Decades of unrestricted globalization, the unchecked rise of the internet, and the growing influence of multinationals have brought together nation-states irrespective of geographical distance.
The pandemic triggered by coronavirus is a transformative global event, requiring fresh thinking. After decades of globalization, the political system in the US has become obsolete; regular spasms of resurgent nationalism are a sign of its irreversible decline.
The ensuing COVID-19 pandemic, however, has categorically denied the demise of nation-states amidst increasingly popular global interests of trade and commerce. Also, it implicates that such reports of the demise of the nation-states were grossly exaggerated, if not fraudulent, placing national security experts around the world on high alert.
Responses to the pandemic have varied, but overwhelmingly are national in character.
Each country’s “curve” has been endlessly compared with others. While border controls and lockdowns will eventually be lifted, complete restoration of the global order, as it existed before COVID-19, is quite unlikely.
Watch: COVID-19 pandemic impact on Globalization
In the post-pandemic world
Public sector investment and control worldwide is now on an unprecedented scale and is here to stay for the foreseeable future as the spread of coronavirus has underlined the importance of public control of services that can cope with large scale emergencies: healthcare, emergency-response forces, the education system, and logistics. There has also been widespread coordination of private services including cash machines, pharmacies, and supermarkets.
The vulnerability of global supply chains has been highlighted as investments in advanced manufacturing, which promise to overcome the differential in global labor rates, are likely to target the localization of production across a range of sectors to address the dependencies that the COVID-19 crisis has exposed.
That apart, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a series of political trends that were already on the rise in the US: nationalism, demands for protectionism, and defunding of United Nations institutions. The most lasting outcome of the COVID-19 crisis is likely to be the revival of the nationalist state in the US.
A new era for US Politics
Interestingly, this is unlikely to be a reversion to the golden age of national sovereignty in the US, but a new epoch in global geopolitics. History indicates that economic autarky is less conducive to innovation, crisis prevention, or even international harmony. And, if nothing else, the COVID-19 crisis illustrates that global cooperation is critical if the effects of such outbreaks are to be minimized. In nations across the globe, public authority has been exercised to impose restrictions on movement within the country, close international borders, and deliver significant stimulus packages, with governments ruling by decree amid autocratic rhetoric.
The Trump administration sought to compel local manufacturers to stop sending respirator masks to Canada and Latin America.
President Trump has been blamed by the liberals for positioning the crisis as an occasion for competition rather than cooperation with China and that the pandemic is being grabbed as an opportunity to flame further his “xenophobic” immigration policies. President Trump has repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” in a transparent attempt to attribute blame to the Chinese, straining relations between the world’s largest powers dangerously.
That the COVID-19 crisis, like the SARS earlier, originated from a wet market in China, has prompted distrust of China as a global citizen. China’s delayed disclosure of the extent of the corona-triggered crisis to the world has substantially heightened suspicion on the Chinese.
Narrow-minded nationalism could arrest globalization and free trade and stymy international development as well as undermine international co-operation at a time when collective action is essential in the areas of climate change, public health, and mass migration of people fleeing war-torn regions. History tells us that economic autarky is not conducive to innovation, crisis prevention, or international harmony.
Similar populism is erupting in many countries. Also, parallels in style and substance between leaders including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Viktor Orbán, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have been drawn. There is a sense that something is in the air. For there is no coincidence.
Suppressed consequences of 20th-century recklessness in the once-colonized world are erupting, cracking nations into fragments and forcing populations into post-national solidarities: roving tribal militias, ethnic and religious sub- and super-states. The demolition of old ideas of international society, the idea of the “society of nations” that were essential to the way the new world order was envisioned after 1918, demolished by the erstwhile superpowers, has turned the nation-state system into a lawless gangland producing a nihilistic backlash from the ones most despoiled.
Most countries today are subjected to the same pressures squeezing and warping national political life. This is why nationalism is so widely in vogue.
The current appeal of machismo as political style, the wall-building, and xenophobia, the mythology, and race theory, the fantastical promises of national restoration – these are not cures, but symptoms of what is slowly revealing itself to all: globalization and nation-states everywhere are in an advanced state of political decline from which they will find it difficult to extricate themselves.