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COVID-19 or the Rearranged Pieces in the Geopolitical Chess

By Daniel González | Mon, 04/06/2020 - 16:48

COVID-19 is much more than a pandemic. The worldwide spread of the virus is considered one of the fastest in human history. It has caused a minor earthquake in the political and economic structures that dominated the world at the end of the 20th century to the present day.

At the dawn of the 21st century, the intellectual Francis Fukuyama wrote one of his most influential concepts: “The end of history.” This is how the Japanese referred to the political and economic system that emerged in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. For Fukuyama, the story ended when the West had finally removed all obstacles to the peace needed to embark on the greatest and fastest economic growth in recent history. Many of Fukuyama’s ideas were passionately backed by governments and business schools around the world. From that moment on, the US would become the hegemonic power thanks to a system of alliances with the EU and other world governments that allowed it to exercise control with a certain degree of tranquility. Today, that world is on the verge of collapse.

The destruction that 9/11 meant to achieve can happen by the expansion of COVID-19, a disease that does not discriminate against cultures, ethnic backgrounds, political ideologies or economic development, among others. The virus, which emerged in China in late 2019, has challenged several of the axioms that had defined the world over the past 40 years. When the first case was diagnosed, the US and China, considered to be the two most powerful economies in the world with great cultural, military and political power, were facing each other in a bloody commercial war over the control of 5G, one of the most disruptive technologies that human beings have seen since the Internet. When the Berlin Wall fell, both the European Economic Community (ECC), the US and the UK began to bet on the deregulation of financial systems, giving way to an economic globalization in which the US became the sole leader. In this new world order, the US and its European allies began to bet on financial profitability and technological development, giving way to two of the most important centers of our time: New York City and Silicon Valley. Economic development for both countries grew. Nevertheless, the world also needed manufactured products, a gap that was filled by China. With a dictatorial political system, an enormously disciplined population that was submitted to an authoritarian regime for decades and after the recovery of Hong Kong, China became the factory of the world. The idea of “one country, two systems” proposed by Deng Xiaoping in 1984 was finally a reality.

This privileged situation allowed China to accumulate sufficient capital to develop its own technologies, many of which are as competitive or even more so than those of the West. Today 5G has become a key piece of the geopolitical chessboard. When the COVID-19 emerged, China was still the world’s leading manufacturing center, though with one foot in the technology pie that is about to be shared.

China was the first country to declare quarantine status among its population, which also allowed it to become the first country to control the epidemic. This has enabled the country to become the world’s largest distribution center for medical and health products. Practically 100 percent of the ICU ventilators, masks and gloves that the West needs come from China, which has become even more strategic for countries to control the spread of the virus.

As China began to control the growth of COVID-19 and those infected within its own borders, the virus had already reached the heart of the EU: Italy and Spain. For many, these countries have experienced some of the most complicated days since the World War II. Italy and Spain sought help from their traditional partners (US and the EU). These allies did not meet the expectations of Pedro Sánchez and Giuseppe Conte, so both Italy and Spain decided to look elsewhere for help and they found China. The country is currently experiencing a positive recovery process and found the opportunity to help Italy and Spain by loading planes with medical materials headed  for Milan, Rome, Madrid and Zaragoza. This diplomatic act of kindness became a win-win situation for all countries involved. As a result, China has managed to send a message of international solidarity that was interpreted as helping others while recognizing our faults regarding COVID-19 , while the most affected countries in Europe received medical supplies necessary to fight the spread of the virus. The geopolitical chess board was changing in real time.

And in the midst of this turbulence, the war for ownership begins. Donald Trump appeared before the media saying that COVID-19 is the “Chinese virus.” During this time, China was betting on the conspiracy theory by saying that the virus had been introduced into China by American soldiers participating in the Military World Games held in Wuhan, ground zero for the COVID-19. “It could have been the US military that brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on March 12.

The virus has not only called into question the status quo that emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but has also shown the weakness of many liberal democracies unable to clearly confront the dichotomy of individual freedom versus collective freedom. Countries with important democratic shortcomings, such as China or Russia, have been able to control the spread of the disease thanks to authoritarian measures unthinkable in democratic Europe or the US, where individual rights, by tradition, have always prevailed over collective ones.

In this context, countries such as Mexico, a historical trading partner of the US, with whom it shares a border of thousands of kilometers, must make wise decisions to occupy a prominent position on the new geopolitical chessboard that will dominate the world once the crisis is over. The country’s geographic position, its influence in the production of consumer goods and its preponderance as a leader in Latin American affairs, offer an advantage for Mexico. However, Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not made a single official trip abroad and his relationship with many of the world’s great leaders is practically testimonial.

Economic management will play a key role once the COVID-19 crisis begins to fade on the horizon. However, much of Mexico’s future will be in the hands of diplomats dealing with the geopolitical management of this crisis. The geopolitical war is advancing unstoppably and Mexico must place its weapons in order to obtain certain guarantees.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
BBC, El País, UN, Corriere della Sera, The New York Times, Milenio, El Español, Infobae, South China Morning Post
Photo by:   Pixabay
Daniel González Daniel González Senior Writer