The question is whether the pandemic will provoke renewed support for technical expertise and multilateralism or will accelerate the erosion of what critics call the “neoliberal order” of the post-Cold War world.
There is a clear case for a return to establishment politics and global policy making in the face of a problem like the coronavirus. Both the medical and economic dimensions of the pandemic call for expert leadership and international cooperation. Neither the spread of a global disease nor its economic consequences can be dealt with by national governments on their own. If one country succeeds in controlling the epidemic but its neighbors fail, the epidemic will return. And the disruption of world trade patterns and financial markets will require concerted action to get the global economy back on its feet.
So far, however, the coronavirus does not seem to be promoting cooperation among world leaders or respect for global institutions. The pandemic has widened the gap between the U.S. and China. While the EU has moved quickly to remove limits on eurozone members’ fiscal deficits, Europe’s national governments so far have focused almost entirely on addressing their problems without much consultation. Steps like excluding Taiwan from emergency meetings and praising China’s response to the virus have made the World Health Organization look like a mouthpiece for Beijing.