The weeks leading to June 2020 in Italy witnessed protests demanding the resignation of Italy’s government & Italy’s exit from the eurozone.
These protests manifested anti-EU sentiments that during this pandemic threaten to break the EU. This comes at a time when BREXIT is a relatively recent event, a time when Germany curbed the judicial overreach of the E.U. ‘s Court of Justice, angering Brussels, a time when the Defense Minister of Serbia in April said that the Coronavirus killed European solidarity.
COVID-19 has caught the world by storm, leading to the suspension of international travel, lockdowns, and 7 million + deaths; it’s even believed by some to be something that can change life as we know it. Consequently, there are concerns about how it has altered the prospects of International Relations.
In the Post-COVID world, we might see a rise of protectionism, disenchantment with internationalism in some countries, and strengthening of the same in others. We might also see a change in the world order as countries like China try to broaden influence.
According to Daniel Drezner, a Professor at Tufts, the scholarly consensus on Post-COVID international relations is that “The world will get more protectionist.” 75 countries (including India, China, Brazil, and Russia), as noted by the Global Trade Alert Team, introduced export curbs to avoid shortage in medical supplies. Like the U.S., where President Trump signed the Defense Production Act, other countries might follow suit to keep their medical supplies independent of each other.
In the short run, such export-protectionist policies might benefit countries with good production infrastructure, by helping meet local demand for critical equipment. However, they can have long-run costs, namely diplomatic misunderstandings. Aggrieved, some countries that didn’t adopt such export-protectionist policies but were negatively affected by them might retaliate with protectionist policies post-COVID on those that did. The multiplier effect of this kind of tit-for-tat behavior might result in protectionism rising globally.
Internationalism & Isolationism
The United States’ decision to terminate its relationship with the WHO, the anti-EU riots in Italy, and that statement by Serbia’s Defense Minister reveal one thing: Coronavirus has shaken trust in international institutions.
Some countries are looking inward for solutions to the Coronavirus as they believe international organizations are negligent of their interests. If such sentiments spread, we might see a more divided world post-COVID. If anti-EU feelings like those in Italy, which are on the rise, spread around Europe, the E.U. might even see more countries having their own “BREXIT.”
With this said, the rest of the world might look to China to lead international collaboration, and might work closely with each other and the effects of this might carry on into post-COVID geopolitics.
In short, the post-COVID world might see strong isolationist tendencies manifesting itself in some countries, while, simultaneously, there may be strong cooperation among non-isolationist countries under the guidance of those countries that assume leadership.
The Global Order
The U.S.’s decision that it will terminate ties with the WHO and Britain’s BREXIT, though good decisions, came with the trade-off of creating a power vacuum, which China is likely to fill.
During the crisis, China has become a provider of aid to other countries, has promised to make the COVID vaccine a global public good if it discovers one, has aggressively been asserting its claims in the South China Sea, and has confidently gone ahead with its “national security proposal” for Hong Kong.
Furthermore, Russia and China have been building a case at the U.N. against U.S. sanctions on Iran, indicating that they’ve become more confident of opposing American foreign policy.
These suggest that the U.S.’s decisions like suspending WHO funding might have been seen as ceding power, as an opportunity for China to broaden its influence.
This means that in the post-COVID world, should other countries begin to think of China as a leader in global co-operation and America as unwilling to be one, China might emerge in a higher place in the post-COVID world order, unless the U.S. counteracts this by expanding its influence during the time of the pandemic.
To conclude, the outlook for the post-COVID international relations as of now is that protectionism might grow as countries impose export-protectionist policies during the crisis. Some nations might become more isolationist, while others might increase cooperation. Unless the U.S. expands its influence, countries might turn to China for leadership—thinking America is ceding power—thereby shifting the world order.
Finally, it’s important to clarify that the outcomes in this article are those that can occur, not necessarily those that will occur. Like all forecasts, this is limited by the knowledge available to the author, and the possibility that unexpected events can change outcomes in international relations—something which isn’t always easily forecastable.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.