7 PM Editorial |COVID-19 and the crumbling world order | 13th April 2020

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COVID-19 and the crumbling world order 

Context: COVID-19 and the World Order

The lethal combination of an interconnected world and a deadly virus without a cure is taking humanity into unfamiliar circumstances. COVID-19 thus will fundamentally transform the world order, its balance of power, traditional conceptions of national security and the future of globalisation.

This brings us to the questions of impact of COVID-19 on world order. In this article, we will explain the below:

  • How COVID-19 is crumbling the world order?
  • How China is overcoming the crisis of COVID-19?
  • How is the world moving away from neo-liberalism?
  • How COVID-19 would lead to new-age racism?
  • Conclusion

How COVID-19 is crumbling the world order?

  • World order is an international-relations term describing the distribution of power among world powers.
  • The phrase “new world order” was used in the period toward the end of the First World War in relation to Woodrow Wilson’s vision for international peace. Wilson called for a League of Nations to prevent aggression and conflict.
  • The phrase was used sparingly at the end of World War II when describing the plans for the United Nations and the Bretton Woods system partly because of its negative associations with the failed League of Nations. However, many commentators have applied the term retroactively to the order put in place by the World War II victors as a “new world order.”
  • The contemporary global order, whatever remains of the institutions created by the victors of World War II, was a hegemonic exercise meant to deal with isolated political and military crises and not serve humanity at large.
  • COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses of the institutions created in the wake of contemporary world order. Examples:
  1. UNSCmet last week after so long and no conclusion was drawn mainly due to deepening divide between USA and China on various issues starting from question of naming the virus.
  2. Dormancy of regional institutions like Despite some collective efforts, the SAARC countries still are not able to take concrete steps to contain pandemic collectively. Pakistan stayed away from the regional trade officials’ video conference on Covid-19 in april. Earlier Pakistan wasn’t represented by the head of the state or government when SAARC nations meeting was called by Indian Prime Minister.
  3. European Union (EU)failed in the regional cooperation and members preferred to go for self-help. For example, according to a Al Jazeera report, “in contrast to China, Italy’s partners in the European Union (EU) earlier this month refused Rome’s requests for help with medical supplies as they looked to stockpile face masks and other equipment to help their own citizens.”
  4. The WHO lacked leadership and went easy on China initially. Had China more openly shared its experiences and invited the world’s leading public health officials to Wuhan during the very first week of the outbreak, countries around the world could have been better prepared to fight the onslaught. And China, probably, wouldn’t have had to face so many deaths.
  5. IMF:For the first time in six decades, Iran has requested a loan from the IMF to fight the coronavirus outbreak. US sanctions have isolated the country from the global financial system. However, granting $5 billion demand of Iran would undermine Trump’s maximum-pressure-on-Iran policy. The United States sits on the IMF’s decision-making board. If the organization agrees to the loan, the US might veto it. Even if the IMF decision-making body responds positively to Iran’s application, there would be other technical obstacles before any money can flow.
  • This indicates that global institutions are not represented by all nations and is dominated by few great powers, and focuses on high-security issues. Hence, the global institutional architecture of the 1940s cannot help humanity face the challenges of the 2020s.
  • The extent of international cooperation has remained weak and in fact the actions undertaken on a unilateral basis have so far proved to be more effective. That trend is likely to continue where the idea of international and regional allies proved to be a myth.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals will need to be modified to set priorities. Questioning the effectiveness of international and regional organisations will be heightened.

How China is overcoming the crisis of COVID-19?

  • The industrial production in China is recovering. With decline in oil prices, it will further increase.
  • It is sending medical supplies to Europe, Korea, Japan and Pakistan.
  • Initially having shortage of medical kits and suits, China now produces three million test kits and 120 million masks daily.
  • The companies that were directly affected because of Covid-19, taxes have been waived off and for others there is a sharp income tax cut. They are putting more money into the market to facilitate liquidity.
  • Enhancing the role of private sector in fight against COVID-19. Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation are preparing for a joint donation of 2 million masks, 150,000 test kits, 20,000 sets of protective gear and 20,000 face shields to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

How is the world moving away from neo-liberalism?

  • Globalization is generally recognized as the fading or complete disappearance of economic, social, and cultural borders between nation-states. However, amid pandemic neolibeal economic globalisation has taken a back seat and the global economy is heading towards a recession.
  • Further, with closing of borders, self-help in the countries, localisation is increasing. This pushes back the successes of neoliberal globalisation.
  • Increase in state’s intervention to curb supply side bottlenecks and providing emergency reserves amid lockdowns. This increases protectionist tendencies fuelled by hyper-nationalism or belief in the superiority of one’s nation.

How COVID-19 would lead to new-age racism?

  • There are incidents of a new form of discrimination against migrants and refugees in almost all parts of the world.
  • According to recent report by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Center, 35% of patients in UK were non-white, nearly triple the 13% proportion in the UK population as a whole. In addition to this, 28% of those of the most serious cases were either Asian or black.
  • Racism targeted at Asians and Asian Americans has grown since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. According to a recent study in USA, Asian and African Americans were more likely to experience at least one form of discrimination and unfair treatment due to other people thinking they might have the coronavirus, compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
  • Imposition of phyto-sanitary measures by advanced states on products emanating from the less developed countries.
  • The lockdowns and travel restrictions across borders. These precautions may further legitimise conservative countries away from modernisation and development.
  • Social distancing in India leading to various undesirable social practices.
  • North-eastern people in India face wrath of the spread because of their mongoloid facial features. For example, a Manipuri woman in Delhi was called ‘Corona virus.
  • Even the communities are discriminating and boycotting those put under Quarantine.


Amidst the socio-economic disruptions caused by COVID-19, the human race is simultaneously also learning to adapt to the newly emerging systems and processes.  The battle against COVID-19 is similar to the one mentioned in Indian mythological story of ‘Samudra Manthan’ or the ‘churn of the ocean of milk’. The churn was a battle fought between the gods and the devils in order to obtain ‘Amrita’ – the nectar of immortal life. The world today is facing the COVID-19 devil and all humans are fighting to protect our lives and ensure the well-being of the human race.

However in the process, the humanity is also moving towards protectionism, with each country stocking for them. As Former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon rightly warns, “we are headed for a poorer, meaner and smaller world.” 

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/covid-19-and-the-crumbling-world-order/article31324259.ece


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