In just a few months, COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. The pandemic has claimed over 100,000 lives and untold economic damage. It is also affecting relations between states, in many cases, for the worse. These momentous events have led many to wonder what the pandemic means for the future of the international order.
The short answer is, it is too early to tell. So much about the pandemic remains unknown, from the timeline to an effective vaccine to economic fallout and the possibility of second and third waves of contagion.
With those caveats in mind, based on what we see so far, it seems likely that the pandemic will accelerate key trends shaping geopolitics and the world economy, rather than radically alter or reverse them. In particular, our post-pandemic world is likely to be even more multipolar as divergent paths of recovery reinforce long-term shifts in the global economy. Secondly, different aspects of globalization – such as economic or ecological, physical or digital – will follow different trajectories, with varied consequences for different countries and sectors. Thirdly, COVID-19 has exposed the need for stronger global governance to address the rising transnational threats we face.
This working paper examines these trends and what they mean for the future of the international order, in particular, China’s global role as one of three key pillars of the multilateral order along with America and the EU. Finally, it outlines ways that China and the EU can work together to build a post-pandemic world that is more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient.