The second decade of the third millennium has kicked off with a global crisis in the form of COVID-19. The virus started in China and has since caused the entire world to go into lockdown. Every day life has come to a sudden halt, and huge metropolises such as New York, London, Paris and Milan have become quiet ghost towns.
The virus has exposed the weakness of human civilisation and mankind as people have been forced to cower inside their homes. Countries that we consider to be the most scientifically, politically, culturally and economically advanced were unable to prevent their citizens from becoming infected. Taxpaying citizens will demand a massive change to the current state of public services and naturally the Coronavirus will also have massive implications on other issues as well.
It can be said that during the 2020s, many states will witness multiple changes to their respective political and economic structures.
We can expect to see a number of changes in Europe. With the exception of Germany and the Scandinavian countries, no other European country handled the crisis particularly well. Furthermore, the virus has exposed the weaknesses of many European public health systems. The European Union’s inability to help the countries worst affected by the virus has left a vacuum, which the Chinese and the Russians quickly filled with their own aid. This saga will cause a resurgence of far-right Eurosceptic politics in the countries that were badly hit by the virus such as Italy and Spain. In spite of the taxes that European citizens pay to the EU, the organization left many of said citizens stranded. The EU’s failure to deal with this crisis will push its politicians towards re-evaluating the European experiment.
The second global change will affect the current economic/industrial infrastructure in relation to the existing global supply and demand chain. It is clear that the West needs to seriously think about China’s role as the hub of industry. This is especially vital considering China’s lies regarding the Coronavirus and its abstention from sharing research on the disease with global partners.
Japan has already started policies to relocate its factories based in China back home. The Japanese government is offering its businesses up to 2 billion dollars worth of aid to persuade them to relocate factories out of China. This is a massive development considering the fact that China is Japan’s largest economic partner. Japan isn’t the only government that is trying to move away from China’s influence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not known for nationalistic rhetoric, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Nevertheless, even she indirectly criticized China for its lack of transparency on the rapid spread of the virus. Sweden recently closed all its Chinese government funded schools and halted the educational exchange programmes it has with China. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, recently said that China would pay the price for its negligence. US lawyers have filed lawsuits demanding compensation worth twenty trillion dollars for the damages China caused by concealing the severity of the virus.
The world is heading towards radical changes that will have major repercussions on the global industrial and political orders. China, which has been working long and hard to become the number one industrial nation, won’t subside any time soon considering its vast capabilities. China currently competes in many sectors with the US, as it strives to become the global superpower. On that basis, it has started expanding its influence in Africa and it is striving to expand further as its Silk Road strategy has given it a foothold in Europe. US President Donald Trump was among the first politicians to seriously address the danger China poses and has sought to counter its rise on the global stage. As such, he started a trade war with Beijing in hopes that tariffs on Chinese goods would shift the trade balance which was heavily in China’s favour.
To alleviate its current position at the global stage, China will increase its financial temptations to many countries that will suffer from economic stagnation due to the global pandemic. It will also seek to expand its trade relations, especially in Africa, Europe and some Middle Eastern countries. However, the US will not sit idly by, rather it will use its arsenal of economic sanctions and threats to counter China.
Will the Coronavirus usher in a new bipolar world order reminiscent of that of the Cold War? What we know for sure is that we will witness a tense decade in which major changes might even affect the Middle East.