Whether it was the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Wall Street Crash of 2008, a momentous alteration had been witnessed each time around in the global order in wake of such precipitous global shocks. The well-articulated speech of Bush Sr in Congress in 1991 laid the foundation stone of ‘The New World Order’ that envisaged a roadmap for nation-states to inculcate the US-led liberal democratic principles and capitalism into their domestic political and economic spheres. The COVID-19 outbreak has not only illuminated the lacunas of liberal democracies and capitalism but the USA, as its chief proponent, has been under severe criticism lately. The global order seems to be in disarray and ‘The New World Order’ seems more like a ‘Disorder’ at the moment.

As domestic economies have plunged to a standstill yet again, the COVID-19 pandemic has questioned the efficacy of capitalist economies. A deregulated capitalist society has proved to be incapable of protecting the general masses during a national emergency. The ‘just in time’ stock management method has failed to keep up with the burgeoning demand of protective equipment and essential items. Stock markets all across the world have plummeted and governmental bailout packages are indicative of the fact that state-regulation is of great importance in extra-ordinary situations.

This compels one to realize the fact that while the privileged class has the financial capacity to get themselves tested for coronavirus from private labs despite lacking symptoms, there exists another class, who do show symptoms, but still have a tough time getting themselves tested. George Orwell has aptly described this consequential stark reality of capitalism, in his book Animal Farm as “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Capitalists that once berated socialist breadlines now enter superstores to find empty shelves. The inequitable sequel of capitalism in the shape of concentration of wealth, monopolies and unchecked hoarding has been exposed by the COVID-19 outbreak. As in the case of Pakistan, the disruption of supply chains and the shortage of wheat and sugar, in toto, indicate the failure of capitalism to tackle precarious situations. While profit making is the sole aim of a few pharmaceutical giants, a whole new politics over the upcoming corona vaccine has eroded trust over the current global order, as it is the masses that suffer as a sequel of this battle for attainment of intellectual property rights.

Moving on to the political side of the world order, the US-led liberal democratic setup was propounded to nascent nation-states after the WW-II with the ‘general will’ of the people as the central feature of such a system. However, the current pandemic has forced countries to enforce strict measures to curtail the liberty of people. Thousands of people getting beaten up by the police, for violating restrictions placed upon them by the Indian Government, is a constant feature of the largest democracy of the world these days. The countries, which once, claimed to be the champions of fundamental human rights, seem to be compromising on their own set principles.

The COVID-19 outbreak raises questions as to whether the western democracies, such as the USA, are subservient to the general will of the people or a small chunk of the corporate world? Is the $2 trillion US bail-out package actually aimed at protecting the small-scale industry or a small chunk of corporate giants that safeguard the US president’s interests as well? These questions marginalise one’s attention to the crisp reality that today’s democracies have actually transformed into a ‘Corporatocracy.’

The efficacy of leadership in a democratic setup poses a threat to the current world order. 21st century democracies have produced populist leaders such as Donald Trump who are nowhere near to their predecessors, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, in effectively tackling challenging situations. From terming the virus as a ‘hoax’ to announcing a day of prayer, thousands of lives could have been saved if the US president exhibited rationality at the right time.

Contrastingly, the result-oriented autocratic and authoritarian model of China provides an alternative to the ailing world order. Excessive regulation through mass surveillance of its citizens, information control and various methods of punishment and rewards to encourage adherence to the government’s strict measures has proved to be successful in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.

China is all set to export its ideology to the rest of the world as its ratification has been assented to by rest of the world in a sequel to the ramifications of the current world order.

The extra-ordinary production capacity of China has not only enabled it to cater to its domestic demand but also to the global needs. Whereas, large western economies have failed miserably in fulfilling their own needs, let alone meeting the global demand. Western economies rely on the Chinese manufacturing industry as depicted by the fact that when no European state answered Italy’s urgent appeal for medical equipment and protective gear, China publicly committed to sending all sorts of products to tackle the outrageous pandemic. China has also offered help to other countries such as Iran, Serbia and Pakistan, thereby, boosting its ‘soft power.’

As the current world order seems to be in shambles, a vacuum is being created which may pave way for the augmentation in popularity of the world order being offered by China. The current world order is, definitely, in a transitory phase as evident from the societal, economic and political strain being exerted on nation-states while handling the unusual crises looming over them. However, it should not be forgotten that world orders do not change by a sudden bang rather it alters by whimper. The victors of the COVID-19 crises may very well determine as to who would control the reigns of a New World Order.

–The writer is the director of Benson Pharmaceuticals and an advocate of the High Court, practicing in Islamabad. He can be reached at saad-satti@hotmail.com