Dr Majid Mohammad Sharifi, in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, stated that the corona epidemic on the world stage showed that the government is still and will remain the main actor in the international system. He said many analysts believe that from now on governments that have, in fact, strengthened themselves in the fight against the disease, assume a nationalist form and pay attention to everything that matters only to themselves, and pay less attention to what is happening in other countries.
Emphasizing that the disease appears to be exacerbating tensions in relations between states, the controversial nature of the international system will continue to intensify, he said. In the economic dimension the important implication of outbreak of COVID 19 is that states try to make some changes in their economic model that is more focused and dependent on the inside. However, part of the reason for the spread of the disease is the interconnection of the international system. So countries are moving towards independence and economic self-reliance and focusing on their domestic economies to prevent such events from happening in the future.
Mohammad Sharifi considered the efforts to be independent in the field of strategic goods as other developments in the post-corona world and at the same time said: Some believe this would happen only in the short term and that interconnection and mutual economic dependence of the states are so strong that they cannot be broken. COVID 19 may be able to stop this process for a while, but it cannot destroy it. Governments are forced to return to the cycle of mutual economic interdependence, but this time they may enter into this interaction through a series of new regulations.
Escalation of China-US Rivalries; Most Important Consequence of Corona Crisis
Referring to some views that the corona pandemic will be a major milestone in the global economy and that the point of reliance of the global economy will shift from the United States to China, the international affairs expert added: The most important implication of this crisis in the international system will be the escalation of rivalries between the United States and China. It remains to be seen where the world will go if there are such options facing the US.
He explained: “Some believe that with the developments caused by the outbreak of COVID 19 disease, Americans have come to the conclusion that supporting global trade and the world capitalist economy and what they pursued after World War II are detrimental to them.” This has prompted certain countries, such as China and some other emerging economies come to the scene and challenge American power, so they must return to their nationalist policies and domestic economy.”
Mohammad Sharifi continued: “On the contrary, the Chinese have come to the conclusion that the period known as ‘Century of Humiliation’, the years between 1842 and 1949, is the result of isolation from the international system and they see the positive result of leaving their cocoons today. This boom has led Chinese scholars to believe that it is in their best interest to have a greater presence in the international system so that this presence would mean the formation of China-centered institutions and economic and financial agencies. That means a shift from American-centered institutions to Chinese-centered agencies.
He said the United States would have two options in response: “First, they have to compete fiercely with China to maintain their hegemony in the international system, a rivalry called ‘Zero-Sum Competition.’ Secondly, to reach the conclusion that without getting involved in such a competition focus on their own welfare and internal growth, in which case they will have to enter into some kind of cooperation with China and accept its power. The second view seems to be wiser, but it does not necessarily mean that Americans will choose this approach.
Strengthening a Kind of Nationalism in Western Camp
“It seems that in the short term, this disease will strengthen a kind of nationalism in the Western camp, those who oppose China, but they will reconsider their macro-strategies and come to the conclusion that they must revive the Western-oriented international system they have, and in the long run, these governments, especially Western governments, will emerge from their shells and form a new internationalism that is incidentally pragmatic and supportive. As in the pre-World War II economic crisis of the 1930s and 1940s, Roosevelt and European countries adopted the same policy.
Mohammad Sharifi said that some analysts, adhering to the approach that “history will be written by those defeating the COVID disease”, believe that there is fierce competition over which government is more efficient and stronger by what nature and form of government. Are authoritarian and populist governments stronger in democratic states? The Chinese are trying to show that the kind of government they have is much more effective in dealing with crises. We seem to be witnessing a narrative war in which the Americans tried to show that South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan were stronger and more efficient in dealing with COVID 19, making it a successful model and level many accusations against China, including concealment and deception.
Europe and the Spread of Divergence
Regarding the possible situation in Europe in the post-corona period, he said: It seems that in Europe we will see the expansion of the process of further divergence and even possible exit from the European Union because the type of reaction these countries displayed at this time shows that they do not trust one another very much.
The university professor said while we saw the threat only in issues such as the economy and military power, the outbreak of coronavirus showed some issues, such as disease and ecological changes that we didn’t think about could turn into a crisis. So, he said, a mechanism must be put in place to deal with such crises in a coordinated, common and efficient way. In addition, we need to reduce our dependence on foreign supplies for our strategic goods by sound planning.
Need for Self-Sufficiency in Strategic Goods
Mohammad Sharifi added: “We need to look at how we can, at least in coordination with our neighbours, create a mechanism that is more coherent, coordinated and consistent in dealing with these crises, despite the differences and conflicts of interest that exist.” If the type of relations we have with the countries of the region was beyond what it is now, for example, if we had stronger relations with Saudi Arabia, it would certainly be easier to find a more regional and coordinated solution to deal with these crises.
He also said that the world economy will undergo revisions at least in the short term and we too should have revisions in these fields and at least be less dependent on our strategic commodities. “We have to move in the direction of dealing with crises by relying less on data coming from outside. We need to be prepared information-wise and mentally so that we do not get confused about the next crises and provide a mechanism for dealing with the phenomenon by relying on our internal information and resources.”