A post-virus world order in the making

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By Dattesh D.
Parulekar

It’s arguably the most searing global crisis since World War II, and certainly the most egregious health catastrophe in a century. Given the aggravating global specter of the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, it would only be natural to anticipate a coalescing of global forces and stakeholders across societies, spearheaded by sovereign political leaderships. Yet what one sees is an implausible tendency to wedge and create fissures, some of it strident and shrill, others more nuanced and subtle, which doesn’t augur well for the future.
Amid the raging pandemic, the politico-diplomatic disposition of the United States, which, as the linchpin of the international system, was expected to lead, not whine, has been disheartening, though, not all that surprising.
From initial flip-flopping to resorting to “infodemia”, ascribing anything from deliberately conspiratorial to inept handling motives to the virus, it has self-inflicted embarrassment, with its contention being assailed by the overwhelming body of scientific and strategic intelligence assessments, including those of Anthony Fauci, director of US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the other constituents of the Five Eyes. In this US presidential election year, excoriating an ascendant China could be rewarding at the hustings for the US president. But is this simply flavor-of-the-season scapegoating, or is there something more than what meets the eye?
Having long manipulated the United Nations system, including treating myriad institutions as its handmaidens, has the US failed to reconcile that the shoe is now on the other foot? Mounting an unprecedented visceral attack on the World Health Organization, and then withdrawing from the organization at a time when the global health body needs all the resources it can to spearhead the fight against the pandemic do Washington no favors.
If anything, they have only earned it scorn and isolation, with none in the international community willing to join it, including its staunchest allies Japan and Australia. Even the illusion of some US states and organizations pursuing legal claims against China seems innately puerile.
But why should eyebrows be raised at all. Washington has been in bemoaning mode since the incumbent president took office.
More than China contributing to upward of a quarter of global growth and close to a third of global output heading into the pandemic, it is Beijing’s inexorable desire to foster a cross-sector-permeating technology-induced innovation ecosystem to leverage the tangible facets of its manufacturing-and infrastructure-led economic prowess that is manifesting, beyond its borders, a formidable comprehensive challenge to US dissonance, strategic incoherence and slothfulness.
The extent to which the global supply chain stands disrupted when China stalls is evidenced from an Institute of Supply Chain Management survey, which says dislocation is up to 75 percent and thereby points to the incandescence of China’s criticality in production trajectories. This said, for senators of a nation of migrants that has prided itself as a knowledge-based economy, and attracted the best of talents, to limit the number of Chinese postgraduates and post-doctorates in the country betrays grave insecurities of a global power in decline, rather than one reorienting its methodology to sustain its place on global center stage.
If negativity is one pillar of Western response to COVID-19, then gross incompetence and abject abdication of leadership is another exacerbating the pandemic situation.Lame alibis such as one claiming Eastern societies were better prepared to contain the coronavirus epidemic, thanks to the lessons learned during the SARS outbreak, does not obscure their ineptitude and ill-preparedness in containing any epidemic outbreak. And who can forget British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, basking in the glow of formalizing Brexit, making light of the threat the virus posed to humans until the novel coronavirus left him chastened?
Even major European countries such as Italy, Spain and France have had to enforce lockdowns, with the bureaucracy heavy European Union failing squarely to respond to appeals for assistance from its member states. As if this wasn’t bad enough, came the unsavory visage of the US wincing medical equipment and gear, fresh from China, meant for France and refusing to part with 3M-produced ventilators for Canada. Such one-upmanship in competition inter se major powers at a time when a pandemic is wreaking havoc across the globe reflects the insecurities of a shrunken comity.
As for India, its approach has been pragmatic calibration using both carrots and sticks. From initiating the idea of convening a G20 summit via videoconferencing and articulating the imperative of forging a cooperative compact, not isolated experimentation, to develop a vaccine to making a case for pooling resources into a corpus to fiscally help less-developed countries and regions to fight the virus were India’s initiatives.
–The Daily Mail-China Daily news exchange item