The world is going through a parlous situation at the moment. Everything seems to be obscure and dubious. The current state of affairs for every nation include trying to stop the spread of Covid-19 while attempting to preserve their economic vibrancy and political stability. The economic instability which has emerged after this pandemic is bringing great powers (China and U.S.) on the verge of a power struggle which will lead the world towards a new world order. Great powers have used the capitalist world order for securing and pursuing their interests. The evanesce of capitalism is not evident in the near future. There will be a shift from liberal capitalism to a digitalized neo-liberal capitalism,but at the same time, assessing China’s efforts to get on the driving seat, the rise of neo-authoritarianism cannot be overlooked. The supreme rise of China and decline of U.S. mean that sparks are bound to fly. The recent Sino-India clash is an indication of changing dynamics. This article entails an overview of current challenges to explain the emerging trends and speculations about the new world order. It also provides a way forward for countries to muster themselves against anything obnoxious in the future.
Everything was normal in the world when the disease broke out in the city of Wuhan, China. This disease adopted the shape of a life-threatening pandemic and spread across the whole world. It shook the basic foundation of the existing world order and balance of power. The only way to curb this pandemic is social distancing, which requires a complete lockdown. China, using its authoritative and totalitarian order, enforced a complete lockdown and took the lead in controlling the menace. The rest of the world was late to respond and that’s why they are facing severe consequences. In this difficult time, when superpowers are confined to their own selves when dealing with the pandemic, China has proved itself as a global power and shown its capacity of global leadership through helping other nations fight Covid-19. The Chinese ‘mask diplomacy’ has gained popularity throughout the world and the world is looking towards China in this difficult time.
The most damaging effect of this epidemic is on the economy of states. In the current lockdown conditions, there are no business activities which would have a direct effect upon the national economy. This disease has brought with itself a tsunami of unemployment and hunger. Developed countries are in bad condition and developing countries are worse. We are witnessing drastic changes in political economic and social spheres of life. We are experiencing the birth of a new world order where all the factors are variable and nothing is constant. ‘Nothing normal’ is becoming a new normal. A similar kind of shift was experienced after World War II. The order that emerged after World War II solved many of the older issues but it was less adept to the emerging circumstances of the time. Presently, we are going through a similar situation where there is an abrupt rise of problems which demand scurrying reformation in the existing world order.
The changing dynamics and global transformation are a hint that something new is about to emerge. Developments in the shape of overwhelming digitalization after Covid-19, Sino-Indian border dispute, and riots against racism in U.S., etc., are clear indications of a global political and economic shift. The old liberal order designed by U.S. and its western allies to avoid any sort of conflict in the future, was composed of United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, NATO and World Bank. This design failed because U.S. manipulated it to preserve its own interests. China, with its new strategies, has influenced many developing as well as developed countries of the world. They are working on a (political-economic) model to gain power through economic co-operation in the world. Amidst the present-day crisis, China is offering support to any state to fight against the pandemic. The global system is in a critical state, everything is facing a sharp decline. A power struggle has already begun and the one who will be able to gain the support of major stakeholders of international politics, will flourish as the supreme power after this crisis ends.
Henry A. Kissinger said,“The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by the World Government.”
It has been speculated that the world order will completely change after Covid-19. There are some arguments which aid the litigation of a changed world order. First is the ambiguity created because of a long-term emergency situation; no one knows how long it will last. Pharmaceutical companies asserted that it would take at least one year to come up with an effective vaccine against corona. Countries are facing a painful choice of exposing their population to further infection by opening markets or letting them die of hunger due to poor economic circumstances. Emerging markets and developing countries are critical, both as suppliers and markets. This scenario is weakening the global economy as a whole.
Secondly, declining oil prices and trembling economies have forced petro-states and developing countries to access IMF’s emergency lending facility. Gulf states are now in a state of affliction after watching the demise of their U.S. dollar pegs. Decline in the trades of the world powers indicates fragmentation of the global monetary order for which all countries should prepare.
Another issue to tackle after the pandemic will be the migration crisis. People will flee from failing states because of poor health and economic conditions and will try to settle in a ‘green zone’ which may provide them better opportunities. There is a possibility of a migrant crisis from Central America to Mexico and the Middle East to Europe.
Rising nationalism is another issue; food stockpiling, restriction on immigration and slogans of ‘We First’ are evidence of a nationalistic promulgation. Every state wants to preserve its own interests and is the first priority for itself.
Another Interesting fact is the emergence of technology as the sole power to manage the crisis. Technological modernization has proved to be a necessity in present time and for the future as well. Covid-19 has paved the way for digitalization as an alternative to physical engagements. Consumer behaviour is changing and for that, businesses are adopting online methods to cope with the situation. Everything is being run through digital means. Evolution of digital processes has sparked a new mindset, focusing on the future with an openness to try new technologies. The revolution which emerging technologies have brought is the biggest after the Industrial Revolution. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) have modernized many international concepts, including balance of power. Russian President Vladimir Putin regarded AI as a revolution. He said that the nation that leads in AI would be the ruler of the world. AI has helped a lot during this pandemic. The research on coronavirus resulted in a pool of data which was extremely difficult for humans to handle. AI can easily manage big data and in this way, it is helping in handling the pandemic. Virtual healthcare assistants and chatbots have alleviated the burden from online call services of organization like WHO and CDC. Drone technology and robotics have proven their worth amid the pandemic. They are being used to track people without masks and to deliver medical or other useful equipment and goods. The current progress will not stop, and the full potential of AI and related technologies will be utilized. Even when it comes to the issue of workforce or medical staff in hospitals, robots have the capacity to fill the gaps to some extent.
After analysing all these facts, we can say that technology in the form of digitalization will be an integral part of the new world order. Even though capitalism has failed to deliver, there is still no chance of a complete halt; it will only alter itself into a modernized form. U.S. being a superpower of the world cannot compromise on this driving energy of capitalism. Even the Chinese are aware of it. Economic liberalization can help China in the future to exploit the potential of developing states. China has achieved massive economic growth in the past, being an authoritarian capitalist power of Asia. They know the perks of capitalism. They can have a global outreach in presence of free markets and globalization. For U.S., being the global power, the only change in near future will be in the form of digitalizationof aneo-liberal capitalist world order.
U.S. still has domination over digitalization, but they will have to face China as a challenger. The current circumstances reveal that there is a fair chance that in the next few years China will surpass U.S. in the domain of emerging technologies. Beijing’s ‘Made in China 2025’ plan is to gain monopoly over the field of technologies such as AI. Xi Jinping, addressing the Communist Party, said, “The hype around China’s investment in AI is definitely the highest in the world.” In its top level AI plan, the Chinese government said, “By 2030 we shall make artificial intelligence theory, technology, and application at the world’s leading level.” If this happens, China would rise as a superpower of the world and we may witness a world order in the shape of neo-authoritarianism.
U.S. has witnessed the dawn of the current international order; they framed it in a way that could promote their interests in the wake of any economic, political and strategic imbalance. Covid-19 crisis has turned the tables. Liberal capitalist order is at a sharp decline, but it is too early to say that it will be totally relinquished. Talking about the role of U.S. in the new world order, Henry Kissinger said, “[The New World Order] cannot happen without U.S. participation, as we are the most significant single component. Yes, there will be a New World Order, and it will force the United States to change its perceptions.”
The change in perception will be to adopt technological advancement and realize potential rivals. China is the only competitor in this regard. The Chinese design of becoming a global power till 2030 is interesting. They want a stable international order in which China’s national rejuvenation could be achieved. The Chinese design of the new world order would be devoid of precise geographical or ideological lines but defined by the deference that those who come within China’s sphere of influence are willing to offer. Yet the Chinese also face impediments in the shape of internal weaknesses, like current deficits and private economy.
Trade war between both states is another threat to an already fragile situation. The pandemic has left the global economy in an uncertain position. In such a situation, any small ignition in the already existing trade war could be lethal. This difficult time demands policy measures which prioritize human life above anything else. Whatsoever may be the world order post-Covid but at present mutual co-operation is requisite. 6.42 million people are currently infected while there have been 383,000 deaths worldwide. There is a lack of global leadership; U.S. has clearly hurled the slogans of ‘America first’ while China is helping its strategic partners. Humanity should prevail and world powers should not let people die for their future ambitions. Though there has been a positive impact of globalization, only a small group of people has actually benefitted from it. Assessing the current environment, it is crystal clear that globalization has failed. In order to regain its footprints, its advocates should come up with a revised policy. They would have to regain the trust of the people. God forbid, after this corona crisis there could be a new outbreak of an updated or different strain of virus. Keeping such a situation in mind, there should be effective reformation in the international system with immediate effect. Such an environment should be created in which everyone can benefit. A new world order covering all these considerations will be successful and implementable.