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Possible trends across the world post COVID-19

  • IASbaba
  • May 11, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Topic: General Studies 3:

  • India and its neighbourhood
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora. 

Possible trends across the world post COVID-19

Context:

  • As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis. 
  • Its rapid spread across the world compelled the governments to implement various degrees of lockdown which affected the global economy significantly
  • The world, right now, is facing the global economic crisis. 
  • In one of the posts on 9th May, we discussed how India should respond to the current geopolitical situation. 
  • Today, we discuss what trends we might get to see geopolitically in the post COVID-19 world.

Ascent of Asia

  • Economic forecasts indicate that only China and India are likely to register economic growth during 2020 out of the G-20 countries. 
  • Asian countries along with China have tackled the pandemic with greater swiftness, responsiveness and more effective state capacity as compared to the United States and Europe. 
  • Thus, It is likely that they will recover faster than those in the West. 

Rising China

  • The emergence of a stronger and more assertive China is also one of the changing geopolitical situations. 
  • China has been growing economically since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001
  • Its assertiveness has increased under the current President Xi Jinping’s leadership which has raised concerns in its neighbourhood and the U.S. 
  • In recent years, the U.S.-China relationship has moved from cooperation to competition. 
  • The Belt and Road Initiative which seeks to connect China to the Eurasia and Africa through both maritime and land routes is seen as a move against any U.S. attempts at containment.
  • The ongoing trade and technology wars may lead to confrontation between the two nations. 
  • Recently, both countries have been involved in verbal confrontation due to COVID-19

U.S taking a backseat 

  • The U.S. has been in the forefront of shaping the global order since centuries. 
  • It has played a pivotal role right from the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations after World War I to the creation of the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions after World War II
  • It was decisive in leading the western world during the Cold War, shaping global responses to threats posed by terrorism and taking action against climate change
  • However, its interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq generated resentment. These interventions also led to decreased domestic political will and resources.
  • During the current COVID-19 crisis, “America first” attitude seems to be changing into “America alone”. It has been reported that the U.S. is cornering supplies of scarce medical equipment and medicines just for itself. 
  • It is also acquiring biotech companies which are engaged in research and development in allied states. 
  • Countries are losing trust in the U.S.’s competence due to its poor response at handling the pandemic in its own country. 
  • Despite being the largest economy and the military power, it seems to lose the will and ability to lead. 
  • This mood is unlikely to change irrespective of the outcome of the upcoming presidential election in November 2020.

Tension among the European countries 

  • European UNION (EU) is continuously preoccupied with internal challenges due to: 
    • its expansion of membership to include East European states,
    • impact of the financial crisis among the Eurozone members,
    • ongoing Brexit negotiations. 
  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to reach agreement on political matters, e.g relations with Russia and China. 
  • The trans-Atlantic divide is increasing rift within the EU. 
  • Rising trend of political approach which appeals to ordinary people (populism) has led to some EU members supporting the virtues of “empty democracy”.
  • The North-South divide within the EU is also apparent. This tension began particularly when austerity measures were imposed on Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal in 2010 by the European Central Bank. These measures were persuaded by Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. 
  • Most recently, Italy was denied medical equipment by its EU neighbours who had introduced controls on its exports. Ultimately, China had to airlift medical teams and critical supplies to Italy. 
  • Rediscovering the limits of free movement of goods, services, capital and people will be one of the trends to be seen post COVID-19. 

Weakening of the world organisations

  • Global problems demand global responses.
  • However, international and multilateral bodies have failed to take responsible measures during this pandemic.  
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) should have led global efforts against COVID-19 but it has become a victim of politics involving China and the USA. 
  • The UN Security Council (UNSC), the G-7 and the G-20 are paralysed financially when the world faces the worst recession since 1929.
  • These institutions were always subjected to big power politics
  • Agencies, such as WHO, have lost autonomy over decades as their regular budgets decreased. Now, they mainly rely on voluntary contributions by western countries and foundations.  
  • Reform of these bodies is needed at the earliest. This can happen only with collective global leadership.

The energy politics

  • The final trend relates to energy politics.
  • Growing interest in renewables and green technologies due to climate change concerns and emergence of the U.S. as a major energy producer were changing the energy markets before COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Now, due to possible economic recession and depressed oil prices, internal tensions in West Asian countries may increase since these countries are solely dependent on oil revenues. 
  • This may create political instability in countries where governments are fragile.

Conclusion 

  • Rising nationalism and protectionist policies may turn the economic recession into a depression which will enhance inequalities
  • The world may become more polarised.
  • There will be greater unpredictability and more disturbed times ahead of us. 

Connecting the dots :

  • What comprises G-20? Discuss its relevance and significance in the current geopolitical scenario. 

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