It is far from clear how the world will eventually transition from the current Covid-19 pandemic. There are both deep apprehensions and yet also hopeful signs of progress towards a better future.
The World Health Organization this week warns that the viral disease may not be eradicated and could become a permanent threat to human health in the same way that the HIV disease presents.
In any case, global deaths from Covid-19 are bound to increase beyond the current level of 300,000, thereby wreaking further havoc on national economies and societies.
The economic devastation from the pandemic is global in scope but Western economies seem particularly hardest hit. The United States and Europe are grimly looking at abysmal falls in their economies which are being described as the worst since the Great Depression during the 1930s. There is little doubt that the pandemic is bringing about epochal change in the world.
A recent analysis by the Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that the geopolitical balance of economic power will pivot decisively from West to East following the pandemic.
The EIU comments: “It will act as an accelerant of existing geopolitical trends, in particular the growing rivalry between the U.S. and China and the shift in the economic balance of power from West to East.”
The escalation of provocative accusations from the Trump administration against China blaming the latter for the pandemic are baseless and reckless. But such vilification speaks of the sharper antagonism being expressed by the U.S. towards China, an antagonism that has been simmering for years before the latest crisis emerged. The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified American hostility towards Beijing precisely because the crisis has exposed the frailty of U.S. global power and the underlying shift that was already underway away from a U.S.-dominated world order. In short, Washington is lashing out from a fearful realization of its own feelings of insecurity as the world’s presumed “exceptional power”.
In a world confronted by existential threats the emphasis must be on multilateral cooperation and mutual partnership. The story of an invisible pathogen moving swiftly and seamlessly across borders, rendering trillion-dollar security systems futile, demonstrates the imperative of global cooperation.
President Trump’s so-called ‘America First’ policy, and more generally American unipolar conceit that has been around for decades, is being exposed for the dangerous fallacy that it is. Trump’s abandoning of the World Health Organization on the basis of slanderous claims relating to China epitomizes the redundancy of the U.S. model for global power. The abject failings of the U.S. to contain the Covid-19 pandemic stem from not only its baleful foreign policies but also from the bankruptcy of its capitalist economy and monetization of public health infrastructure in particular.
As evolutionary epidemiologist Rob Wallace eloquently put it in a recent interview: “Pandemics are mirrors. They tell a society its status.”
With extraordinarily high death tolls, the U.S. (80,000) and Britain (40,000) demonstrate their socio-economic systems are far from a healthy status. The Anglo-American model of capitalism is a failure. Parts of Europe have done better in handling the pandemic due to wider social democracy, but still the adherence to neoliberal capitalism had done much to exacerbate the damage from the disease in the European Union, as Italy and Spain attest.
China and Eurasia more generally appear to have shown greater fortitude and resilience in managing the pandemic. The death tolls are much less compared with Western nations, despite widespread infection from Covid-19. Part of that success is stronger state intervention and public health services. This is not to claim that China, Russia and others are paragons of economic progress to be emulated by the rest of the world. But one thing to their immense credit is the consistent advocacy of multilateralism and mutual partnership which leaders of these countries have made over many years. Such advocacy is in stark contrast to the zero-sum Cold War mentality of the U.S. and its European allies (minions), which seeks to demarcate the world into spheres of influence under Washington’s hegemony and Western private capital.
There are clear signs that the erstwhile U.S.-dominated global order is actually one of disorder where destructive, predatory relations and endless wars have prevailed. A pandemic disease has merely exposed the sociopathic disorder of U.S.-dominated global capitalism.
As the threat of pandemics seem to be increasing every decade, according to this international study by Rob Wallace and his colleagues, it is high time for a new global arrangement and vision of cooperation among nations.
It seems entirely appropriate that this present pandemic is shifting the global balance of economic power from West to East in a way that facilitates a transition to a more viable world. A successful, peaceful transition is far from a foregone conclusion. But it is possible.