Dealing with Covid-19, the leadership crisis – analysis
We are in the midst of a calamity that the world has rarely seen before. Given the powerlessness of ordinary people in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we can only ask whether people in authority are doing enough to deal with the crisis and whether they are capable of dealing with it.
Disasters like the coronavirus pandemic are not limited to specific geographic territories, and therefore addressing it requires a holistic and global approach. Sadly, there is a shortage of leaders who have an influence in today’s world and can provide global direction.
In the past, when the world was in crisis, it was the American leadership that took over. But today, the United States (USA) seems weak in the face of the virus attack. In fact, many other countries are doing much better to contain the virus than the United States.
The problem seems to be the lack of leadership on the part of President Donald Trump. In a situation that requires calm and reasoned responses based on science, Trump has behaved irresponsibly. It did not respond to the crisis in time, and has given mixed signals, and on some occasions even put up dangerous prescriptions on how to fight the virus. And, for internal political considerations, it has always blamed China for the crisis. However, China is to blame, and suspicions and anger against Beijing are widely shared. Many countries believe that Beijing’s delay in informing the world of the threat in time has caused irreparable damage. Some organizations and governments plan to approach international legal bodies, calling China’s lapse an assault on international human rights.
But Beijing is in no mood to blink. In response, it has stepped up its diplomatic efforts against what it calls absurd allegations. To counter the attack by the United States, it has begun helping Latin American and African countries with money and supplies to counter the spread. As a result, some of these countries have been won over. China is also making important strides to influence some Eastern European countries.
It has continued its belligerent geopolitical activities and increased its naval activities in the South China Sea. China’s greatest asset is, of course, its economic prowess. He has hundreds of patents, from basic products, technology products, even herbal medicines. To take advantage of China’s cheap labor, western countries have large production bases in the country. And they can’t afford to antagonize China beyond one point, or end their operations there. Developing countries like India are also unhappy with China. But we also depend on it. The fact that some of the raw materials for hydroxychloroquine, which we are now exporting to other countries, come from China is just an obvious example of this dependence.
Therefore, there is a peculiar mix of dependency and conflict with China. But this confrontation between the West and China could not have come at a worse time. Regardless of the substance of the allegations, this war of words and perceptions hampers a global response to the crisis. And it doesn’t help that there are several ultra-nationalists in power around the world. Could the situation have been different if the world had leaders like Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi? Probably, but we will never know. However, there are some reasons to encourage. And this comes from the leadership shown by women in their own countries. As soon as the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, was informed of a mysterious virus that was spreading in Wuhan, he took severe measures. As a result, the spread of infection was controlled. Similarly, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sealed her country’s borders on March 19.
She not only declared a month-long national shutdown, but also demoted a minister who violated the restrictions. In Germany Angela Merkel, who has a background in science, has developed a coherent political response and communicated directly and effectively with citizens. In India, Kerala successfully defended itself after the initial shocks, thanks to the efforts of its health minister, KK Shailaja.
The world should look at how these women leaders have treated the virus. Actions based on expert medical advice, coupled with a humane approach to people, have been shown to be the way to go. Anger and the discharge of mud will get us nowhere.
Shashi Shekhar is Editor-in-Chief, Hindustan
The opinions expressed are personal.