Connect with us

Headline News

How Coronavirus May Reshape the World Order



The novel coronavirus is not just a catastrophe for global public health, it will also bring about a shift in the world order. Pandemics have affected and altered world orders in the past. The Black Death pandemic in the fourteenth century AD, also believed to have originated from China, killed 90 percent of the people of Hubei, and about half of China’s then population of 123 million and reduced the world’s population by over 100 million. It brought the Mongol world order to its knees. After building the largest land empire in world history, the Mongols had developed trade on a vast scale, linking East Asia, the Middle East and Europe into a vast economic network. They had built roads, bridges, relay stations, and provided security for traders and travelers. These avenues of commerce became conduits of the spread of the pandemic. The plague disrupted the interlocking economic relationship, known as the Khubi system, between the empire’s four segments, the Yuan in the East (Beijing), the Chagatai Khanate in the center, the Ilkhanate in Southwest (Central Asia and Iran), and the Golden Horde in the northwest on Russia’s border. European cities closed their borders and turned on the Jews, whom as usual, blamed for the catastrophe. It cut China off from Europe for centuries. 

Compared to the Black Death, the novel coronavirus, also known as the coronavirus seems rather mild; despite its high contagion power, it seems to have a lower mortality rate so far. The Black Death killed plenty of younger people (the 1361–2 outbreak is called the Children’s Plague (pestis puerorum, mortalité des enfants), the coronavirus kills mostly the older. Yet, despite better medicine and medical care, many countries have been caught grossly unprepared. The quarantine system invented by the sixth Umayyad caliph Al-Walid in early eighth-century AD, in Damascus, seems to be the only effective way to combat the spread of the virus, aside from fashionable postmodern term: “social distancing.”

How will the coronavirus affect the current world order then? It’s still early days, but some trends are clear.

First, the crisis is going to undercut support for globalization, which was already weakened by rising populism and the policies of the Trump presidency. The lightning speed in which the virus spread around the world, thanks to economic interdependence as well as tourism and travel, is going to be blamed on globalization and will create a further backlash against it. The closing of national and provincial borders and reassertion of state sovereignty has further exposed one of the most powerful myths of globalization as a borderless world.

Second, the virus may be the nail in the coffin of the idea of West, including whatever remained of transatlantic relations after Trump-wreck. The G-7 failed to issue a statement because of the Trump administration’s insistence on calling out the “China virus.” In the meantime, Italy’s former Prime Minister Enrico Letta has warned in a Guardian interview of April 1 of Europe catching “the Trump virus,” with nations pursuing “Italy first,” “Belgium first” or “Germany first” approaches over a common EU strategy Support for the EU in Italy, Europe’s and world’s largest victim of coronavirus, has plummeted, with 88 percent of Italians in a recent poll feeling let down by the EU.

Third, the virus might strengthen Trump’s “America first” agenda. At the White House Coronavirus briefing on April 2, 2020, Peter Navarro, the architect of Trump’s trade war, said “if there’s any vindication of the president’s by American secure borders and a strong manufacturing base philosophy, strategy and belief,” he says, “it is this crisis because it underscores everything that we see there.” Yet, the image of a hapless nation with the world’s greatest economy and military caught with its pants down is grossly at odds with Trump’s MAGA aspiration.

Yet, the crisis seriously diminishes America’s credibility globally and that of the Trump administration within America. The image of a hapless superpower with the world’s greatest economy and military caught with its pants down and then brought to its knees by a virus that had been forewarned will be hard to forget. While Trump may not care about international public opinion, many Americans are feeling a sense of helplessness that cuts across party lines.

All this could mean another nail in the coffin of the Liberal International Order, already reeling from Trump’s policies and Western populism.

Fourth, will China gain from this crisis? The crisis puts the relative political and economic models of the United States and China under the global spotlight, and whoever comes out it better will gain more credibility. There is a chance that its economic impact may be harsher on the United States than on China. Should this happen, it will accelerate the power shift to Asia, which was already in process. The loss of America’s both hard and soft power will accentuate the transition to a post-American order, or what I have called the Multiplex World.

Yet, while China managed to bring the outbreak under control, it has been criticized for its initial failure to act transparently and effectively to prevent the virus from getting out of control undercuts Beijing’s global leadership ambitions. This will not be easily forgotten or forgiven, even as Beijing seeks to repair the damage by providing aid and advice to many nations to help them cope with their own outbreaks. China’s image has not been helped by the conspiracy theory promoted by a foreign ministry official that blames the United States as the source of the virus, and the under-reporting of infections (now admitted) and deaths, which might have given a false sense of the human costs of the virus, hampering other nations’ efforts to combat it. Until China accepts its own share of responsibility for the outbreak, its international image is not going to be rehabilitated.

The virus may have other costs for China, even if its domestic economy picks up, it might make China a less attractive investment and tourist destination. It might speed up U.S.-China decoupling and supply chain reorientation away from China.

Indeed, the crisis may well end up putting other emerging powers, such as India, and Russia in a negative light, should they replicate the West’s failures.

Finally, pundits will debate whether national responses to the crisis put democracies in a more positive light over authoritarian states. But the countries that have offered reasonably strong responses to the coronavirus include both. The real contest here is about governance, rather than ideology or regime type.

The present crisis underscores the reality that effective governance trumps material power rank (economic or military) in coping with global threats. The United States has come out as a “government ill executed,” as Fareed Zakaria wrote, using the language of Alexander Hamilton. Again it’s too early to judge their eventual success, but if the present trend holds, the “winners,” if that is the right word, here are the small and medium countries/territories who were able to rise up to the occasion with testing and containment measures, such as Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. This is very much in keeping with the idea of “G-Plus” leadership, a key element of the idea of Multiplex World, which stresses issue-oriented governance by multiple actors over traditional great powers status in defining the emerging world order.

While there is a real risk that the virus could make nations more inward-looking and promote mercantilist self-reliance over interdependent cooperation, there are some silver linings, provided the international community learns the right lessons from the crisis.

Contrary to those who may see the crisis as signaling the dangers of globalization and the virtues of self-reliance, I believe it vindicates the supporters of interdependence. The real argument of interdependence theory is not that it prevents conflict, but that it makes conflict more costly to all parties in an interdependent relationship. The coronavirus crisis has proven just that.

The crisis will not end globalization, but hopefully, it will increase demands for making it more humane and regulated. But countries need to reverse over-tourism, a major factor behind the spread of the virus, and thus better protect their national heritage and the global environment. The crisis should create great awareness for more investment in national and global public health (keeping in mind that Trump was cutting the U.S. contribution to WHO by half), especially in countries like the United States. Moreover, the crisis underscores the importance of cooperation, both bilateral and multilateral. The breakdown of U.S.-China relations made the US and international response to the coronavirus much weaker than in past crises such as SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu and Avian Flu. If so, then a major lesson of the crisis will be the need for more rather than less global cooperation.

Continue Reading

Headline News

Top US admiral bristles at criticism of ‘woke’ military: ‘We are not weak’



Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of Naval Operations, rebuffed pointed interrogations by GOP lawmakers who grilled him over his decision to recommend sailors read a book deemed by some conservatives as anti-American.

The U.S. Navy’s top admiral also defended moves to address and root out racism and extremism in the forces as well as its efforts to bolster inclusion and diversity, which have prompted criticism from some conservatives and Republican lawmakers.

“Do you personally consider advocating for the destruction of American capitalism to be extremist?” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., asked Gilday during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, referring to a passage from Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist,” which argues capitalism and racism are interlinked.

Banks continued to interrogate the admiral over specific quotes from Kendi’s book, which was a No. 1 New York Times best seller in 2020, and statements he had made elsewhere in the past.

Visibly distraught, Gilday fired back:

“I am not going to sit here and defend cherry-picked quotes from somebody’s book,” he said. “This is a bigger issue than Kendi’s book. What this is really about is trying to paint the United States military, and the United States Navy, as weak, as woke.”

He added that sailors had spent 341 days at sea last year with minimal port visits — the longest deployments the Navy has done, he said.

“We are not weak. We are strong,” Gilday said.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., also challenged the admiral by citing specific quotes from the book and asked him how those ideas laid out by Kendi would further advance or improve the Navy’s power.

Gilday responded by arguing the importance of transparency and open dialogue about racism.

“There is racism in the Navy just as there is racism in our country, and the way we are going to get out of it is by being honest and not to sweep it under the rug,” he expounded, adding that he does not agree with everything the author says in the book.

The key point however, he said, is for sailors “to be able to think critically.”

The exchange was the latest in vociferous complaints from some conservative leaders and lawmakers who suggest the armed forces are becoming a pawn for the country’s culture wars and “wokeness” ideology, as the military takes steps to address issues of racial inclusion, extremism, racism and white supremacy.

And only last week, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., accosted Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin about Kendi’s book, which Cotton said promoted “critical race theories” at a different Senate Armed Services Committee hearing where Austin was testifying.

Days earlier, Cotton and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas — two combat veterans — launched a “whistleblowers” online platform to report examples of “woke ideology” in the military.

“Enough is enough. We won’t let our military fall to woke ideology,” Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, said in a tweet.

Also in February, Austin instructed a one-day stand-down across the Defense Department pausing regular activities to address extremism and white nationalism in the ranks — an issue Austin declared as a priority after a number of rioters at the U.S. Capitol in January were found to have military backgrounds.

The stand down completed in April was an effort to better understand the scope of the problem of extremism in the ranks, Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby said in a briefing then.

Earlier, Austin had revoked a ban on diversity training for the military.

More recently, in May, a U.S. Army animated ad focused on soldier diversity — featuring the real story of a soldier who enlisted after being raised by two mothers in California — drew criticism and political backlash from some conservative lawmakers.

“Holy crap,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a tweet. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea. . . .”

Cruz was referring to a TikTok video that compared the U.S. Army ad with a Russia campaign that showed buff soldiers doing push-ups and leaping out of airplanes, adding that the contrast made the American soldiers “into pansies.”

The confrontation Tuesday is also the latest in reproaches by Rep. Banks, who is a Naval Reserve officer, and other GOP members over Gilday’s recommendation to include Kendi’s book in the Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program.

In February, Banks sent a letter to Gilday arguing that the views promoted in the book are “explicitly anti-American” and demanded Gilday explain the Navy’s decision to include it on the reading list or remove it.

Gilday responded to Banks in a letter obtained by Fox News saying that the book was included on the list because “it evokes the author’s own personal journey in understanding barriers to true inclusion, the deep nuances of racism and racial inequalities.”

Lamborn and Rep. Vicky Hartzler, D-Mo., also wrote a letter to the admiral to convey their concern about the inclusion of Kendi’s book as well as Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” and Jason Pierceson’s “Sexual Minorities and Politics.”

The GOP lawmakers argued the books “reinforce a view that America is a confederation of identity categories of the oppressed and their oppressors rather than a common homeland of individual citizens who are united by common purposes,“ Lamborn and Hartzler wrote, according to Fox News.

Continue Reading

Headline News

Looking back on the 1991 reforms in 2021



Our understanding of events refines with time. New developments reframe the issues, and prompt reassessment of the solutions applied, their design and outcomes. What does looking back on the 1991 reforms in 2021 tell us?

For three decades, India celebrated and criticised the 1991 reforms. The reformers of 1991 say that the idea wasn’t only to tide over a Balance of Payments (BOP) crisis; the changes they brought in went beyond the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) conditionalities for the bailout. The reforms, they insist, were ‘home-grown’. In the years leading up to 1991, technocrats in government had been thinking and writing about how India’s economic policies had been blocking the country’s rise to potential and the structural changes needed. If the broad range of reforms—including tearing down the industrial license permit raj, an exchange rate correction, and liberalising foreign direct investment and trade policies—could be launched within a matter of days of a new government joining office, they argue, it is because the blueprints were ready, waiting for the go-ahead from the political leadership.

The reformers of 1991 say that the idea wasn’t only to tide over a Balance of Payments (BOP) crisis; the changes they brought in went beyond the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) conditionalities for the bailout.

At least two well-regarded technocrats that were important in the 1991 reforms disagree—publicly and in off-the-record conversations. In a media interview last month, one of them, the economic adviser in the reforms team, Dr Ashok Desai, suggested that if there were any reformers in government before the IMF “forced” India to liberalise in 1991, “they hid themselves very well”. According to him, after the BOP crisis was resolved, finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh turned “dead against reforms”.

The multiple versions of the reforms story make it difficult to separate fact from romance. It cannot be disputed, though, that the 1991 BOP crisis was a turning point for the economy. India had tided over BOP crises earlier with loans from the IMF, repaid them prematurely, and avoided going through with the bailout’s conditionalities. 1991 was singularly different because India was on the brink of default, which is likely to have forced politicians to set politics aside and listen to technocrats. Any default on external obligations would have meant hurting India’s credibility grievously and an inescapable sense of national shame. The government probably took the view that there was no choice other than to take corrective steps. Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao named Dr Manmohan Singh, who had been a technocrat in government and was well regarded in global policy circles, as his finance minister. Dr Singh clearly had the Prime Minister’s, his party’s and the IMF’s trust. Records irrefutably show that the Congress party’s acceptance of the reversals in the interventionist economic policies of the first four post-Independence decades was not secured by the Prime Minister. He had delegated the task of tackling doubts and resistance within the party to his ministers, in particular, the finance minister and the commerce minister, and an aide in his office. The finance minister defended the reforms on the floor of the house in Parliament.

Continue Reading

Headline News

Taxpayer-funded NPR mocks ‘CaPitAliSm,’ prompting calls to ‘defund’ media outlet



National Public Radio (NPR) ignited a social media firestorm Thursday night over a tweet that appears to mock capitalism, despite taxpayer dollars accounting for much of the organization’s annual budget.

The outlet posted a story titled “And Now, Crocs With Stiletto Heels” that explores a curious new collaboration between luxury fashion brand Balenciaga and Crocs, the rubber slipper company responsible for fashion faux pas among the millions of comfort-clinging owners nationwide.

The caption accompanying the article, which was written in both uppercase and lowercase letters, appears to mock the collaboration: “CaPitAliSm bReEds InNovAtiOn,” it reads. 

The tweet’s language sparked outrage on social media, with figures like conservative Tim Young calling out the irony in NPR’s three-word post.

“You wouldn’t exist without capitalism, clown who is tweeting on behalf of NPR,” he wrote.

“Job at public news station wouldn’t exist wo capitalism,” another user echoed. “Are you guys ok?”

“Our tax money shouldn’t pay for this,” one person expressed.

“It’s still a hell of a lot better than communism at breeding innovation, even if some of the products are silly,” one woman fired back.

Continue Reading