Coronavirus Pandemic and the Changing World Order

Author Name: Maham S Gillani      25 Apr 2020     Global view

As the world is battling the novel coronavirus, the global political order is also undergoing a seismic shift. While it is still too early to predict a post-coronavirus world, some of the ongoing developments might heavily influence the world order—which has been in a state of flux. These include, inter alia, Sino-US rivalry, EU divisions and qualms about the future of international organizations.

The Sino-US Discord

As the novel coronavirus rages and economies reel, US and China are embroiled in what has been called ‘a racially tinged’ war of words. The Trump administration as well as key congressional Republicans have labeled Covid-19 the ‘Chinese Virus’ or the ‘Wuhan Virus,’ while the Chinese government officials have hit back by accusing the US military of bringing the virus to China. The expulsion of US journalists from China added to the tensions between the two states amidst the global crisis and has brought the relations between the leading world powers to an impasse. This relates to the general predicament the world is mired in today with regards to lack of cooperation between sovereign states on relatively new issues like climate change, global health, cyber security, and so on. Additionally, rising mistrust between key state actors will have far-reaching implications for the global economy, which has come to an alarming slowdown owing to not only the coronavirus but also protracted trade war between Washington and Beijing.

China and the US have responded to the crisis in starkly different ways. The US has adopted a more inwards policy insofar as it has refrained from sending help abroad, remaining confined to helping its own people. Meanwhile, China notwithstanding the fact that it remained the hotbed of the virus for the initial months, offered assistance to several states, most notably Italy where it sent medical supplies to battle the novel coronavirus even before its European counterparts. China’s prompt assistance in fighting the coronavirus is helping the country boast its soft image and, more importantly, expand its influence in different parts of the world. On the flip side, the US has largely failed to play the role of a global leader during the novel coronavirus crisis.

EU Project Coming Under Scrutiny

The European Union is experiencing its make or break moment as the Europeans continue to remain deeply divided over rendering assistance to countries like Italy and Spain which have been hit hard by Covid-19. Netherlands together with Germany, Finland and Austria have rejected the crucial demand of Italy for issuance of ‘coronabonds’ which entails all EU member states borrowing from the markets on mutual terms. Negotiations on this latest element of the EU’s fiscal response to the pandemic have revived feelings of animosity last experienced during the financial crunch of 2008.This has unfolded against the backdrop of EU countries following divergent paths on strategies to combat the spread of coronavirus.

While European Union survived Brexit, the repercussions of the politico-economic crisis sparked by the spread of the novel coronavirus are far grave in nature and threaten the very architecture of EU, as indicated by world leaders and experts. The Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, has already warned, “If Europe fails to come up with a monetary and financial policy adequate for the biggest challenge since World War II, not only Italians but European citizens will be deeply disappointed.” Moreover, it would also stoke the winds of “euroskepticism” possibly leading to further strengthening of nationalist and rightwing parties in Europe. The current political impasse can only be resolved if the EU states rise to the occasion and look beyond their national differences and maintain institutional cohesion.

The Future of International Organizations

International organizations are a major pillar of the modern-day globalization, and the US remains the biggest financial contributor to many international organizations, providing them vital financial assistance to run their operations around the world. However, the US gave less than $15m in response to World Health Organization’s (WHO) coronavirus emergency appeal compared to $20m donated by China, Kuwait $40m, European commission $33m and Japan $47.5m. This is symptomatic of the US, under the Trump administration, no longer willing to commit millions of dollars to the international organizations. The White House has been seeing several international organizations not serving its national interests in the recent period.

In the context of the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump accused WHO of being “very China-centric’’ and said they “really blew” their response to the pandemic. The Trump administration seems to have openly expressed its intention of reviewing funding for WHO as well as other international organizations, which may create space for a new actor(s)filling the void and expanding its global influence. Given the bleak state of the global economy and the growing internal problems of the west, it is likely that China and its allies could fill this vacuum.

–Maham S. Gillani is a Research Associate at the Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies (CASS). This article was first published in The Nation newspaper. She can be reached at

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