2020 was off to a rough start: the United States and Iran almost went to war (which would have surely triggered World War III), Kobe Bryant passed away, a volcano in the Philippines threatened to wipe out millions of people in the island nation, and a whole host of problems all around the world. And that was just January.
By the end of that month, the most unprecedented threat to the international community became known: COVID-19, or the Novel Coronavirus, a new strain of the flu that was aggressively infectious, managing to infect more than 3 million people around the world in a span of a couple of months.
Almost overnight, entire countries shut down borders, major cities shuttered businesses, mass gatherings were banned, and international trade ground to a halt. Of course, governments knew that they needed to continue trading for their economies not to collapse.
After the first wave, major governments eased trade restrictions and started sending ships and planes across the seas once again, albeit with strict and intensive guidelines on disinfecting. But while reduced operations of global trade were enough to keep the world economy hobbling along on one foot, other consequences are also on the horizon:
Boycotting China Is Much Harder Than It Seems
COVID-19 was found to have originated from a wet market in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of China. After a few days of denial, the Chinese government finally admitted that a novel strain of the coronavirus had been unleashed into the world and begrudgingly admitted that, indeed, the virus originated from their shores.
Wave upon wave of angry calls to boycott china and Chinese products followed soon after, especially after news reports revealed that the Chinese government had known about the virus prior to it being reported by foreign news agencies.
But as the world’s largest manufacturing center and supplier, could it really be possible to boycott the one country that produces pretty much everything we use, including everything that the supply chain uses from boats and robots to cranes and apps.
While countries like the U.S. and Japan are spending billions of dollars to either encourage their businesses to move their manufacturing out of China or to impose trade sanctions on China, not every country can afford to do that. In fact, many countries from both Asia, Europe, and Africa are so dependent on the Chinese manufacturing power that, until a viable alternative is presented, the economic consequences would be disastrous.
And besides, while the call to boycott China comes from a moral high-ground –many people believe that they caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people because of their nigh malicious negligence –the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t make sense to cripple the world’s largest trading partner, not unless we had a viable alternative, which we don’t.
Nationalism Will Start Rearing Its Ugly Head
Quote Wilder, Patriotism is the virtue of the Vicious, and I couldn’t agree more: after all, it seems strange to be proud of being a winner of the genetic lottery. Patriotism and nationalism, when used by the morally corrupt, become weapons of racism and hatred.
Maybe we’re not seeing Third-Reich levels of Nationalism just yet, but it is on the rise: just look at the slogans of a lot of countries dealing with the pandemic using heavy-handed authoritarian practices, it’s all reliant on militaristic jingoism that treats the virus as “enemies” they must fight in a “silent war”, with doctors becoming ‘front liners’ who ‘combat’ the ‘invisible threat’.
From Duterte and Trump to Orban and Putin, the world’s ‘strongmen’ leaders are using the pandemic to trigger some sort of rally-round-the-flag effect on their population to further boost their power base, all of which, of course, is disguised as attempts at containing the virus.
But here’s the problem: pandemics are not wars, it’s not something that requires military solutions. Rather, it is a health and humanitarian crisis that needs to be addressed from a scientific and medical background.
Unfortunately, we’re already seeing nationalism rear its ugly head, with racially-motivated attacks on American-Chinese communities happening around the country. After all, nationalists are just thinly-veiled racists looking for a valid reason to hate someone not of their skin color.
Just like calls to boycott China, Nationalism will also be the cause for governments to start treating foreign trade partners with suspicion, maybe even hostility.
In times of a global pandemic, fear is an unfortunate motivator for many people, and while it should be the perfect time for the world to come together under the banner of science and medicine, the COVID-19 crisis has, instead, revealed the moral weaknesses of many of the world’s super powers. As the race for a vaccine continues and the world holds its collective breath, it’s up to the more level-headed leaders to steer us in the right direction and hopefully avoid more deaths.
And to think, we’re not even halfway through the year.