Outbreaks of Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) are upending life around the world. As of the writing of this report, official data registers some three million confirmed infected and over 200,000 killed. Barring a cure or wide-scale implementation of better mitigation policies, unfortunately those numbers are set to leap higher, massively straining healthcare systems, markets, and societies. The first pandemic ever caused by a coronavirus, much (though thankfully, not all) the world has been caught off guard and unprepared.
In the current stage of the pandemic, the driving forces of markets and, to a certain degree, technology have ceded their typical positions of pre dominant economic influence to global political forces. Officials around the world are ordering mass quarantines, prohibiting regular marketplace and social activities, plunging already unprecedentedly low interest rates to greater depths, and
doling out trillions and trillions of dollars worth of national wealth in frantic attempts to close gaping economic holes. In the United States, where its neolibertarian moorings make the notion of Big Government widely reviled, federal and local governments are (albeit unevenly) requesting or requiring that businesses shut and workers stay at home. Science ultimately will resolve the crisis. But governments are filling in until technology catches up and markets return to behaviors more familiar. The companies and their investors that contribute solutions to the crisis will profit handsomely, however unseemly that might sound in the midst of human suffering and death. In the meantime, a new, until recently unthinkable question for modern life persists: how can a state live up to its constituents’ basic expectation to preserve life without killing its economy?
The unprecedented nature and exponentially global spread of Covid-19 makes a thorough accounting of its geopolitical implications impossible at this time. Forecasting, moreover, is a hazardous sport, even under optimal conditions. Yet we can—and should—try to make sense of how events are developing, the way governments are responding, the direction those responses are taking us, and what that means for the world at large. Geopolitical shifts from Covid-19 is such an attempt. Rather than aim for definitive analysis, it seeks to
draw out basic but still useful views on underlying causes and effects and project out from there. Perspectives are cursory. Yet they hopefully prove helpful for stimulating productive discussion and generating actionable insights.
Sunzi famously advises: “in chaos, seize opportunity.”* The implications need not be exploitative, though obviously good and bad actors alike are finding ways to take advantage of disruptions occurring under Covid. The people, organizations, and communities that will do best in dealing with the pandemic will be those who address its ramifications proactively, creatively, constructively, and with a view towards improving the unavoidable global interconnectedness that the spread of this disease brutally demonstrates.