US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The coronavirus pandemic plunged the world into a dangerous state of loss of balance when the alluring appeals of populist nationalism and the obvious, compelling need for global cooperation and collective action (literally) entered into a deadly battle. Unfortunately, nationalism is winning. But globally minded citizens around the world can – and should – fight back, and they should start with the United States.
For decades after World War II, America played the role of a (mostly) good global hegemon. Her economic and military superiority made her clearly interested in establishing and maintaining the rules of the game of international cooperation and collective action. It is for this reason that the United States led the creation of institutions such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (formerly the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).
But today, US power and influence is weakening (at least relative to China), so Presidential Administration Donald Trump has returned to the policy of isolationism. With minimal domestic political opposition, Trump introduced tough anti-immigration measures, staged a trade war with China, refused to cooperate with the G7 and G20 allies to mitigate the economic consequences of the pandemic.
As America ceased to take part in global collective action, other governments, fighting the virus, began to make more confident decisions similar to this based on the principle of “ruin your neighbor.” For example, they impose restrictions on the export of food and face masks, seek to seize intellectual property rights and profit from the future effective vaccine from Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Trump decided to freeze US funding for WHO right in the midst of a pandemic, which is important not so much in a financial sense, but as a symbolic demonstration of the Doctrine of America First in Action. For America, the irony of the situation is that the antiglobalism of Trump, who spits the world in the face, is mirrored in the deepening polarization within the country, where a pandemic reveals and reinforces inequality that already existed.
Unfortunately, nowhere can one find an example of international leadership. After Brexit, the European Union is struggling to cope with nationalism in EU countries. He could not even agree on a moderate sharing of the burden of accepting refugees and could not get out of the deadlock confrontation over the issue of issuing joint “coronabond” to save the economies of the EU during the current crisis.
Meanwhile, China, led by Xi Jinping, does not have the instinctive and international authority that is needed to guide global cooperation. Yes, of course, China is trying to play a leading role. He joined other G20 lenders who allowed low-income countries to suspend debt payments to official bilateral lenders (thanks to his Belt and Way initiative, China has become one of the largest among them, and its loans are the most expensive).
In addition, China has pledged $ 2 billion to WHO. But at the same time, under the cover of a pandemic, China plays muscle in Hong Kong and the South China Sea. His positive steps are more explained by competition with the United States than by his desire to stimulate international cooperation.
The instinctive nationalist reaction to the pandemic is not surprising. Coronavirus, like climate change, knows no boundaries, but most people identify as citizens of the country in which they live. Almost all of us in our hearts are nationalists – or patriots, if you like it more.
In addition, it is difficult to imagine an alternative to the current international order based on sovereign states. Historians usually call the creation of the current system of states a key factor that helped to reduce the level of violence in the world, as well as an unprecedented increase in the standard of living of a huge number of people. According to economist Dani Rodrik, a nation-state is a prerequisite for the existence of liberal democracy, while at the global level democracy is in principle impossible.
However, the pandemic reminded us of how much we depend on cooperation between states. Such cooperation may be explicit, as in the case of trade agreements, or indirect, as in the case of managing global financial risks or fulfilling the goals set in the Paris Climate Agreement. Failure to cooperate in the fight against Covid-19 poses a threat to everyone, because everyone will be defenseless against the virus until everyone gets protection.
To combat the destructive nationalism that Trump became the embodiment of, it is necessary that the conscious citizens of each country require their governments to participate in international cooperation, support multilateral institutions, and maximize the benefits of complying with agreed international rules and norms. In this century, more than ever, such activities will meet the interests of all countries and citizens.
Fortunately, the dominant self-determination as a citizen of one’s country does not preclude simultaneous self-determination as a global citizen. For example, in the late 2000s, more than 80% of survey participants in 17 developed countries agreed that they were “morally obligated to reduce hunger and extreme poverty in poor countries.”
We all benefit from the work of WHO, the IMF, the G7 and G20, and when these organizations fail, we should blame not their weakness, but the inability of the most powerful members of these organizations to maintain their strength. For US citizens, a pandemic creates a sense of solidarity, and in the same way, it can teach people around the world the need to make a mental leap beyond national borders and support the idea of global solidarity.
American citizens should lead this effort. Americans are used to having their government play a leading role in global crises, such as the administration of President George W. Bush in the fight against AIDS and the administration of Barack Obama in the fight against the global financial crisis and the Ebola epidemic. Today, they must demand that the Trump administration fight the pandemic with a strategy in which America’s national interests are balanced with its irreplaceable international reach and potential.
America has ceased to be a global hegemon, but during the current crisis for the world, it is precisely its leadership that remains the best option. And no more suitable time can be found to test this assumption.
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