In 2015, on a TED talk show, Bill Gates, an American business magnate warned us that: “Today the greatest risk of global catastrophe (pandemic), if anything that kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it is more likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war.”
Whereas, the world has been heading towards a Faustian bargain for nuclear ‘deterrence’ and other high-tech weaponry, investing huge amounts — it has turned a complete blind eye to address another killing machine: a pandemic. Unfortunately, the world did not learn from the history of virus outbreaks causing massive human fatalities in all corners of the globe.
Most prominent ones being the Black Death (200 million deaths) and the Spanish Flu (50 million deaths). The latest pandemic, which is the “mysteriously contagious” coronavirus (COVID-19), has killed 345,987 people at the time of writing, and the number continues to soar.
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Covid-19’s impact on global economic growth
It was largely believed to be China-centric jolt, which has now turned into a pandemic engendering a global crisis. Global wealth has precipitously plummeted, the reverberations of volatile global stock markets are being viciously felt all across the world. In the epoch of globalization, the global economy has become more interdependent – which is why the pandemic is having an impact on global economic growth.
According to experts, the foreign direct investment flows could fall between 5 and 15 per cent to their lowest of the levels since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and perhaps even far worse. This time the economic crisis seems to be more intense and distinct. An initial downside scenario sees a $2 trillion shortfall in global income, having a particularly adverse impact on the Global South.
As the virus has proliferated from Asia to Euro-America, it has altered its course from supply concerns to a demand crisis. It is due to the measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus such as social distancing, travel restrictions, cancellations of major events, the closing of shops, restaurants etc., to curb economic activities. The 2008 crisis response involved liquidity and solvency-related policy measures to encourage people to spend again. However, the current crisis did not start as a financial crisis – but could evolve into one if economic activity remains stalled. It is predicted that the virus could cut down global economic growth by at least 0.5% to 1.5%.
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Are we looking at a new world order post-Covid-19?
Looking at the events that have taken place in the recent past, it can be inferred that post-coronavirus, the world may witness a change in leadership or a different global structure. The Sword of Damocles now hangs on the faltering power of the United States and the failing solidarity of the European Union. This has shown that this pandemic has the potential to reshape the geopolitical structure.
When the world was clueless and still in a state of paranoia, China’s President Xi Jinping, the People’s Leader, emerged triumphant after a decisive battle against the coronavirus (COVID-19) from Wuhan. As Pepe Escobar, a Brazilian journalist puts it “there is a new global leader in town.”
In the aftermath of the breakout and a death toll of thousands in Italy, it was China who responded to the call first. What’s even more astounding is the fact that the first medical team, which arrived from China had a banner that read “waves from the same sea, leaves from the same tree, and flowers from the same garden”. This reflects Beijing’s tendency of a soft power approach in the geopolitical domain.
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Amidst the entire chaos, China sent planeloads of masks, ventilators and medical teams to Italy and France, and coronavirus testing kits to Cambodia. It also sent medics to, Iran which suffered the most after China and now the U.S. The emerging global leader is helping across the Euro-Asia. It also did not ignore its faithful iron-friend Pakistan, by sending equipment to fight the ‘war against the pandemic.’
Global leadership credentials are somehow based on high ethical and moral standards, provision of the greater public good, objectives based on past lessons, setting examples of solidarity and harmony, and coordinating global responses to confront or conform to events taking place. It is interesting to note that historically, global orders have had a tendency to change gradually at first and then all at once.
Trump’s incompetence: a threat to American global authority
The Trump administration’s incompetence is visible from the steps taken by key institutions: the White House, the Department of Homeland Security and the Health Department. It ended up confusing the public rather than offering some relief at the time of the prevailing crisis.
It is quite visible that the incompetent administration of the U.S has stepped down from its leadership role abroad. The intermittent interventions, meddling with foreign policy as well as national interests of other states and most of all, the repeated blows to the multilateralism in Trump’s tenure is leading the country towards the end of the American empire in the 21st century. And we are living in this time of transition.
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China becomes the “world’s Santa Claus”
In contrast, China has successfully employed the ability to mobilize international support. It has promoted China’s civilized approach, which is based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination. The Belt and Road Initiative, since it was launched in 2013, has resulted in cooperation agreements with 125 countries and 29 international organizations, and has estimated planned investments at more than $1 trillion.
Once again, in the wake of Covid-19, President Xi Jinping, in a phone call with Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, pledged to establish a Health Silk Road, an extension and companion to the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Godfree Roberts in an article gave China the status of the ‘World’s Santa Claus’ as the spirit of global co-operation and trust is shifting towards China. The country is emerging as the preeminent economic and political power.
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To fight against this engineered or genuine outbreak of the virus is yet another debate, which will unfold in days to come, but the choices made by the Chinese people of self-sacrifice and solidarity have lessons for the rest of the world. This hard time all across the globe shall pass, and eventually, we will realize that China is ‘The Last Man Standing’ in the global arena of the 21st century.
Syed Taimoor Shah is a Research Scholar at National Defense University, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.