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COVID-19 and the New World Order in Making?

The outbreak of the pandemic-COVID-19 has given an opportunity for many to predict the advent of a new world/global order. The people expressing their views come from all the ends of political and intellectual spectrums. As a result, a wide spectrum of opinion is reflected in the global media, especially its version.

If some see the emergence of the China-led world order, others see the sharp polarisation against China because of its role in the spread of Coronavirus. Arguably, it is too early to predict the shape of a new order and the role of China in it. The unpredictability of the emerging world order lies in uncertainty about the endurance of the very disease itself.

When Europe had become the epicentre, and later the United States (US) had the pandemic epicentre because of the delayed action to lockdown the country, it   appeared that China and other Asian countries will control health software such as sharing experience and practices followed during their combat against COVID-19 and health hardware containing medicines and protective mechanisms such gloves and sanitisers supply chain and subsequently, the world economy.

However, the Asian countries, including China are witnessing a new wave of the spread of the virus. This wave just now may not be appearing very alarming in China but the way it is spreading in South East Asian countries, it is difficult to forecast anything. More significantly, it is difficult to say anything about the intensity of the disease in the next waves.

So, all depends on the way the disease scenario unfolds. If China is affected by the next wave, its dominance of the economic or world order is not possible. If the world, including the US and Europe is disturbed and remains under the lockdown, yet China’s dominance is impossible. As it happened recently, consignments for Europe and the US were sent from China before they had come into lockdown. Some of these orders were either cancelled when the consignments were on the way or had no takers at the ports because of the lockdown. This situation led to the enormous loss for the Chinese companies.

The message is very clear that there is no early starter. The whole world has to recover only then the world economy will recover. And only then a country like China may think of taking any advantage.

The world, especially Western cannot, so easily go away from the US-led security order which subsidizes security for many, especially the Western countries. The US, under the Trump Administration, by all indications, will continue to be assertive. American allies may have to reluctantly fight a joint trade war against China. As a result, they cannot autonomously align with China for restructuring their economy or get additional investment without consulting the US. True, US allies  may in turn bring some sobering influence on the US and underline the relevance of complex interdependence which even the America-China trade war could not undo.

Author: Dr. Rajiv Nayan
The writer is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi. He was a Visiting Research Fellow at Japan Institute of International Affairs, Tokyo, where he published his monograph Non-proliferation Issues in South Asia.

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