Is the coronavirus the end of globalization?


In the last few months the world has faced one of the most dangerous diseases it has ever known, COVID-19. It first showed up in November 2019 in Wuhan in China, then rapidly spread across the world.

The tremendous spread of the coronavirus, over a short period and in many regions, caused some people to wonder about the future of globalization, and how globalization makes our health more vulnerable.

Coronavirus has also revealed the vulnerability of economies under globalization, as domestic markets of all nations have begun to experience a Domino effect.

The crisis also revealed the failing of the “just-in-time” model of economics, where the manufacturer secures raw material from the supplier just as they need it. This method accelerates exchange in international trade.

However, in a pandemic, many countries prohibited the export of medical equipment like masks and respirators, other countries like Italy[vi] ask for help from its allies, with no response.

An article published at New York Times[vii] said, “The coronavirus has underscored how global manufacturing has been running too lean, operating in disregard of risks like earthquakes, epidemics and other disasters. That state of play is the direct result of the supremacy of shareholder interests in the global economy”. It also added, “Market forces left unsupervised pose perils.”

COVID-19 reveals vital flaws in the globalized world system. For instance, the monopoly over supply chains in many industries like smartphones and cars, which are dominated by a few companies, and the fragility of the free trade system.

Globalization not only a trade system

Note that globalization doesn't only mean a free trade, it is a process including economic, political, and cultural aspects. Inclusive communication between whole world overcomes geographic limits to make the world a cosmopolitan village.

Therefore, globalization not only impacts the economy, but also our way of life, how we communicate, what we wear, what we eat, and so on.

Globalization penetrates into every single field in our lives, so high expectations about the pandemic bringing it to an end are unrealistic. Coronavirus may modify the prevailing globalization paradigm, but not declare its death.

It is an ironic phenomenon when people criticize globalization on digital platforms or social media, which are an aspect of globalization.

I suspect that no reader can abandon using technology, so it is impossible to eradicate globalization on an individual level. On an international level, it is is easier but still an unattainable vision.

Although the pandemic has slowed down global integration, the relationships between countries – the international system of “Interdependence“ – have been accumulated over decades, and are hard to break up in months.

Globalization as a movement of history

I regard the resisting of globalization as the resisting the movement of history, which is impossible. This article is to admit the reality – we are in a globalized world, and globalization will continue to be a mainstream and dominant movement into the future.

We are supposed to go to history to predict the future, and world civilization witnessed another movement that can be to compared to globalization, called modernism in 19th and 20th century. Globalization and modernism share similarities, and both of them are dominant movements that shape our lives.

Modernism also had its critics. Therefore, I respect those skeptical of globalization and I believe it adds valuable perspectives. But I do not think we can over-amplify the effects of coronavirus on globalization. Globalization has partially retreated, may be reshaped, but not ended.

On the other hand, the pandemic has strengthened the ties between the world, because it proves that all humans have a mutual destiny.

At the end, we should remember that the novel coronavirus is an occasional accident, not a permanent status, and the pandemic will be overcome by human civilization. Surely the world will not be in permanent isolation, and travelling and trade relations will  begin again after the end of the pandemic.