The COVID-19 Game-Changer
The world has never experienced anything like the current COVID-19 containment measures that were first implemented in China then eventually spread all across the West earlier this month. Not even in wartime were people sequestered in their homes for at least two weeks under what’s for all intents and purposes the de-facto imposition of martial law for community health reasons, allowed only to leave to purchase essentials such as groceries and medicine or use basic services such as banking ones. These historically unprecedented moves have devastated more national economies quicker than any kinetic conflict ever has, started a trend of nationalizations and bailouts, and made the citizenry more dependent on their government than ever before. It’s little wonder then that most Westerners are still in shock at how suddenly all of this happened, with their lives changed in the course of just a few days or sometimes literally overnight. Some have started to collect themselves are now thinking real critically about these powerful processes at play, with the two main schools of thought being that the coronavirus has either become the crown jewel celebrating the commencement of the “New World Order” (NWO) or the long-awaited crippling blow to globalization that so many have been eagerly hoping for.
NWO vs. Anti-Globalization
Each side has valid points in their favor. The NWO one points to Western governments seizing control of large sectors of the economy or threatening to do so, with there being a further division between those who regard this as either being socialist or fascist in nature (with differing attitudes towards each). They also generally think that the uncoordinated but almost identical response that almost each Western government has had to this outbreak strongly suggests that they’ll eventually pool their efforts together sometime in the future to form a joint plan of action within this geopolitical sphere or perhaps more globally, which would thus represent major progress towards the formation of a “global government” that could then spread its power throughout all other aspects of society on the basis of this emergency health crisis. The anti-globalists, meanwhile, are delighted that Trump and some other Western leaders want to immediately shift the supply chains for certain strategic industries such as medicine and medical devices away from abroad and back home, which they’re convinced will see this economic trend repeated in the social and political spheres in order to make the world “less flat” in the coming future. Open borders, free trade, and the UN might become relics of the past replaced with the supercharged nationalist zeitgeist of strong borders, fair trade, and less political multilateralism.
The Death Of The “Old World Order”
At this point, it’s difficult to say which of these two visions of the future will enter into fruition or if they’ll blend together into a hybrid scenario, but it’s all but certain that the “Old World Order” (OWO) will never return. The previous system — irrespective of whenever it was bipolar, unipolar, or multipolar — was characterized by the creeping trend of a “united world”, whether through the models of American, Soviet, or Chinese globalization and despite their competitive interplay. It was only through Trump that this began to be reversed somewhat, but only in terms of trade for the most part, and less so when it came to the free movement of people across international borders. Interestingly, it can now be seen that Trump was far ahead of the trend that recently set in whereby almost every nation instinctively clung to their own national interests as they understood them when responding to the COVID-19 outbreak despite a coordinated response being much more effective in hindsight. This largely discredits the Neo-Liberal school of International Relations thought which teaches that countries with similar values and interests essentially behave the same, which was just disproven in practice. Rather, for all the pomp, circumstance, glitz, and glamour surrounding the global elite, they ended up being much less united than many people thought, quickly abandoning their Neo-Liberalism for Neo-Realism.
That might very well change as an outcome of this global crisis, though, at least if the NWO theory enters into being. The seemingly “natural” solution to this uncoordinated chaos is to focus on more coordination in response, beginning with emergency health measures and possibly expanding into the economy and politics through joint “reconstruction” funds between newly nationalized economies (especially in the EU) and possibly regular multilateral “martial law” containment drills. The Schengen Zone, however, might not survive this crisis, at least not in its prior form, owing to the prevailing interests that each state (even if only nominal in the sense of their possibly accelerated absorption into the bloc’s supranational structures after this crisis) still has as proven by how they responded during these past two weeks’ chain reaction of containment responses. It might come to make more “sense” to immediately — or possibly even proactively — shut down a state (or EU “federal region“) in the event of a similar crisis, meaning that each one might have to become more self-sufficient in order to survive, which would ironically carry with it strong hints of the anti-globalist school of thought despite representing the opposite in practical terms since it would be coordinated through a central command.
Seguing more towards the actual anti-globalist scenario, this self-sufficiency trend would “organically” come from the state itself instead of through a supranational structure like the EU, with states exercising much more sovereignty than ever before as much as is realistically possible given the very strong legacy of globalization that they’d still be fighting to leave behind in the past. This would embody what the author described a year and a half ago as the trend of “Trumpism“, which might be coordinated between like-minded states sharing the same values and interests in an ironic Neo-Realist twist to Neo-Liberalism. The end of the old globalization model would be more advantageous to those few states that earlier embraced Trumpism than to the many that joined China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) since the latter stands to lose the most from these global systemic changes in that scenario unless its advantage of recovering from COVID-19 two months earlier than its economic rivals (provided that a second major outbreak doesn’t materialize there) enables it to disproportionately shape the outcome of the emerging global order more along the lines of the NWO per the application of “Chaos Theory and Strategic Thought” in order to best advance its grand strategic interests. In other words, the US under Trumpism favors the anti-globalism model whereas China supports the NWO one.
Whichever of the two scenarios or hybrids thereof ends up materializing, there are a few constants that will likely remain within each outcome. The first is that the “social globalization” of the free movement of people will probably be greatly reduced pending a global vaccination campaign, and states will probably retain the unprecedented powers that they assumed for themselves at the expense of what were once described by the West as “freedoms”. One realistic social change might be that all citizens under a certain age will be required to perform mandatory healthcare service just like military service in order to function as replacement hospital staff in the event of another health emergency (or with this training being “voluntary” in exchange for becoming eligible for emergency government assistance in such a scenario or social benefits more broadly), and social media censorship might increase too. As for economic changes, governments might be unwilling to reduce their control over the economy (whether for socialist or fascist ends) and will keep the average person more dependent on them through the aforementioned promised social benefits. These changes will greatly shape the way that most people live, so the main difference between the NWO and anti-globalization models are pretty much just the relationship between states, which will either cooperate more closely on the global level (NWO), eschew cooperation (anti-globalism), or concentrate on regionalism (hybrid).
It’s too early to tell whether the coronavirus is the crown jewel of the NWO or a crippling blow to globalization, but whatever it ends up being, there’s no question that it’s the black swan event that the world’s been fearing for years already. The consequences of the uncoordinated containment measures that are currently in place and growing ever stricter in many countries by the day will fundamentally change life as everyone knows it for an indefinite amount of time prior to gradually taking on the contours of the emerging world order, whether the “new”, anti-globalization, or hybrid one. It’s presently uncertain what time frame is most appropriate for anticipating further clarity on this pressing question, but one of the most important variables to monitor is the competition between China and the US as the torchbearers of the NWO and anti-globalization models respectively when it comes to helping other states recover from this crisis. As it stands, China seems to be ahead all across the world, assisted as it is by its earlier recovery, but that could prospectively change depending on whatever else Trump might eventually do in this regard. Either way, there will be losers and winners, those that are unhappy and those that are happy, but all three likely scenarios (NWO, anti-globalization, and hybrid) will completely change the world for better or for worse.