Since the beginning of twenty first century we have seen a gradual shift in global power dynamics as well as a diffusion of power. During the last two decades global power has not only gradually shifted from West to East but it has also changed its essence. In today’s world, power is no longer about purely military and economic capacity but also about public opinion, political values and credibility. Technological advancements and globalization have made possible for nonstate actors such as international organizations, NGO’s and others to gain influence in international affairs, creating a positive check on governments.
The current economic, social and health crisis produced by the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have a negative effect on globalization. The slow and uncoordinated response from international, multilateral and regional organizations such as the European Union, the United Nations and other international forums (G20, G7 etc.), have caused countries to turn inwards in order to deal with the crisis. As societies turn towards national governments to navigate the crisis, governments are declaring a state of emergency which allows them to acquire exceptional powers. After the crisis has passed governments will likely increase their monitoring capacities, leading to a possible employment of mass surveillance tools in countries that have previously rejected them. Increasing the power of states.
Globalized economies have also suffered greatly with the Covid-19 pandemic. Globalization created a system of economic interdependence based on global supply chains in which the components of a single product can be made in several different countries, creating an interconnectedness that makes the economy more vulnerable to this kind of crisis. For the countries that are economically affected by this crisis, their governments could try to reduce their economic dependence on other countries by partially retreating from a globalized economy.
As the Crisis moves from East to West, China has been able to bounce back from a disastrous first response to the crisis towards a position in which it will be able to expand its influence on the global stage. In order to signal that virus is moving towards the West the Chinese government has created a propaganda campaign highlighting China’s effectiveness and efficiency in battling the virus.
China´s capacity to provide material support such as masks, ventilators and respirators much needed to fight the crisis puts them in a favorable position to increase their international influence. On the other hand, the United States has been unable to bring together the international community and to jumpstart the diplomatic efforts in order to tackle the crisis. The Trump administration´s travel ban towards European countries and its aggressive diplomatic approach towards China, with Secretary of State Pompeo calling the virus the “Wuhan virus”, has damage its credibility and diminished its leadership.
Finally, it is important to take into account that the crisis is not over yet and that even though globalization will be negatively affected, the United States can still bounce back and China´s propaganda campaign could backfire… maybe.