THE CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC AND SOVEREIGNTY OF STATES: A NEW WORLD ORDER– By AFK Adasu, Ph.D. (Law) BL

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The Marxist believed that the concept of statehood was an illusion and that the state would disappear. Of course in a way, they were right because communism ended and so did the communist states in Russia and Eastern Europe . Yet the disappearance of those regimes is in no way an argument of the death of statehood itself. The state is the expression of sovereignty and sovereignty is the ability of national communities to decide their own fates. Capitalist too, have indulged in the fantasy of the end of the state, especially in the neoliberal version of an economy free of political constraints. This peculiar fiction grew pronounced in the millenarian hallucination of an ‘end of history’ which preached that the epochal change of the 1989 had ushered in a Kantian era of perpetual peace.

  Research showed that global capitalism was supposed to erase borders, replacing national solidarities with abstract universalism. Genuine conflicts were predicted to dissolve into rules – based competition, while existential threats would dissipate in a thoroughly benign cosmos. It was thought that, with the fall of communism, all enemies had disappeared which made states obsolete. Hence  the  idealists horror at the rise of national populism after the 2008 financial crises. It has often been projected that the global outlook would bring a return to a normal trajectory of an ever diminished nation –state, ever- larger supranational organisations and programmatic neutralization of all political decisions.

THE CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC AND A NEW WORLD ORDER

The Corona virus originated from Wuhan, China. The global pandemic signalled the end of globalization and therefore the reassertion of the state and hence sovereignty for several reasons. Despite the illusion – Marxist, Capitalists or Anarchists– that the state will vanish because the world is a friendly place,the virus reminds us that, danger never disappears. The state is the vehicle with which a political community can respond to ever- present existential threats. One prominent feature of the response to the pandemic is the recognition that sooner or sometime tragically later, the state must respond to enemies. The responsibility to do so rests ineluctably with the political leaders who must make crucial decisions. The state is crucial as it exerts its sovereign authority by taking decisions which threatens the wellbeing of their people.

It is evident that, President Trump of the USA banned travel from China in January 2020. His critics called him a racist. When he stopped travel from Europe, those same critics said he acted too slowly, while the European union leadership denounced him for acting alone. Within a week, the European Union instituted travel bans similar to those for which they had attacked President Trump. In Africa, leaders acted alike by banning travel from countries infected with the virus. In Nigeria travel bans were also announced, while  President Mohamadu Buhari addressed the nation severally introducing measures to halt the spread of the virus including lockdown and curfews.

  It is no coincidence  that we have national leadership emerge by way of renewed assertions of control over national borders.  A state that cannot control its own borders is a failed state. The border closure embarked upon by successive sovereign states over the corona virus in 2020 is a reassertion of their sovereign status. The reemergence of the state marks the end of globalization in a pending economic restructuring. The excessively praised free flow of capital opened national economies to foreign direct investment. It also enabled companies that developed in one country to shift production and investment oversees, in search of lower wages. Yet all that glittered was not gold. Chinese capital buying up European firms has damaged domestic economies and contributed to accelerated technology transfer, legal and illegal.

   In response, Western countries have begun to subject foreign investments to national security scrutiny because it might not be wise to sell off ones domestic industries to foreign investors beholden  to undemocratic and hostile regimes. Similar  national security concerns are being raised with regards to globalization of supply chains. Most of the medicines including even penicillin are brought into the USA from China where most of the manufacturing plants are stationed. This is a dangerous vulnerability. The USA is now making moves to bring back supply chains with the retrieval of jobs exported overseas. This in essence is Deglobalization.  

  The willingness to sacrifice state sovereignty in the name of globalization was always based on a misunderstanding about China. The policy thrust had always been that communist China would undergo a political liberalization which never occurred. China remains a dictatorship ruled by a Marxist Leninist Party. During the past half century of the supposed rapprochement with China, it has neither liberalized nor established an independent judiciary nor carried out free and multiparty elections. Sadly, China access to Western economies was never made contingent on any respect for human rights. This position is different regarding African countries. The ill- treatment of blacks, mostly Nigerians was reported in April 2020 amidst the corona virus  pandemic confirming Chinese notoriety on human rights abuses.

 Western states subordinated themselves to the illusion of post- nationalism-the European Union is the best example. China only grew stronger as an illiberal surveillance state, hence the crises of the Wuhan virus. Chinese authorities had knowledge of the virus in December,2019 but supressed the information until the world found itself where it is now. Countries have witnessed several deaths with enormous economic losses. Statistics coming out from China on the pandemic had been suppressed due to the absence of free press and the freedom of speech.  The China question, however, is not only about the origin of the virus or even the vicissitudes of globalization.

   The corona virus moment reminds us that the genuine purpose of the state is to respond to all dangers that jeopardize the life of the political community, hence sovereignty.  The virus is an acute reminder that the world is replete with threats, whether epidemic or political, military or economic. Those who argue for the end of the state have to explain who else other than the state, will ward off another invasion, such as took place in Crimea or prevent similar aggression in the South China sea. The answer is in the negative. The primary vehicle for self preservation of the political community is the state.

State sovereignty is the best chance we have to fend off adversaries. We defend our freedom by exercising power through the state not through global illusions or cozy provincialism. This commitment to the state is referred to as patriotism. In the ensuring Corona virus debate, states have rejected assistance from other states based on suspicion. In Nigeria, this was evident with the local manufacturing of face mask as against imported ones. Sovereignty of state is the pillar to modern democratic institutions with attendant freedom of speech and the press which are basic human rights preached globally. The virus which caused travel ban reminds our political actors to fix the critical health care systems to serve our common interests. Medical tourism had hitherto disabled our health infrastructure. These centres lack the potency to respond to the threat posed by this corona virus pandemic.

 Essentially, the response by states to the outbreak of the Wuhan virus presents us with the assurance that the state is the focal point with which dangers to state security can be addressed. Sovereignty therefore cannot be equated with the illusion created by globalization.

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