COVID-19 and the New World Order

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Eduardo del Buey
Foto: Afp
La Jornada Maya

Jueves 4 de junio, 2020

COVID-19 is a watershed moment in this century and may well result in a realignment of global power as people and governments learn to navigate this new reality.

A new global economic model could well arise based on limiting global production chains in those sectors of the economy that are of strategic interest to governments. Many healthcare items whose production is concentrated abroad will be brought home by any governments that have been burnt during this pandemic.

The neoliberal socio-economic model of dependency on the free market to deliver social programs could well be replaced by a more interventionist governance model since the unregulated markets alone have not been able to reduce the increasing levels of income inequity in most countries.
Indeed, Forbes Magazine estimates that a small number of billionaires have earned over $250 billion since the pandemic began. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos alone reportedly earned $34 billion during this period, at the same time that he reduced his employees’ health benefits. This as people struggle to keep their jobs and, possibly, their homes and their retirement savings.

The informal economy in many developing countries will continue to suffer significantly, and this could well lead to the need to create a new type of “Marshall Plan” to train increasing numbers of people in the use of technology. Again, government intervention on a national and multilateral scale could well be essential to avoid a reversal towards the excessive nationalisms of the past that could result in greater global instability and violence.

Apart from the uncertain economic situation, the environment is in crisis, millions of refugees continue to suffer the ravages of war and other forms of violence, the pandemic continues apace, and regional military conflicts continue.

These all require international cooperation if they are to be addressed effectively but, given the current weakness of international institutions, can member states find a way to give these institutions stronger mandates to meet these challenges?

Finally, the global order could well increasingly march to the Chinese tune as America’s isolationism and China’s Belt and Road initiative brings more countries into its economic and political orbit.

Absent U.S. leadership, and given Chinese control of an important number of major infrastructure installations in Western and developing countries, even a China weakened by the pandemic will be a major force with which to be reckoned.

But three questions remain.

First, is China willing to play by a set of international rules in order to take the lead of a global economy that requires structure and coherence?
Second, can China resist throwing its weight around refrain from bullying other countries and use soft power instead to meet its objectives?

And third, should Donald Trump lose in november, will the next US administration change gears and return to seek a more global leadership role?

The post COVID-19 world order is a work in progress.

But, absent greater governmental intervention in national economies, a more regulated global governance structure, and the acceptance of an international rules-based international trading system by all countries, global instability could well continue to be the order of the day.

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Edición: Ana Prdaz