As the impact of COVID-19 pandemic increases fiercely on economies across the globe, rising allegations on China over providing incorrect information about coronavirus cases and subsequent suspicions over China’s alleged pre-planned involvement paves the way for various conspiracy theories to emerge and revivify the question of ‘New world order’. As such scholars had already predicted that the USA and China are bound to go in the direction of the war, as ‘Thucydides trap’ suggests. The ongoing trade war between the two and COVID-19 has only made this hypothesis clearer and stronger than ever.
Advocates of conspiracy theories, though, have been extremely critical of China’s role without having justifiable and unanimously acceptable facts and evidence, raise a question of plummeting infection cases and quicker than expected recovery rate of infected patients in China. Now, even if conspiracy theories are believed to be true, the question arises about how China is going to take benefit from it? The answer remains uncertain. Even the scholars of International Relations haven’t been able to give a clear picture depicting a new global power configuration. At most, it can be argued that a new international system may emerge or the existing system may be revised. However, speculations of China-centric world order remains elusive. China has vociferously claimed that it has successfully contained COVID-19 by imposing draconian measures including a complete lockdown of cities. It then announced a series of humanitarian packages and also started supplying medical equipment to European countries.
If there is anything substantial that China’s export-based mindset may aspire to gain, here is a translation of its power stature into economical benefits. As cases in China started declining, its economy is believed to be started recovering. However, nothing is surprising and dramatic here which can suggest that China has some kind of extraordinary growth model that can vindicate the theory of China-centric world order. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that the Chinese economy can flourish in a situation when demand, at least for a shorter period, will remain sluggish in a post-pandemic world.
Some scholars have asserted that China would capitalize on its success in containing the outbreak to emerge as the new global leader. However, such an approach may backfire because China can’t afford to get crumbled it’s already maligned Soft Power. It is highly likely that West in general and the United States, in particular, are going to impose reasonable trade restrictions including Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.
Fareed Zakaria had suggested that we are living in a post-American world where there is a decline of the west and the rise of the rest. The above words seem true considering the failure of the USA and the European Union to deal with the crisis. America’s unwillingness to lead a globally coordinated response to the crisis is no surprise considering Trump’s disregard for multilateralism. Official figures of infections and casualties in the country reveal utter helplessness of the USA despite having world-class infrastructure and well-developed healthcare.
Failure on this front urge leadership to accept harsh geostrategic realities. It is the time the USA needs to realize that not every war is won using snipers. One thing that COVID-19 has decisively established is that the liberal world order is in a grave crisis. Liberalism, international institutions, civil society, and multinational companies will probably be the losers in the post-COVID-19 era, as Talha Kose suggests in his article.
World Health Organization has been proved ill-equipped and incompetent at every level to deal with pandemics of such severity. The present world order is uncertain. It is said that there is neither new nor order today. Charles Kindleberger argued that the disastrous decade of the 1930s as a result of the United States’ failure to provide global public goods after it had replaced Britain as a leading power.
Today, as China’s power grows, will it be able to provide global public goods? Chances of China, howsoever giant and economically vibrant seems, providing global public goods including stable climate, financial stability, freedom of seas remains meagre.
China does not seem to be in a situation to assume responsibility as a global leader at a time when existing issues remain unsolved and new issues are emerging to which China is equally indifferent and clueless. The only thing COVID-19 has proved is that the authoritarian regimes may be more efficient than democracies in dealing with such a crisis.
However, such an argument can’t have a debilitating effect on the liberal world order. Whether a new international system emerges or an existing system is revised partially or completely, the ideas of multilateralism, cooperation, collective growth, and global governance are not going to lose relevance any time soon.