The coronavirus pandemic has not passed, but it has been and will leave severe consequences in all aspects of human life, as well as international relations.
A quiet street in New York, USA during the lockdown
VietNamNet would like to introduce articles by Dr. Hoang Anh Tuan, former Director of the Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about geopolitical changes in the world after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our world is at an important turning point and a new world that is emerging will be totally different from the current world. There are both good and bad effects. Like it or not, we have to adapt to the new reality.
The new world is temporarily called the “post-Coronavirus world”. There was the “post-World War 2 world”, the “post-Cold War world”, so why not the “post-Coronavirus world”?
The “post-Coronavirus world” is named because of the severe consequences Coronavirus has caused to humans.
First, the COVID-19 epidemic is a public health disaster of the largest scale the world has ever witnessed in thousands of years.
Plagues are not new to the world. The world has witnessed horrific epidemics such as cholera, typhoid, plague, measles, Spanish flu, smallpox, and HIV, Ebola and SARS recently…
However, Covid-19 is the first global epidemic that almost all countries in the world have been affected more or less. The main agent for spreading coronavirus on a global scale is globalization.
Second, the contemporary world has never witnessed a crisis, catastrophe, or any other war with such fast destructive strength as the Covid-19 pandemic, which has the whole world “closed” as illustration on the Economist magazine’s cover shows.
Within three months, most of the production, trade, transportation, business, trading, and entertainment activities of people all over the world had to stop due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The physical damage amounted to tens of trillions of US dollars, and it continues to rise.
Third, like a fantasy film, the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic is the “first unconventional World War”, a war without gunfire, not between humans, but between humanity and an invisible virus. For the first time in the world there was a “war” in which all the latest weapons are useless.
What makes the whole world crazy and helpless is that despite great damage and huge amounts of money poured into the fight against the coronavirus, people still have very little knowledge about the mechanism of transmission of this virus. They also do not know when and how to develop a truly effective vaccine to treat patients and control the disease effectively.
Fourth, while the war against the Covid-19 pandemic has just begun, humanity began to vaguely understand that even if they win against coronavirus, it is only a temporary victory.
In fact, what the world is doing now is just the “rehearsal”. Most likely, after coronavirus is controlled, its “relatives,” “offspring”, or its new variants or strains can appear. The problem is only when and how.
They can emerge from the melting ice layers that have been buried for millions of years due to climate change and global warming. They can also come from old forests or come from wild animals in the forest to home animals when the natural environment is narrowed, and humans’ living environment and the natural environment become closer. Or they can “hide” somewhere, then genetically alter, to later reappear in a “more dangerous” way.
Dealing with such an “enemy”, nations or people cannot take conventional measures or practices, but must use harsh, special and extraordinary measures.
Three scenarios for the coronavirus pandemic
The changes for individuals, countries and the world will certainly depend greatly on how the Covid-19 pandemic will develop in the near future.
Therefore, it is important to develop different scenarios and how to respond to each scenario so that we are not passive and not surprised by any situation.
In general, based on the assessments and behaviors of the countries in the world today, it is easy to see that most of them build on a single scenario.
Their outlook for this scenario is relatively optimistic as they thought that the epidemic would soon disappear like a seasonal flu and by the end of June 2020, countries around the world would basically control the Covid-19 pandemic and the number of infected people as well as the death toll would be significantly reduced; economic activities and other activities would return to normal.
However, there was a problem in the forecast. In the countries most heavily affected by Covid-19 such as the US, France, Germany, England, Switzerland, Spain … they thought this was only a matter of Wuhan and China only. Therefore, they lost three precious months to take the necessary preparation and response.
Therefore, it is quite possible that the current “optimistic” forecasts will not take place in accordance with our subjective will. If the worst case occurs, what will be the contingency plan?
The answer is that many countries have no options at all!
In the strategy to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to anticipate the scenarios and thereby develop appropriate response options to avoid being passive. And it should be noted that the Covid-19 pandemic is not the problem of an individual nation but a global issue.
A country may soon “escape” from the pandemic, but its recovery depends on the developments of the disease in the surrounding countries and major economic and political centers in the world. If these countries continue to “fall ill”, the nation’s ability to fully recover will also be significantly slowed down due to interdependence.
We can temporarily set three scenarios as follows:
Scenario 1: The Covid-19 pandemic will only last for another three months, ie by the end of the second quarter of 2020. At that time, the disease will be controlled both regionally and globally.
This is the best scenario for countries as well as the whole world. The lockdown of 3-4 months can be considered as a pause, after which economic activities and people’s lives will return to normal.
Under this scenario, most countries are affected and damaged, but the damage will soon be overcome.
Scenario 2: The Covid-19 epidemic is primarily under control, but continues to spread at low levels in many countries and globally. The situation can take place from 1 to 3 years until people develop a specific drug to effectively treat patients infected with Covid-19.
If there is a specific drug, Covid-19 will be considered a seasonal flu, just like the flus or other diseases that humans have encountered such as measles, pertussis, diphtheria, malaria, HIV … We cannot completely eliminate Covid-19, but we can live with it.
Under this scenario, we have to both prevent the spread of the disease and restore production. As for social activities, exchanges between countries cannot be restored to normal levels, but only maintained at a minimum.
Also under this scenario, due to the prolonged impact, the economy of most countries and the world economy will enter a period of depression. People will have to live in more deprived conditions than before, while still having to devote significant resources to disease prevention.
Scenario 3: Covid-19 continues to spread very fast for a long time despite the “lockdown” measures that many countries are taking. The number of infections as well as the number of deaths remains steady at very high levels. The world will fall into a state of prolonged immobility.
It is worrisome that Covid-19 began to move from rich countries, with economic potential and advanced medical capabilities such as the US, China, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Australia … to poor, underdeveloped countries, where sanitation and health conditions are extremely backward, such as Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, and the Middle East.
Under this scenario, the death toll could be millions and tens of millions could be infected with the virus, causing the public health system and community epidemic systems in many countries to fall.
The consequences for the world are extremely tragic. The development of the world could be delayed for decades, accompanied by severe poverty, disease and violence.
As the ancients said, we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Of the three scenarios above, scenario 1 is the most optimistic and everyone wants it to happen. Scenario 3 is the worst and nobody wants, but it cannot be completely excluded. Scenario 2 seems to be more likely.
To be continued…
Dr. Hoang Anh Tuan