanent deployment of massive US military contingents in countries like Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and the greater Persian Gulf—a stance that also requires the acquiescence and support of the countries involved. American troops have to be reinforced by their coalition partners — whether from the NATO countries or under bilateral arrangements — like the ones forged with Japan and South Korea. Since the emergence of Covid-19, all of this is in jeopardy.

Given the current pandemic, America would like to protect its troops stationed at different places like Italy, Japan, and South Korea, where the virus has been raging up and some American personnel have also become infected. At an even greater risk, are the troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the communities adjacent to US bases have seen a surge in Covid-19 cases, primarily due to the pilgrims arriving from Iran.

Given these critical circumstances, the future of “coalition warfare” is endangered by the pandemic, particularly due to the frequent intermingling of US and allied troops. Hence, the strategy of “coalition warfare” is unlikely to survive in a world of recurring pandemics and withering alliances.

Production bottlenecks in electronic manufacturing have also created humungous hurdles in the fight against corona virus. With the outbreak, some governments have started unleashing their worst instincts. Even before the Covid-19 outbreak began, Chinese manufacturers made half of the world’s medical masks. These manufacturers ramped up production as a result of the crisis, but the Chinese government ended up buying the country’s entire supply of masks, while also importing large quantities of masks and respirators. China certainly needed them, but the result of its buying spree was a supply crunch which undermined other countries’ response to the disease.

China assumes global leadership

Finally, whereas Trump administration has exploited the pandemic to pull back on integration, China is using this crisis to showcase its willingness to lead. Despite early mistakes that nearly cost the lives of thousands of people, Beijing has now learnt how to fight the new virus. It also has large stockpiles of the required paraphernalia. These are, for sure, valuable assets for China to exert its influence and regain its lost economic niche in the world.

It’s also worth mentioning here, what Italy experienced in early March. During the crisis, it called on other EU countries to provide emergency medical equipment, as critical shortages had forced its doctors to choose between patients, as to which one to save and which to let die. None of them responded. However, China offered assistance in the form of ventilators, masks, protective suits, and swabs. As China’s experts Rush Doshi and Julian Gewirtz have argued, Beijing seeks to portray itself as the leader of the global fight against the new coronavirus, in order to promote goodwill and expand its tentacles across the globe.

Read more: US, UK & Israel engineered Corona to Bring China Down: Says former FM in video

To cap it all, post-pandemic world is likely to accommodate many geo-political and geo-economic changes. It may even result in the emergence of new world order. Therefore, once we overcome coronavirus pandemic, we, as a nation, must revisit our domestic and foreign policies and tailor them in accordance with the requirements of the post-pandemic world order.

Abdul Rasool Syed is a Legal Practitioner & columnist based in Quetta. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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