COVID-19 is expected to have far-reaching social effects on globalisation. Many have argued that the pandemic will lead to intensified nationalism, causing countries to turn from the global community. However, we argue that the pandemic will set the stage for a potentially unprecedented era of global cooperation.
Short-Term Social Impact of COVID-19
Crises in general tend to strengthen national sentiments. Citizens put their trust in their nation-state, which has the “financial, organisational and emotional strengths that global institutions lack.” This is reinforced by the absence of the notion of community and belonging at the global level. Patriotic symbols and a sense of immediate kinship do not exist in international institutions.
This has become particularly clear within in the European Union, one of the most integrated multi-national organisations. The German Chancellor, for example, did not even mention the EU when she gave a speech to public on COVID-19. Further, frontier controls between European states have returned. Overall, member states have criticised the EU for failing to deliver on its promise of solidarity.
This resurgence of nationalism is being accompanied by xenophobia, hate, and even violence. The UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, reported that “politicians and groups are exploiting fears surrounding the disease to scapegoat certain communities, leading to a rise in violence against them.” This has included “physical attacks against Chinese and other Asians, hate speech blaming Roma and Hispanics for the spread of the virus, and calls by some political leaders for migrants to be denied access to medical services.”
This wave of nationalism and hate has developed into a deadly blame game between the world’s strongest powers, the United States and China. The President Trump continues to attack China, calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” and stating that China’s concealing of information on the virus was the cause of the outbreak. He also alleges that China is underreporting its virus deaths and that a biotech weapons lab in Wuhan caused the original outbreak. In return, Chinese officials claim that the US military can be blamed for the virus. The Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machine promoting those conspiracy theories across the nation.
This nationalistic sentiment has even blamed the very international organisations that are supposed to act as a venue for international cooperation. Trump blames the World Health Organization (WHO) for “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” As a result, he has halted funding to the organisation.
This wave of chauvinistic nationalism is likely to decrease after the crisis. However, it could leave long-term effects, especially as this wave of anti-globalisation already started before COVID-19.
Long-Term Social Impact of COVID-19
Nonetheless, on the long term, we argue that COVID-19 will have a positive impact on globalisation. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world a clear lesson: despite our technological and academic advancements, we might not be able to foresee an upcoming disaster and prepare for it. If countries move towards nationalisation to prevent further pandemics, the world will be more vulnerable to threats that can only be addressed through global integration. Many of these threats currently exist and no nation can fully defend itself via nationalisation. For instance, transnational crimes such as cybercrimes, human trafficking, and money laundering require a certain level of global cooperation to be investigated and prosecuted. Global cooperation is also required for peaceable natural resource management. Accordingly, globalisation seems to fair better than nationalisation on maximizing nations’ welfare.
Whether the world is faced by another pandemic, global warming, or unforeseen catastrophe, what we ought to learn is the world must recognize that the COVID-19 crisis has shown us that we share a common fate. Despite political differences, the pandemic revealed a common goal for all: survival. Recognizing the undeniable fact of our shared common fate could move nations ahead of the psychological nationalistic trauma that COVID-19 had inflicted on them. The notable French philosopher Alexandre Kojeve contemplated the notion of the Latin Empire: citizens who share a sense of common fate with other citizens could overcome their tendency towards nationalisation. Indeed, tendency towards unification and global cooperation highly increases in the aftermath of global disasters and catastrophes.
The formation of the United Nations and the European Union at the end of World War II are concrete examples that common fate tends to unite different countries that had collectively faced a world’s catastrophe. COVID-19 could provide the traumatic impetus for a fresh strengthening the world’s cooperation networks. New international treaties and organisations that aim towards unification may be on the horizon. The World Health Organization has demonstrated the importance of humanity’s common fate and global unity in order to realise its objectives. It has repeatedly stressed that global unity and cooperation is the “key” to fight against the pandemic.
Although most countries have initially adopted protective nationalism as a reaction to the pandemic, there seems to be a growing atmosphere of solidarity among nations. Physicians and medical researchers around the globe are racing time to invent a vaccination for COVID-19. China sent doctors and medical supplies to Italy a few weeks ago. Similarly, Britain, Germany and France have offered a $5.5 million package and medical material–including equipment for laboratory tests, protective body suits and gloves–to Iran as an effort to mitigate the devastating effects of the COVID-19 virus. This attitude previews the innate tendency towards globalisation and unification as a result of a better understanding of the world’s common fate.
In conclusion, COVID-19 had taught us an indispensable lesson about our common fate that will most likely have a positive impact on globalisation in the long run through inspiring more cooperation and solidarity among nations. This will override the world’s current instinct of nationalism, which is fueled by fear and a desire to blame other nations.