BY MANJIMA MISRA
21st Century has witnessed the emergence of a bipolar world – with power being concentrated in two countries: USA and China. USA China superpower rivalry dawned a new Cold War. The recent trade war between USA and China demonstrated that the competition between the superpowers is based on the pursuit of economic power. The irony is that these two superpowers are amongst the worst affected countries by the Coronavirus pandemic- a pandemic with deep economic ramifications. USA and China are amongst the countries with highest number of coronavirus cases and coronavirus caused deaths which implies that economic recovery post-crisis will be more challenging for these two nations than the ones which have not been affected by the pandemic. The economic impact of COVID-19 crisis on USA has been equivalent to that of the Great Depression of the 1930s.China has restrained its spending in the current crisis and has ordered border shutdown, in contrast to its economic policy post-global 2008 financial crisis. If the economies of these two superpowers are subjected to a long-term economic crisis due to the halt of the economy during the pandemic, they no longer might remain the superpowers in near future and the world might not be bipolar anymore in the foreseeable future.
Traditionally, power of countries in global politics has been conceived in terms of military strength and financial production. However, both military strength and economic production are inconsequential during the current public health crisis. What matters the most now is the concept of “Human security” – an underused goal when it comes to pursuit of power. Amartya Sen conceptualised two kinds of poverty: income poverty and capability poverty. Human security focuses on “Human development” which constitutes reduction in capability poverty leading to increased resilience of people towards dangers such as disease and environmental degradation. Post-pandemic policymakers might come to the realisation that ‘Human Security’ is a fundamental aspect of power. A major component of building human development/security is education. Better education leads to greater civic sense and moral reasoning. This means that nations which have higher focus on human development, are made of citizens who share a higher sense of collective responsibility in the face of a public crisis. As Denmark and New Zealand have demonstrated, countries with higher human development index are more resilient economies and have been able to contain the spread of the COVID-19 Epidemic well.
To conclude, the immediate post-COVID 19 world might have power concentrated in countries which have invested more in human security over the past few decades, in contrast to countries which have dominated global politics through military strength and economic production.