COVID-19 will deal a blow to globalization; total decoupling unlikely
Published: Mar 12, 2020 02:43 PM

Photo: IC

While COVID-19 can be regarded as an unforeseen black swan of 2020, we can be certain that it will have a profound impact on the world's economy, politics, strategy and globalization.

US stocks again fell hard at the open on Monday, triggering a circuit breaker that halted trade for the first time in 23 years. China is now bracing for the restart of work, but it will surely take some time before the Chinese economy returns to its pre-COVID-19 level. Many other countries are suffering from the epidemic now, which will further impact the global industrial supply chain. 

The plummet in the stock markets is also related to uncertainty, which just might cause another financial crisis. And judging from the current situation, people's worries may gradually become a reality.

The impact of the coronavirus is also reflected in the way people think. Currently, people are muttering about countries being too closely linked in the globalization era and blaming the spread of COVID-19 on globalization. They believe countries should reduce their connectivity with one another and strengthen control on their borders. This is understandable considering the current situation but such a mind-set could push the world in the direction of deglobalization.

Such a trend might not lead to a global political crisis, but it could cause decoupling between countries. Many countries have already closed their borders. The COVID-19 has somewhat intensified divergences between China and the West, so decoupling between China and the US and other Western countries is a possibility. 

If the situation continues to develop along this path, decoupling will happen between many more countries. To predict China's relations with the US and the West in a post-epidemic era, we still need to further observe the epidemic in these countries, and we need to take other factors into account, such as the US presidential election. But now, I am afraid that the world is moving toward alienation.

However, countries will not completely cut off links between each other. The world still needs interaction between countries, even just at the minimum level. 

Decoupling will cause many problems, such as decreased economic efficiency. Productivity varies from country to country, and this is why there is an international division of labor. This is consistent with the principle of economic efficiency. Decoupling is against it. 

Politically and strategically speaking, curtailing connectivity may cause misjudgments and increase conflicts between countries. Decoupling will also trigger a sense of alienation among peoples of different countries. This will have a huge impact on the development of the entire human society. Thus, it is not likely that countries will be completely alienated from each other.

The COVID-19 has reminded all countries of the importance of public health security. Countries may not have paid enough attention to this issue. Other pandemics may also reoccur in the future. The COVID-19 has reminded countries to give public health issues a higher priority. All countries may need to improve their public health mechanism since none of them responded quickly enough to the initial outbreak of COVID-19.

The coronavirus has also made countries realize the importance of international cooperation in public health. Countries should at least build some consensus on public health, no matter how tense their political relations are. In terms of public health, we need to build an information-sharing mechanism which is transparent, timely and will not be hindered by political relations. After all, no country can respond to all epidemics alone.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Li Qingqing based on an interview with Da Wei, director of the Center for Strategic and International Security Studies of University of International Relations. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn