We are living right now through one of the most special and vital moments of our century. The whole economic, social and international order has been put in danger because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. We can presume that the world is not going to work as we were used to, so for all of us a simple question comes up, what will change in the relations between the states and which will be the one that benefits from it? These are points that require an extensive answer and that’s the objective of this analysis, bringing to you, reader, pertinent information of how the international community works in this scenario and how it will potentially turn out.
COVID-19 is a virus which appeared in China on December 2019 and was declared a pandemic by the WHO (World Health Organization) on 11th of March. The first place where it became diagnosed was the city of Wuhan, located in the province of Hubei. Quickly, people all over the country were infected and the quarantine was declared on 23rd of January. We have to remember that China is the most populated country in the world and the foremost supplier of the global economy, so when we talk about stopping the whole system - we are talking about stopping multiple dislocated industries. As a consequence, the productive chain of the occidental economies is breaking down. The West usually is more aware about economic issues than others, and confirming this, the concerns were more focused on reopening trade with China than starting to prepare for the incoming disease. On the other hand, Asian countries like Japan or South Korea started to prepare themselves earlier, which helped to keep down the longevity of the virus in the region. In a way, this difference can be explained by cultural factors., Europe is based on individualist values rooted in Christianity, whereas Asian countries are generally based on collective systems, so suddenly appearing situations are handled with a totally different perspective.
February was the month when the chaos started. COVID-19 reached Europe, to be more precise, Italy. The region of Veneto of which Milan forms part, was the most affected. It was just a matter of time for the rest of the countries to have cases, the Schengen space of the European Union gave the virus a business ticket to go wherever it wanted. Italy routinely has intense traffic for people travelling to Switzerland, France, Germany, Croatia, Monaco, Slovenia and Spain. For the European Union, suspending the free circulation of people is treated like a sin, so it was not done until it was too late to remedy the problem.
European health structures were not prepared for the level of stress that suddenly appeared. Nearly all the systems were heavily affected because of shortcomings due to the 2008 financial crisis. Those countries without a complete public healthcare system are those whose people are suffering most. Other continents such as Africa or the Americas were not too affected at the first instance, but we could expect a huge change in that situation. This crisis is not a lineal crisis, it is a multilayered crisis, which means that the outbreak would have more impact in different regions of the world at different times. The USA is going to be the most affected in economic terms. For the first economy in the world there is no time, nor thought for a scenario in which the workers cannot produce. Also, COVID-19 is reflecting the racial division that still exists in the country, with African Americans and Hispanics coming out on the top of the death list.
With that general vision in mind, all the states in the world are competing for the medical products supplied mainly by China. This fight looks like what we would imagine in a total war. The inequality between the countries in the international trade space is the principal factor that will explain tomorrow’s relationship between the states. We are seeing gestures of egoism, insults to other countries and racialization of the medical emergency inside and outside the countries. Those that felt insulted will certainly change their positions in the international society. One clear example is what is happening in the EU council due to the economic help demanded by the countries of. the south and the negativity from the rich and northern countries. It is unrealistic to expect that countries such as Spain or Italy would be treated in the same way as the Netherlands or Sweden, whose commentaries include statements such as, “it is their own fault for not saving up money during the last year” or “we cannot share the public debt with those poor countries”.
Applying this reasoning to the rest of the world, the solidarity between states and nations will mark the relationships of the future. As for the issue of which state it is going to benefit from this situation, the answer is going to be always: nobody. All over the world people are losing their relatives, their heart, those that form part of their identity and their future.
From an economic point of view, we can presume that China is clearly the winner of the situation, being the only country with the indispensable situation and infrastructure to supply all the resources needed by the whole world, so they are the only market available. As for the political issue, the current hegemony of the United States will be weakened but not to a critical point. As always, we can conclude that the most affected will be the working class, with its limited resources. Those who previously did not have much access to welfare, now will have even less options for survival.
Every chaos brings a new order, as the stronger and wealthier survive, while the weak and poor die. This argument can be applied also within our societies, and to countries within the international context and society.