COVID-19: A Geopolitical virus as well

Do you know why we call “Corona Virus” as ‘Corona’? It’s not an unfamiliar word, especially for science students. In the 12th standard, we read about the ‘Van de Graaff generator’. The voltage produced by an open-air Van de Graaff machine is limited by corona discharge. It is basically a “Spiked like” structure. Similarly, Particles of the novel coronavirus are spherical and have proteins called spikes protruding from their surface, which invade human cells.

Then, why it is advised us to wash our hands? The fatty layer that holds the spikes together is disrupted when it comes into contact with soap or a hand sanitizer with more than 60% ethanol. This disruption causes the virus to come undone and kills it. But this virus no more limited only to human health but has extended also at the geopolitical level as well.

Does calling COVID-19 as Chinese Virus racial discrimination?

The present situation of the globe, due to COVID-19, is like that the world has been attacked by strange creatures from another planet. Unfortunately, it’s a known creature from the same planet i.e. China. COVID-19 is not a new gift from China. Former DGP of UP, Prakash Singh, rightly pointed out that China inflicted on the world Asian Bird Flu in 1996 followed by SARS in 2002 and now Coronavirus in 2019. Apart from a global gift, it’s China that has provided nuclear weapons to rogue states like Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea. Thus, destructive gifts are not a new way for the Chinese.

However, It has created a geopolitical dog fight between the US and China. US accuses China by calling it a ‘Chinese virus‘ and China retaliates the USA as the epicenter of coronavirus. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian publicly promoted an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus might have been brought to China by the US military.

In past, we have examples where disease and viruses are named based on the region which was not called racial. West African Ebola virus epidemic has the name ‘Africa’. There is an infection of the brain caused by the virus and we all called it “Japanese encephalitis (JE)”. Then why China is feeling offensive when COVID-19 is called with a Chinese name? It should not be.

China has recently requested India not to call Corona Virus a ‘Chinese Virus’.  In the process of requesting India, China should also remember its past – First, China must have refrained from dragging India into UNSC on Kashmir, which is India’s internal matter. Second, China should have refrained to get into Kashmir unilaterally through CPEC.

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Third, China should have not delayed the UNSC resolution to put Masood Azhar into the list of designated global terrorists to sugar-coat Pakistan. Fourth, When the world was chanting that abrogation of Article 370 was an internal affair of India, what were the Chinese doing? They were in the process to back Pakistan. The unilateral relationship would not be accepted in the 21st century. There is a need for symbiotic and bilateral cooperation between India and China.

Is sand of geopolitics is shifting from west to east?

Kishore Mahbubani, the famous academician of Singapore, former diplomat, claimed that the COVID-19 will accelerate a change that had already begun – a move away from U.S.-centric globalization to more China-centric globalization. Some events prove his projected pattern. First, COVID-19 may also accelerate the shift in power and influence from west to east.

Second, This pandemic marked by the inability of the US to even manage its own state against COVID-19 and failure to fulfill its responsibilities on the global stage. Third, It is only India and smaller states like Australia is steering multilateralism and cooperation through online SAARC call. Thus, coronavirus pandemic could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back of economic globalization.

I think it would be a hurry to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is marked as the defeat of the liberal order of the world. But it is also true that the US-led world order is receiving thrust from all around. The proponent of globalization and the liberal world said that today’s challenges are not so usual that one nation can alone fight against it – where is so-called ‘Global cooperation’? Where is the global village?

China cast a veto against the discussion in UN Security Council with respect to COVID-19 with the help of Russia and South Africa. Does any country have the guts to drag China for this mess and hold it responsible? Can we say UNSC work only for interfering in an internal matter of countries like India – Kashmir for an example? It’s the nation (not the global village) that is helping their own people in need.

Dancing of WHO on Chinese music

Politics at the globe is not different from the politics at the nation. At the national level, the post of governor is deemed as constitutional and neutral but on real grounds, in India, Governor has been seen favoring the government that nominated him/her. On the same line, the office of WHO responded very differently on two different pandemics – SAARS (2002) and COVID19 (2020).

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During SARS, WHO had strongly criticized China’s opaque data practices and delayed efforts. But now, Tedros, who served as Ethiopia’s minister & DG of WHO, has mismanaged WHO’s efforts to contain Covid-19. The dancing of Tedros on the Chinese music by not putting a clear picture on time shows the penetration of China in global institutions.

Tedros, DG of WHO, commended China for “setting a new standard for outbreak control” and praised the country’s top leadership for its “openness to sharing information” with the WHO and other countries. Why does Tedros much incline toward China? – First, WHO requires voluntary budgetary contributions to meet its broad mandate. China has increased its voluntary contributions.

Second, Despite voluntary contributions by the USA, declining US leadership has given the upper hand to China. Third, China was also an important ally of Tedros in the WHO’s DG election in 2017. 4th, China has huge economic interdependence in Tedros’s Ethiopia where China has extended $12.1 billion credit and decent investments.

Trump decided to withdraw from WHO funding alleging WHO. Trump gave an argument – “China has total control over WHO despite only paying $40 million a year compared to what the US has been paying which is approximately $450 million a year. Because they have failed to make requested and needed reforms, today we will be terminating our relationship with WHO”.

To cover the COVID-19 pandemic, China worked not only in its home country but in other countries as well. US president, Trump alleged China “China’s cover-up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world”. Chinese authoritarian regime kept complete check inside China. In other countries, Chinese writers and diplomats wrote articles to justify their stands.

Spillover effect over the globe

COVID-19 is a pandemic that has given birth to many parallel pandemics. First, After the extension of the Covid-19 lockdown, a large number of people are pushed into poverty. Second, In China, France, U.K. & India, there have been reports of a significant increase in domestic violence cases since the imposition of lockdowns.

Third, the World is facing global disorder and disarray in global governance. Nations are leading the Global pandemics alone. Fourth, the Economy of the globe in general and the economy of the developing countries, in particular, is expected to go low as predicted by IMF. 5th, Pandemics has been misused by leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel & Victor Orban of Hungary to kill democracy.

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COVID-19 has broken several myths circulating across the nation as well as across the globe – First, It breaks the myth that opposition doesn’t cooperate ruling govt in India. Consensus can be built up if ways are just. Second, It breaks a liberal myth that a single nation is inefficient in tackling today’s challenges. From east to west, countries are fighting alone.

Third, It breaks a popular myth that Indian people lack reasons. Scientific temper is witnessed when religious leaders suggest people to take shelter in hospitals and follow the govt orders. 4th, ‘Asian values’ is not a myth since, during the COVID-19 pandemic, China sent doctors to Italy for help and South Korea sent medical kits to the US. It shows the east is helping the west.

Breaking of several myths at the national level shows that nations are approaching maturity. Spill-over effects due to COVID-19 show that there are several challenges that can’t be solved alone. It needs collaborative efforts. Thus, global governance is the need of the hour. The first step should be justice. In order to ensure justice, China must be held accountable at the UNSC for all the havoc it has caused. The USA should take the lead.

If the USA misses the opportunity then COVID-19 would the straw that breaks the camel’s back of US hegemony. The second step would be to decide the global governance with clear-cut responsibilities. For this, the whole world should sit together to plan the challenges which ignore the border.

Footnotes

  1. The Indian Express | What is coronavirus?
  2. CNN | Coronavirus has created a rift between the US and China
  3. ORF | Dr WHO gets prescription wrong
  4. Hindustan Times | UNSC won’t discuss Covid-19
  5. Council on foreign relation | The WHO and China: Dereliction of Duty
  6. Reuters | Ethiopia debt woes curtail China funding
  7. Live Mint | China’s cover-up of Covid-19 led to global pandemic and loss of a million lives: Trump
  8. World Economic Forum | China is sending medical experts and supplies
  9. Reuters | South Korea set to ship coronavirus testing kits to U.S. 
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