Just like in wartime, people are terrified, public attitudes are changing, and the circumstances necessitate a wider role of the government in handling this world-wide crisis. When we look around the world and think about the long-term consequences of the situation we are in, we see that the coronavirus policy is culturally determined, it involves key political choices, and that this crisis represents a defining moment for the world politics. Politics at a global level has definitely transformed since the Coronavirus pandemic.
How will the Coronavirus affect politics?
Until now, the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the politics of various countries around the world leading to suspensions of legislative activities, isolation, or deaths of multiple politicians, and rescheduling of elections in certain countries due to fears of spreading the virus. It is likely to unbridle political instability, and even regime changes in developing countries already battling from the economic crisis. Coronavirus has a mortality rate of around 2 percent, so it might not have the impact of history’s great pandemics (like the Black Death, or the Spanish Flu), but for a modern society like ours, worst-case scenarios are still shocking. The prime ministers of various countries go on TV to issue a somber statement to the nation about the curtailment of our liberties and the leader of the opposition goes on supporting him.
The presidential vote is supposed to take place on 3 November. The date is set by federal law and Donald Trump has no power to delay it on his own. And, so close to the election dates Media coverage that would normally be all about the race for the White House is dominated instead by extraordinary public health and economic crisis, with the US death poll being the highest in the world. The presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Joe Biden are working on the assumption that, come November, these tough times will be over. Even the Spanish Flu didn’t stop the US from holding its 1918 mid-term elections.
The mechanism of electoral politics has been thrown into a commotion by Covid-19. While primaries have already taken place in some states, others have been deferred. All the quintessential activities of a campaign, like canvassing for votes, candidates trying to drive the political conversation in their favor, grabbing the public’s attention seem impossible in a time of strange and deadly crisis.
Meanwhile, the president controversially uses the every-day White House coronavirus taskforce briefings to push his own political objectives, and Biden has been campaigning from his home in Delaware, trying to use a new digital plan of action that includes a podcast to reach voters. Right now, we don’t even know if it will be safe to vote at polling booths when the presidential vote happens in November. The only thing that does seem to be clear is that 2020’s election is going to be a challenge of unprecedented proportions.
Tensions in China
Xi Jinping, Trump’s Chinese counterpart, does not have to fret about re-election. Yet, the coronavirus still poses a danger to his popularity and authority — and even, to his leadership.
With travel outside the country sharply curtailed and major cities of the country effectively under lockdown, it is clear that Xi’s China has to simultaneously face a health emergency, an economic crisis, and an international embarrassment.
The government in Beijing has been portraying the virus as a natural disaster, with Mr. Xi and his administration completely unaccountable. The official line stresses Beijing’s ability to take quick and adequate action, and the social solidarity displayed by ordinary Chinese people as they battle to contain the epidemic.
The US-China Cold War
The pandemic, in a fateful twist, has moved the US and China an inch closer to a potential cold war. It has strengthened hard-liners in the two countries, and political stress emerging from the pandemic is making it difficult for leaders to back away from the escalation of the conflict. For two months, as the virus killed thousands and unleashed economic havoc around the world, leaders of the two superpowers have thrown the blame on each other to divert attention from the sufferings of the crisis and from their own missteps. Administration officials have quietly pressed for international censure of China’s liability in the health emergency. And they have seized on the medical emergency to attack the network of economic and other manufacturing ties that have developed between the two countries over the last 40 years.
Through its state-owned media and political operatives, Beijing has slammed the “racist and xenophobic” statements of America’s “irresponsible and incompetent” political officials. Not just America, the one way in which Europeans, including the Nordic countries, are raising their concerns over China reflect the transforming nature of politics since the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The global blame game has already started to intensify tensions between nations as new conspiracy theories emerge and borders close. The direct blaming of other countries for the development or spread of the virus remains comparatively rare. But strategies like the adoption of quarantines and travel bans across the world are causing friction between countries.
With a major outbreak of the virus confirmed in Italy and Spain, the EU is now concerned about a threat to the Schengen border-free travel zone, which covers 26 European countries, however, with the situation the world is in, several restrictions will be introduced. Under EU law, countries are allowed to close their borders in the case of a public health emergency. Such measures are meant to follow clear guidelines issued by Brussels. The problem is that as political pressure increases, European countries might take haphazard and uncoordinated measures. Further, the epidemic gives the anti-percent another argument, allowing them to bring to light the dangers of relying on supply chains vulnerable to the kinds of disruption caused by the virus.
Refugees in Poor Countries
In Europe, thousands of migrants live in densely packed camps along the Mediterranean, without sufficient medical personnel and infrastructure to deal, with no emergency COVID-19 plan in place by governments. Currently, 80% of refugees live in low-income and middle-income countries, which are believed to be the sites of the expected fourth wave of COVID-19 behind China, Europe, and the USA. Already, these areas have undeveloped health-care systems, scarce protective equipment, and poor testing and treatment measures. They need tremendous global support to prepare for an impending crisis.
WHO leaders continue to appeal for more attention for refugees and migrants, including in humanitarian settings, which are facing disruption of essential supplies of food, medicines, and aid workers. These are definitely challenging times, and COVID-19 is shifting the tectonic plates that undergird world politics, and, as the virus continues to take down everything in its path, the range of potential outcomes is wide. And, in such circumstances that history is made. The ways in which politics has transformed since the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic make us reflect the precarious, fragile, and dynamic nature of International Relations and Politics.