A microscopic virus has shaken the entire world. It may even change its maps, geography and centres of power, shifting from one country to another in the blink of an eye. Some countries might collapse and others will be created, while empires fade and others emerge. We are still living in the world order that was imposed post-Second World War. The Japanese attack against the US at Pearl Harbour led to a gain for America, as it entered the war and went on to lead the world in peacetime.
The third world war is now against the coronavirus, and China is the power that the nations of the world are looking to protect them from the danger threatening mankind and the destruction of their economies. The world is not only looking to see how China overcame the pandemic, but also for help in the economic pandemic, which has seen a crash in the money market, global stock exchanges and oil prices. We face a global recession and devastation similar to that of the post-war era, and China is seen as the saviour. How can that be, given that the pandemic started in China’s Wuhan province?
China has been able to contain the virus with levels of effort, organisation, commitment and strictness that the US and Europe have not been able to match. It has announced that it is on the verge of eliminating the virus after a massive decline in infections and deaths. The Chinese authorities also claim that a drug developed in Japan without a US monopoly is the most powerful weapon against Covid-19. Favipiravir has apparently been effective in treating patients in China.
Beijing has thus strengthened its global position, threatening US dominance as Washington still looks for an effective vaccine that it can sell to the world. America does not want the medical rug to be pulled from under its feet, so the pandemic is the biggest challenge to US global hegemony in decades. President Donald Trump wants so much to monopolise vaccine research that he is said to have offered billions of dollars to the German medical research company CureVac to move to the US. This was scandalous and angered the EU. Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn insisted that a takeover of CureVac by the Trump administration was “off the table” and that the company would develop a vaccine to treat the whole world, not individual countries.
At a time when the US has turned its back on Europe and closed its borders and international airports, it is also failing to provide any assistance to the countries such as Italy where the virus is so devastating. Instead, we see Chinese aircraft carrying Chinese medical teams to Italy to help in the struggle against the spread of the coronavirus; even Washington’s nemesis, Cuba, has sent a team of doctors to Italy. Beijing has now said that it is preparing to help Spain in a similar way and may do so across Europe where the Serbian President, for example, is complaining bitterly about being let down by the US and the EU. He is threatening to turn Serbia towards China instead of the West.
The Chinese efforts to provide assistance are not limited to sending medical missions and supplies to Europe, Asia and Africa; they include the sharing of research results, enhancing China’s position around the world.
All of this suggests that the coronavirus pandemic signals the rise of China and the decline of the West. The “new world order” led by Washington has seen the US being the sole global superpower since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the formal end of the Cold War. Are we now witnessing the birth of another world order led by China out of the crisis caused by coronavirus Covid-19? There are still a lot of questions to be answered, but it seems fair to say that the world is not going to be the same as it was before the coronavirus outbreak.