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The Pandemic's Push: Global versus Tribal P1511 June 2020

Author: Martin Schwirn (Send us feedback.)

Many reasons exist for increasing global collaboration during the pandemic; however, the opposite might happen.

Abstracts in this Pattern:

During a recent online briefing, Hans Henri P. Kluge, World Health Organization (WHO; Geneva, Switzerland) regional director for Europe, argues on behalf of himself and the WHO regional directors for the Western Pacific and Africa that countries need to collaborate, acting in solidarity to develop national responses that will not conflict with one another. And Nicholas Mulder, a political and economic historian at Cornell University (Ithaca, New York), highlights that because ventilator assembly is complex and has steep sanitary requirements, the ventilator "shortage cannot be solved within national borders." Andrew Winston—coauthor of Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build a Competitive Advantage—says that the pandemic should lead to a more global outlook, explaining that "pure nationalism is frankly dangerous in the face of borderless issues like climate change, resource overuse, and, yes, pandemics. On some level, we're only as strong as our weakest immune systems."

In contrast, Harold James, professor of history and international affairs at Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey), states that "the omnipresence of such mass-scale threats, and the uncertainty and fear that accompany them, lead to new behaviors and beliefs," making people "less willing to engage with anything that seems foreign or strange." Industries also experience this effect. For example, international car shows were becoming less attractive to automotive-industry players even before the covid-19 pandemic, but carmakers are now accelerating the move to alternative promotional strategies such as using social media. Meanwhile, the travel industry has become a clear victim of the pandemic. Many analysts also foresee potential developments that will reverse the globalization of past decades. A German think tank recently developed scenarios about the pandemic's national and regional effects. In one scenario, national interests trump global considerations. In another scenario, local economies are thriving as a result of diminishing connectivity with other regions. In a sign of the potential prioritization of regional interests, the governors of several US states have introduced legislation that requires people who arrive from other states to self-quarantine.