Many analysts have argued that in a post corona world, the US and China will be the two most important global players, they will be the sole drivers of the narrative, with regard to economic and geo-political issues. While the US has become insular under Trump and has failed to foster a spirit of international cooperation even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, China’s suppression of crucial information with regard to the coronavirus has been criticized by a number of countries – not just the US.[RVListenButton]
During the coronavirus pandemic itself, many countries have risen to the occasion not just in terms of dealing with the pandemic, but also providing assistance to other countries. This includes countries Asian nations — South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. In the West, countries like Germany and France have risen to the occasion by speaking up for the removal of sanctions against Iran, and also providing financial assistance.
Post Corona, the Asian narrative will not be driven merely by China
If one were to look at the instance of Asia, countries like South Korea, Taiwan and even Vietnam which have been successful in controlling the virus, are likely to enhance their stature globally, and will become even more relevant in the economic and strategic sense not just in Asia, but on the global stage.
All three countries have provided medical assistance to a number of countries, including the US. Taiwan and Washington have also joined hands to carry out research and to develop a vaccine for finding a cure for the virus.
The success of South Korea and Taiwan blunts the narrative about authoritarian governments being in a position to control the epidemic better, an argument which Beijing has been trying to push. The success of Vietnam has shown, that resources are helpful, but not necessary for handling situations like pandemics. Even with meagre resources, the ASEAN nation has restricted the number of cases and not recorded a single death so far. This has been attributed to the timely response by the country’s leadership. Vietnam has also been able to relax the lockdown and open certain businesses.
India too has been able to contain the spread of the virus and has provided aid and assistance to a number of countries inspite of paucity of responses.
Thus, in a post corona world, China is not likely to drive the Asian narrative.
Narrative in the Western world
In the West, while Trump has been criticised for his handling of the coronavirus, Germany has been relatively successful in containing the outbreak of the virus compared to other EU member states. What is interesting is that while Germany has criticised China, yet it has not taken the US stand on a number of issues. First, along with UK and France, Germany provided medical assistance to Iran via the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which had been set up to circumvent sanctions imposed against Iran (the medical assistance reached Iran on March 31, 2020). Second, when Trump reduced US funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Merkel spoke in favor of greater international cooperation, and support to WHO at this point of time, while also indirectly criticizing the step taken by Trump. Even in the past, Merkel has been at variance with Trump on numerous issues including the US approach to Iran and Trump’s approach towards globalization.
Emmanuel Macron too has been critical of China, but not necessarily echoing the US line. Both leaders have also been emphasizing on the need for the revival of the European Union (EU) and making it relevant.
Asian countries, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India and Vietnam could find common ground with EU member states as well as countries like Canada, which have spoken up for globalization in the midst of the pandemic.
In a post corona world, a number of changes are likely to occur in the world order. First, if smaller countries have been successful in dealing with the pandemic their stature will rise, and they will benefit both in economic terms as well as geo-political clout. Second, the belief that a democratic system is incapable of dealing with a crisis like the coronavirus, has also been challenged. Third, the international world order will have numerous layers, and the influence of both Washington and Beijing on the narrative is likely to reduce with new players likely to speak up on crucial economic, environmental and strategic issues. While trade and travel may be restricted, there is a possibility of greater ‘international cooperation’ and a new narrative which does not emanate merely from Washington or Beijing, but collectively from a number of countries. Finally, cooperation will not be restricted merely to regional blocs or geography. In a number of instances, medical aid and assistance have been extended by one country to another far flung country. The new world order promises to be an interesting one, though it will be complex.
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Consulting Editor, Geopolitics with The Dispatch, Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based Policy Analyst. He is associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, Haryana. He is a former SAV Visiting Fellow (Winter 2016) with the Stimson Centre, Washington DC. Mr Maini was also an Asia Society India-Pakistan Regional Young Leaders Initiative (IPRYLI) Fellow (2013-14), and a Public Policy Scholar with The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Chennai (November 2013-March 2014). His research interests include; the role of Punjab in India-Pakistan ties, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the changing nature of Indian federalism. He is a contributor for a number of publications including; The Hindu, The Diplomat, Modern Diplomacy and The Geopolitics.