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Can Microbes Overthrow Major Powers?

Can Microbes Overthrow Major Powers?

Thursday, 16 July, 2020 - 10:30

Irrational political predictions that were quick to precipitate after the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic asserted that the axis of global power is headed eastward and will abandon the west which has been suffering from a rise in cases and deaths. With the grim images of bodies accumulating and being transported in armored vehicles, this assumption has gained some traction, but only lasted for several months.

The entire world is exhausted, however, those predictions were not objective and were indeed pessimistic. We are now witnessing a gradual return to life after death rates began to drop and the European and US economies began to recover with the number of jobs rising [the US economy has added 4.8 million jobs in June]. Even the side who attack China and believe that it is going through a suffocating crisis do so either for political reasons or because they are blinded by a dark outlook. Economically, China has overcome the difficult phase of the pandemic and most of what the government is doing now is just closing down some neighborhoods in Beijing for a few days.

The collapse of the world order and it recentering around another power that will restructure the world is not an easy matter and needs objective and reasonable circumstances that are simply not available right now. To understand this, it is important to understand the objective reasons behind the collapse of the old world order that was formed by the British Empire before the US rose to power in the 1940s and established its own order.

The collapse of the British empire happened over long decades and as a result of radical circumstances. Its share of global industry peaked in 1870 at around 30% but dropped to 15% in 1910, while the US’s share rose to 25%. Its notoriously powerful military navy reached its peak in 1883 but lost the competition to its US and Japanese competitors in the west and east respectively in 1897.

This does not apply to the US, the largest economy in the world. The productivity of its economy is around one third (23.4 %) that of the entire world and has not receded since the sixties. Its military power, on which it spends $700 billion annually, is more powerful than all major militaries combined, spending $718 billion on it in 2019 when China only spent $178.2 billion.

In the absence of a dominant military power, protracted wars and conflicts broke out and led to the collapse of the world order at the time, with the Second World War being only the final chapter of a series of brutal wars. Between 1850 and 1945 France and Germany went to war three times: In 1870, 1914 and 1940. Russia and Germany went to two brutal wars and France and Britain went to war with Germany.

Conflicts and tensions were in the air and the threat of war between ambitious powers with comparable military powers was looming. At the time, these indicators pointed out one thing, that the European-made world order was on its way towards self-destruction. For this reason, we have not seen a world war in 70 years, as a result of there being one dominant military power that has restored stability to the world after defeating, democratizing, and integrating its two most important enemies, Germany and Japan into the international community.

The economic and military collapse of the US, similar to Britain at the time, will provide objective reasons to believe that it will be weakened and its order destroyed and replaced by China or Russia. The confirmed figures, however, do not point to that; at least not now and especially not under the Republican US administration, which believes in maintaining its greatness — its most famous slogan. The coronavirus pandemic will not change much; microbes, viruses and bacteria are harmful, but they do not overthrow or divide global powers, that only armies and money can do.

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