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Global order in the shadow of the coronavirus: China, Russia, and the West

Globalisation World politics International cooperation International relations Global economy

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a harsh spotlight on the state of global governance. Faced with the greatest emergency since the Second World War, nations have regressed into narrow self-interest. The concept of a rules-based international order has been stripped of meaning, while liberalism faces its greatest crisis in decades.

Western leaders blame today’s global disorder on an increasingly assertive China and disruptive Russia. Yet the principal threat lies closer to home. Western governments have failed to live up to the values underpinning a liberal international order — a failure compounded by inept policymaking and internal divisions. The actions of Donald Trump, in particular, have undermined transatlantic unity, damaged the moral authority of the West, and weakened global governance.

It is tempting to accept the inevitability of great power confrontation and the demise of international society. But an alternative future is still possible. This lies in a more inclusive order, driven by a common imperative in meeting twenty-first century challenges such as climate change, pandemic disease, and global poverty. These threats transcend national boundaries and strategic rivalries — and so must our responses.

Key findings:

  • The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the dismal state of global governance. The rules-based order has given way to a new world disorder, dominated by narrow self-interest.
  • The crisis of the liberal order reflects a collective Western failure to live up to its principles. The actions of Donald Trump have damaged the moral authority of the West.
  • There is a future for liberalism in global governance, but on a more inclusive and less antagonistic basis. The primary focus must be on meeting universal challenges, such as climate change, pandemic disease, and global poverty.
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