Will the Balance of Power Lean on to East: Political effects of COVID-19 -M. Mohiuddin Mortuza

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The mostly discussed issue in the world is the pandemic of COVID-19 that has made the world paused in centuries. From tea table to online platforms, nowhere is now available to keep your mind aside from thinking of this pandemic which has reshaped our daily lifestyle. But, the fact is that the initial exhibition of the pandemic is just an iceberg beneath which shall cause economic recession, poverty and political change in national and international level. Our years agedconvictions and views have been in the verge of being shattered. The fear is that we are not ready to accept the changes yet as it made us feel not to accept anything “new”.

Confirming that, everyone in the global village is starting to draw lessons. In France, President Macron has predicted “this period will have taught us a lot…The day after when we have won, we will be stronger morally. We will draw the consequences, all the consequences.” He concluded his initial remarks by promising to start with major health investment in the country’s budget.
Perhaps the great shock till now, due to the virus, is the ship “Globalization” has been hit by the iceberg “COVID-19” and the problems are yet to come. Now whether the ship will sustain

or not depends on the steps taken by countries especially by the west. But the west is lamenting now on their loss which has no silver line yet to show a sunny day. The unity upon which the EU was established now perhaps needs an appointment with the history. Unuttered psychological dispute between eastern and western Europe over free mobilization of labor and capital has come forth. The question has been risen among countries about the existence of so called unity if in the time of crisis the countries raise wall to protect only themselves and leave others poorly equipped and unprepared to face the crisis on their own. In times of scarcity it emerged every person was for themselves, and Italy felt most left to itself.
Online platforms have been flooded with the videos of blazed EU flag done by Italian and Spanish citizens. There is no scope left to look at these issues trivially as this is a part of a broader inward estate of the mentioned countries’ people. Certainly the political figures are also reflecting the thoughts of their fellow citizens. The former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has called for a commission into the future to estimate and reconsider the future of European Union. Former United States secretary, Henry Kissinger, lamented in a writing putting a question mark upon US superiority and its hard time to face the COVID-19. In the article, he put forth the issue that the rulers must be prepared for the transition of the post-corona virus world order.

The issue being discussed around the table is perhaps less on cooperation and more on the possibility of either China will replace or the US will remain as leaders of the post-corona virus world. In Europe, the US and Asia, the discussion has broadened out. Despite of paused Public life, public debate has been accelerated. From the trade-offs between a closed, shattered economy and public health or in short the labor force actually, the fragilities of globalization, the future of the EU, scope of advantage and disadvantages of authoritarianism – everything is now served on the table for debate.
The situation has turned into a race for global leadership and it will be the country or countries that most effectively respond to the crisis that will probably lead the future. Large scale disaster in history has always spared the leader’s seat to the nation that dealt it successfully. The world order neither remained same after the First World War nor was it after the Second World War. But the virus seems to be more disastrous as it has shaken every single inch of the world while the two World Wars affected mostly some part of the Europe, Asia and Africa. Thereafter, Conclusion of the lesson demands for a massive change in world order after this disaster as well.
Many are already claiming that the east is few steps ahead in this race till date. The South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han has argued that the victors are the “Asian states like Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore that have an authoritarian mentality which comes from their cultural tradition of Confucianism.

People are less rebellious and more obedient than in Europe. They trust the state more. Daily life is much more organized. ”
At this moment the US is marked as the most dangerous centre of the pandemic by the World Health Organization. The death and infected toll in the US is higher than any country and still the world has seen demonstrations in Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, California and in some other American cities on behalf of “No Lock Down”, “Save the Economy” and many other slogans that disregard the heavy losses in the US. Critics are describing these incidents as the failure of the government. Some, mostly the lefts, are even pointing finger to the failure of unconditional democracy. China in this stage will not remain simply seated and let the chance of proving their ideological superiority slipped.Byung-Chul Han mentioned “To confront the virus, Asians are strongly committed to digital surveillance. The epidemics in Asia are fought not only by virologists and epidemiologists, but also computer scientists and big data specialists”.
A new generation of young assertive Chinese diplomats has taken to social media to assert their country’s success to gain control over the pandemic situation using surveillance tools that actually are not much liked by the west. The kind of undeclared cold war has brewed after 90’s decade under the harsh light of Covid-19.

The Harvard international relations theorist Stephen Walt repeats Byung-Chul Han in an interview to Foreign Policy Magazine “Coronavirus will accelerate the shift of power and influence from west to east. South Korea and Singapore have shown the best response and China has managed well in the aftermath of its initial mistakes”.
Economic relations, upon which international relations depend mostly, will have a new shape due to the experience gathered from this crisis. Countries may have the tendency to try to be more self dependent on local productions after the pandemic is over. LDC and Undeveloped countries will focus on medical and technological skills while the Europe and North America will increase focus on producing consumer goods and food. In short, the countries will draw lessons to stand just itself strong if it becomes compelled to shut the border and any kind of global supply chain. This precaution definitely will make many existing rules, regulations, proposals and plans of different kind of economic organizations like WTO, IMF and so on. The plans will be re-planned, the designs will be redrawn and the rules will be rewritten.
But the dispute has widened into an ugly battle between north and south Europe over the issue of Euro bond. The bailout fund is proposed to help and save Europe during and after the pandemic respectively. The French and Germans argued whether the ‘Bond Plan’ will slow down the desire to reconstruct the shattered economy of South Europe while on the same issue the Italy argued in favor of the bond.
Though the pandemic has shaken the world’s economic situation and international relations, it has far way to go to replace the USA from its position. The Experts who are thinking of China as being the leader perhaps based on the perception that China holds the first position of global export economy. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that the main markets of China’s export products in Europe, the US and most parts of these areas are currently closed to any sort of trade due to lock down. China’s internal service and manufacturing sectors are still closed; the mentioned sector comprises about 82% of the total economy. Besides, the transactions of global trade are mostly done by the USD. So, it won’t be as easy as many experts are thinking of the repositioning of the world order. But it will be wise too to keep in mind that China has already bought the giant European companies’ stocks and those will return triple times (or even more) more “when” the pandemic is over.
There are lots of probabilities of different types of outcomes. Only the time will determine the final outcome that may reconstruct the world and its behavior to environment, health and research sector and most of all; to the vulnerable.

M. Mohiuddin Mortuza : Post graduate student, University of Dhaka