Covid-19 has sharpened the politics of great power | Opinion – analysis
Even as the world grapples with the pandemic unleashed since Wuhan, China returns to the business of high-power politics: building military infrastructure, conducting naval exercises, and sinking other nations’ fishing boats. While the rest of the world has knelt, largely due to China’s behavior, Beijing is busy reaping the dividends from this global mess.
If, on one level, you are using this coronavirus disease (Covid-19) to project yourself as a world leader in providing medical kits and expertise to nations in dire need of it, trying to distinguish itself from a Donald Trump administration focused on its Inland, on another level, is waging an information war in Europe, seeking to create internal divisions within the European Union.
It is extraordinary to witness the full game of big power politics at a time that, according to most liberal institutionalists, should have been a case study of increased global coordination. Global pandemics were widely viewed as non-traditional security threats that would lead to greater cooperation between major powers, rather than as scenarios of contestation between major powers for relative gain. And international institutions were supposed to help the international community overcome these security challenges.
But the state of the world today should disappoint us of all these fallacies. In any case, the failures between the United States (USA) and China have been accentuated due to the crisis. Historically, China and the United States have attempted to work together to manage various global crises in the past. But not this time. Trump’s “America First” approach has meant antagonizing even close allies by diverting medical supplies, outperforming original buyers, or forcing American companies to stop exporting hospital-grade N95 masks.
The lack of leadership shown by Washington has made China a necessity for many nations, including the West, that had to import faulty Chinese medical kits for lack of any other alternative. While much of the world remains furious at China for its initial concealment of adequate information, they are forced to accept Chinese aid. This has allowed China to expand its influence under the cover of helping the world during this pandemic, a crisis that would have been much less severe if the country had behaved responsibly initially. Europe is now backing down strongly with French President Emmanuel Macron questioning China’s handling of the outbreak, saying “things we don’t know happened” and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggesting they should be done ” Difficult questions “about how the outbreak started” and how it couldn’t have stopped before. ” However, the ability of these nations to confront China directly remains very limited.
As a result, the world will continue the transition to a phase in which the fight between China and the United States will be exacerbated and the biggest loser will be global governance. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held its first session on the pandemic, about four months after the deadly contagion emerged as the biggest security challenge since World War II. After assuming the presidency of the UNSC last month, the Chinese ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, made it clear that Beijing does not plan to discuss the pandemic situation in the Council during his presidency, as there was no need to enter panic, even adding that The world is not far from the defeat of Covid-19 “with the arrival of spring”. Washington and Beijing remain divided on the scope of the joint resolution with the United States, insisting that the UNSC resolution must be explicit about the origin of the virus in Wuhan, China, much to Beijing’s annoyance.
But the most serious has been how the World Health Organization (WHO) has dealt with this once in a lifetime crisis. Far from being the nodal agency to coordinate a global response to this pandemic, it seems to have subordinated itself to Chinese interests, losing credibility with other stakeholders. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was forced to declare an international public health emergency only in late January, after suspending it just a week earlier under pressure from China. Tedros repeatedly defended China’s handling of the crisis with the WHO, even tweeting in mid-January that “preliminary investigations by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of person-to-person transmission.”
Tedros suggested in late January that “the WHO does not recommend limiting trade and movement.” This has sparked an intense backlash in Washington, which is WHO’s largest single funder with President Trump, not only accusing the UN agency of being “highly focused on China,” but also continuing to halt funding. of the United States “while conducting a review to assess the world The Health Organization’s role in severe mismanagement and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” Although Trump’s move to cut funds has led to political disputes in the US. USA, Members of the US Congress USA They have also called for an investigation by Congress into the WHO’s handling of the crisis, apparently in collusion with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The politics of great power has continued unabated, even when many expected greater global solidarity. The international order was fragmenting and the great power rivalry was beginning to shape the global contours before the current crisis. That process has been galvanized by the Covid-19 crisis. Where, on the one hand, the CCP is exposed to its antics during the pandemic, the vulnerabilities of the EE. USA And the West in general are also in sight.
Nations like India should be prepared to navigate the externalities of this challenging environment.
Harsh V Pant is Professor, King’s College London and Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi
The opinions expressed are personal.