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The world is grappling with the threat of Covid-19 that could influence the next phase of Liberal Capitalism and possibly alter the world order established by the United States of America (USA) after World War II. The former Secretary of State of the United States Henry Kissinger proffers the world will never be the same after this pandemic. Considering the warning and the tone it takes, his remark airs a dystopian reality for the US in its position as superpower should it handle the aftermath of the pandemic irresponsibly – ‘un-statesman-ly’. In an article published by Wall Street Journal on 3rd of April, 2020 Henry Kissinger said
“Nations cohere and flourish on the belief that their institutions can foresee calamity, arrest its impact and restore stability. When the Covid-19 pandemic is over, many countries’ institutions will be perceived as having failed. Whether this judgment is objectively fair is irrelevant. The reality is the world will never be the same after the coronavirus. To argue now about the past only makes it harder to do what has to be done.”1
Seldom does a statesman of Kissinger’s caliber admit failure. An admission of this scale that encompasses all – or most – leaders around the world does not only reveal the acknowledgement of global dissatisfaction with the direction the world has taken, it also recognizes the agonizing effect of the system that set the whole world on that course, which calls for revolutionary change. The abject failure of the individuals and official bodies responsible for tackling such crises laments the sorry state of humanity under Capitalism.
The incredible speed at which Covid-19 spread has led the world to perceive how Democratic Capitalist leaders don’t care about their people. As a trained biologist and a dear friend from the UK, Muhammad Younis, said to me (and I paraphrase):
“The virus isn’t killing the people, it’s the system that is killing them”. I couldn’t agree more.
It would be quite unfair to assert that Kissinger attempted at totally brushing away blame from the governments by saying
“…when the Covid-19 pandemic is over, many countries’ institutions will be perceived as having failed. Whether this judgment is objectively fair is irrelevant”. Wallowing in causes and past failures where blame is the sole objective with no regards to shaping a better future makes it irrelevant.
Regardless, he emphasized that salvaging US hegemony takes priority. If the world will never be the same again, the US must ensure it makes relevant preparations to survive as superpower and curb all threat to global Capitalism – according to him. All in all, the US must pool whatever resources it needs to defeat the virus, yet it must also be ready to mobilize to resist the aftershock;
“The U.S. must protect its citizens from disease while starting the urgent work of planning for a new epoch”2. Failure of any sort in this regard will infinitely set the world of Capitalism on fire.
World powers will have to contain the damage of the virus and eliminate it, and then subsequently – if not simultaneously – attend to their global interests. Third world countries, on the other hand, have lesser trouble but somewhat impossible to surmount. The West has accumulated substantial political and economic strength due to its ambition of global dominance. This sets it apart from weak countries who still struggle with basic needs. The political and economic purview of these countries does not scale beyond their own borders.
In the West, the availability of social and economic liberties is supposedly guaranteed, to an extent. Some of these ‘liberties’ were nowhere to be found when the pandemic surfaced; shops, casinos, hotels, stadiums etc were all closed. Cities were shutdown and life abruptly changed. To cope with the economic impact, the US, for instance, initiated Quantitative Easing (QE) – printing as much money as need to curb the effect of the virus. This being the only short-term solution it has, US economy will surely suffer from it in the long-term.
In the third world, basic economic needs are not adequately provided to the majority of the population. A lockdown in these countries means poor households cannot earn a living, considering the fact that they always have to work before feeding themselves, which does not always go their way.
World War II brought an end to European imperialism, which saw colonies acquire independence. This did not extricate them from their former colonial masters. Rather, it entangled them via economic and security deals. Both security and economic relationships serve the single purpose of controlling the outreach and influence of the former colonies. The US emerged the most influential nation in the World because, more than any other country, it has more capacity to dictate the outcomes of political events around the world to achieve its interests. This is enabled by the loyal service of countries within its orbit, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
China emerged a regional challenger in the late 90s and by 2012, a substantial global economic power. By adopting the mechanism of Globalization, it has made inroads into both Africa and Asia dashing out cheap loans, which upsets US ambitions. It’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) has been a major source of distress to the US and its European allies. China’s threat to Western global interest, however, is so far strictly economic. For China to become a global political player, it needs to set a political ambition and start striving to influence political events around the world according to its global perspective. Lack of a global worldview might just be the reason China can never challenge for superpower. In the first chapter to his book China Goes Global, David Shambaugh stated:
“…this book argues and demonstrates that China lacks real global power. I argue that China is a global actor without (yet) being a true global power — the distinction being that true powers influence other nations and events. They do not “lead from behind.” Merely having a global presence does not equal having global power unless a nation influences events in a particular region or realm. Shaping the desired outcome of a situation is the essence of influence and exercise of power.”3
Russia lost its position as the second superpower after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Although, Russia has resurged as a recognized power in parts of Europe, it has not regained its former strength. Its dilemma resembles China’s in regards to the absence of a Worldview in its political ambitions.
Britain and France have lost their pre-World War II vigor but still have influence over some former colonies. Britain, despite its domestic problems and overall weakness, poses the only tangible threat to US influence in some countries. Due to historical and cultural links, Britain and France have managed to occasionally upset the Superpower’s interests. Despite that, the US is overwhelmingly more powerful than any of the former superpowers.
The global pandemic has further exposed the failure of Capitalism. The World Order is not expected to be altered post-Covid 19. This is because none of the powers has the capacity to replace the US. Besides, the ensuing dilemma is not just for the US but for Capitalism as a whole after the whole world witnessed its frontrunners suffer due to its fallacies.
The system does not face extinction as a result of this. The crisis only adds to the revelation matters like climate change already made: humanity will perish if Capitalism is sustained. The most that will come out of this is the mutation of the system – changes that do not affect the fundamental concepts the system was established on. After World War II, Capitalism mutated from the Gold Standard to fiat currency, mutating to cultural and welfare capitalism to show it cared for the environment and the poor. After decades of incessant crises, it is attempting to mutate to Crypto currency.
Notwithstanding Capitalism’s survival of the crisis, the stage for comprehensive change keeps building. As the present system continuously fails to meet public expectations, it might spark revolutions in parts of the third world like the Arab Spring. In essence, the most enduring threat the US and its allies will face lies in the countries they impoverished.
The global economic crisis will only deepen the longer the virus remains and those that will suffer the most are the poor countries. Come post-Coronavirus, the actions of the powers to alleviate poverty and ensure well-being is vital to the direction that world will take.
3 David Shambaugh, China Goes Global: the Partial Power, pp 6-7, Oxford University Press 2013
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