Sunday, April 21, 2024
CommentaryPost-COVID-19: Trump and the US hegemony

Post-COVID-19: Trump and the US hegemony

Back in January, when a person arriving in Seattle from China was tested positive to the Corona virus, Trump assured the people of the US not to bother at all as Corona was just like flu and that it would soon be under control. That marked the beginning of undermining the deadly virus by the president of the US who earlier took oath to assure Americans of safety and security. Such reluctance by the president continued only to cost the country dearly in terms of human lives and the economy. In a matter of months, the rate of Covid-9 infection in the US alone spiked to millions indicating that the pandemic would not just be limited to be a health crisis. As these lines are being written, the rate of infection of Covid-19 in the US had reached four million.

 Soon lockdown was enforced in many states unambiguously impacting on the state of the economy as well. As companies shut down and stopped working, something that has heretofore never been imagined happened: unemployment soared massively. In a matter of days, unemployment spiked affecting more than 40 million. The number of the unemployed claiming unemployment benefits continued to this day. Such crisis had never occurred in the US after the Great Depression of the 30s. On top of the unemployment crisis, what is yet very worrying to the US economy is the bankruptcy claims by so many companies and reduced capital investment throughout the country clearly signalling a deep slump in the US economy.

Covering unemployment benefits and meeting the costs for prevention measures definitely affects and eventually depletes the state’s treasury. On top of this, the state is bound to make vaccines available freely as a great many US citizens may not be able to afford to pay for vaccines. Imbalance between state expenditure and state revenue will definitely occur as the revival of the economy will certainly take some time. The decline in state revenue in particular will certainly affect the US standing in the world as Trump’s US withdraws its support from UN agencies such as the World Health Organization and perhaps more agencies as well.

The crisis that Trump’s US face today includes foreign affairs. The most amazing phenomenon in this respect is the fall out with its erstwhile partners such as Germany and the European Union as a whole. Germany and the many European countries that make up the European Union, had built up strategic partnership and military alliance with the US since the end of World War II. The Western Bloc, as it was also referred to by some, had also played important role by acting/voting in unison along with the US at crucial international forums such as the UN, the Breton Woods institutions (World Bank, IMF, WTO). The US under Trump entered controversy as regards issues of world peace, international conventions such as the Paris Climate Accord (2015), the Iran Nuclear Deal which Donald Trump pulled out unilaterally. EU countries are clearly unhappy with Trump’s unilateral decision and seem to be waiting to revive negotiations on these questions hopefully once Trump leaves office at the end of this year. His uncalled for antagonism towards China is not also welcome by its erstwhile allies as the Western Bloc’s attitude towards China was based on the principles of peaceful coexistence.

Trump’s US also faces a formidable protest movement particularly after the afro-American George Floyd was brutally murdered by police in Minneapolis. In its recent history, the US has seen strong civil rights movement. But, it has never seen the likes of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Following Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter movement turned out to be not just national but global as well. Street battles between protesters and police took place practically throughout the US still with huge casualties. Trump, instead of sympathising with the new civil rights movement, castigated it as “far-left and anarchist” and urged stronger police action. The BLM became a global movement. Protesters marched in the main capital cities of the world, from Europe to Australia, from Sweden to South Africa. Protesters urged that it is now time to end police brutality once and for all. To this effect they demanded new legislations to be proclaimed by Congress and substantial police reforms. Trump’s response to the protest movement is as consistent as his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. He called for quelling the ongoing protests by state’s police if possible or by federal forces if the states decline to resort to violence. As these lines are written, Trump ordered federal forces to smash the “anarchists” who are protesting in Portland, Oregon.

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Perhaps, the most damaging consequence of Trump’s rule is the dimension of the division that he caused within the US particularly between democrats and republicans as well as at the level of race relations. How he handled the crisis in Charlottesville a few years ago was embarrassing to the US political establishment as a whole as he failed to condemn violence by the far-right racists and neo-Nazis. He considers democrats not as adversaries but as enemies. There has never been any consideration by the US Congress of a bipartisan initiative since Trump took office. Perhaps one indication to this bellicose attitude towards democrats is when he childishly refused to shake hands with Nancy Pelosi just before his last State of the Union address. Undoubtedly, Trump gave the US a 100 year homework before the division he caused in the country heals.

Now, the big question is: will the US be able to retain its hegemonic status in global politics either under Trump or Biden against the background of rising China’s power? If Trump’s reluctance in handling of the pandemic cost the US dearly including the possible loss of its hegemony in world politics; by contrast, China has contained the pandemic successfully in a relative sense and managed to become the only country to attain annual economic growth since the pandemic. China has now entered global rivalry with the US in manufacturing and in international trade. That cannot be sustained without entering the terrain of political rivalry as well. Deng Tsiao Ping, the author of China’s economic reforms, once said that “it doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white so long as it catches the mice.” Now, Uncle Sam, is like on the loose in the same room with the mouse. Will the mouse just relax trusting the cat? China may resort to contest for hegemony in the political terrain as well. If that happens, China may start contributing to UN agencies perhaps the same amount as that of the US.

Ed.’s Note: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. The writer can be reached at [email protected].

  Contributed by Melakou Tegegn

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