Drastic change is occurring in silence as the current Covid-19 pandemic has exposed so many uncertainties to the international community and global governance, political economy and international affairs scholar Edmund Li Sheng has suggested.
Most recently, the University of Macao scholar published a book titled “How Covid-19 Reshapes the New World Order: A Political Economy Perspective.” The book covers the theoretical account of international order change in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic epidemic from an interdisciplinary perspective.
Covid-19 has hit the global public health system in unprecedented and unexpected ways in the context of globalization, making it very different from several large-scale epidemics in history.
Among the most interesting elements of this global upheaval, according to Li, is the possible transition of power between the United States and China.
“In this book, I draw an analogy between Covid-19 and the American ‘Suez moment’, symbolizing the relative exhaustion of the United States and the rise of China visible in the pandemic fight on both sides,” a said Li, who is also the associate dean. (Academic Affairs) of the Faculty of Social Sciences.
“The American democratic system and the Chinese model or authoritarian system have operated in divergent ways in response to the epidemic. The underlying trend for a crisis of democratic decay in the United States in a sense embodied the eastward shift of a global balance of power, ”he told The Times.
For him, the leadership vacuum lies in the global coordination of public health, international organizations that have not functioned well in guiding the temporarily blocked globalization process, including the free trade and international cooperation agenda.
In the face of the fragmentation of global governance and the rise of nationalism and geopolitical competition, Li’s book focuses on how three regional international organizations, the European Union, NATO and ASEAN, have responded. to the challenge of [growth] regionalist forces.
Li is also director of the Russian Center and coordinator of the Master of Arts in European Studies program at UM.
Macao Daily Times (MDT) – How has the pandemic changed the political economy of the city?
Edmund Li Sheng (ELS) – According to relevant data, Macau’s GDP fell 56.3% year-on-year in 2020. But fortunately, a series of public policies launched by the government during the same period, including the issuance of consumption vouchers electronic devices to residents to encourage consumption, have guided and helped the market to maximize its self-resilience, serving as a sort of empirical evidence to update the definition of the diametrically opposed relationship between politics and economics that has always been supported by the Western liberal economy.
So far, it is evident that Macau’s political economy is moving in a positive direction, based on the government’s decision not to arbitrarily interfere with the economy but to help the economy recover from the crisis. recession.
After this battle, it is believed that Macau’s political and economic self-resilience will be raised to a higher level. However, from the perspective of the global economy, international trade has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
MDT – And at the global level?
ELS – Global industrial chains, supply chains and value chains in North America, Europe and East Asia have also faced serious challenges. The Covid-19 has also had a serious impact on the labor market, leading to a drop in the global employment rate and a drop in income. The suspension of production of multinational companies due to the disruption of the global industrial chain and supply chain caused by the pandemic will force countries to think about globalization and strengthen anti-globalization measures.
Countries like the United States, Japan and South Korea are starting to return to manufacturing in areas related to their national economies and the livelihoods of their people, and to industries that offer competitive advantages to their own. development. The spread of this pandemic has led to the prevalence of nationalism, xenophobia and protectionism.
While this does not change the direction of globalization, it can slow the pace of globalization and make economic globalization more regionalized towards neighboring countries and countries with similar values.
MDT – How will the concept of global political economy be newly articulated after the pandemic?
ELS – The frequency of interactions and interdependencies between the political and economic spheres will increase considerably compared to the past. The highly interconnected nature of the global economy derived from globalization dictates that the economic contraction brought on by the pandemic is no longer a concern for one country or region, but rather a common destiny for the entire world.
From an economic point of view, countries must build a new open economic system, coordinated internally and externally to prevent the transformation and regression of economic globalization.
From a political perspective, this means that states should seek to maximize communication through the platform of international organizations to help the global political economy protect itself from the negative effects of the pandemic.
MDT – Are we seeing significant changes in the way government authorities have set aside other social issues due to the pandemic?
ELS – The number of social resources that the government can mobilize is limited and, therefore, the allocation of public resources must follow rational decision-making priorities. This means the government must make compromises in the face of a major public crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.
In some Western countries, anti-pandemic strategies are addressing the social impact of the consequences of the pandemic. […] Some states in the United States initially did not give due priority and attention to pressing public health care and livelihood security issues. They therefore missed the best time to curb this pandemic.
But then the United States [federal government] tried to remedy the situation by adopting the Covid-relief, which included increasing unemployment benefits, granting financial aid to states, [as well as the assistance for] medical facilities and other utilities, supporting the hardest-hit industries and providing loans to small and medium-sized businesses.
Most European countries (EU) reacted slowly at first because they did not know how to deal with such an emergency. Although the response was slow, it subsequently became a high priority for most EU governments. However, the recurrence of the epidemic has also intensified social conflicts.
For the Chinese government, public health safety is a top priority at present and is seen as a fundamental guarantee for further economic development. However, it must be admitted that although China’s strategy to fight the pandemic has been successful in phases, this prioritization has consumed significant national resources and comes to the detriment of the social rights of some citizens, including freedom of assembly. For now, there are still too many uncertainties about the long-term impact of these two strategies. But the only certainty is that issues such as public health security and healthcare will play an exponentially larger role in the social sphere, forcing governments to think about how to engage more sensibly in decision-making. social prioritization.
MDT – Has China’s role changed politically in the midst of this crisis?
ELS – As China’s overall national power continues to grow, China’s international political status is in a dynamic process of change, which is somewhat accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic as a catalyst. When China’s rise is placed in a larger international context, the global geopolitical balance of power shifts from the Western Hemisphere to the East, with China at its center. Realists have long been pessimistic about changing power relations and the potential for a hegemonic transition between China and the United States, arguing that a Thucydides trap [a resultant tendency toward war] at the cost of violent conflict is inevitable.
Yet, after the trials and tribulations of the Covid-19 pandemic, China appears to have seized a window of opportunity in global governance: a leadership vacuum in the provision of global public goods in the face of the resurgence of unilateralism. and American isolationism.
MDT – How has the perspective of other countries on China changed?
ELS – The EU’s top foreign policy representative questioned the Chinese government’s motives and corporate efforts to donate protective medical equipment to countries around the world, saying China is gaining international influence thanks to the “policy of generosity”. However, unlike the behavior of some countries intercepting medical equipment, developing countries will be less offended by the policy of generosity. By optimizing resource mobilization, China has become the first economy to recover from the pandemic and has delivered nearly one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine globally, giving it a head start in the leadership race in global governance.
While the Chinese model has gained some international recognition for its economic achievements over the past three decades, the authoritarian system at the forefront of the Chinese model has continued to be criticized by Western liberal democracies on the battlefield. stories.
The political importance of the Chinese model has been widely noted and discussed in the context of this pandemic, especially in light of the potential crisis of democratic decay in American-style democracy, which has further elevated the political status occupied by the United States. Chinese model.
In general, China is actively leading international cooperation in the pandemic outbreak, but the controversy over China’s ability to become a benign imperium as an authoritarian state has not abated, especially with regard to intentions of vaccine diplomacy.
However, due to the potential of a Kindleberger Great Depression trap [a failure to provide global public goods following an ascension to global power] As a result of the lack of leadership in global governance, China’s political role in the global system may shift from being a “stimulator” in the current system to an indicator to guide systemic transformation.