New dimensions in Globalization and the COVID-19

The XXI Century so far has been characterized, among other things, by a drive to Globalization. But that process took place (and is taking place) in several different areas of Human activity.

Economic Globalization has been progressing apace. A Global distribution of labor, based on market forces, drives this process. China, as a provider of cheap labor and low overhead production costs, has benefited from this arrangement. A large number of products now show the "made in china" label in such diverse areas as electronics, textiles, petrochemicals, pharmaceutics, etc. The COVID-19 crisis is driving some countries to look at health care and medical supplies as a matter of National Security; as a consequence, there appears to be a trend to shift production of many of these supplies to their national industry. This is not a change that can happen overnight, and because of the time involved in such a change it is possible that some of the countries looking into it will not remain committed to the change. But if they do, it will affect significantly the Chinese economy and consequently increase tensions between China and the Western world.

Warfare Globalization: Local warfare is becoming a thing of the past, as military confrontations occur increasingly in the global theater. Non Government forces, such as terrorist organizations, do not restrict their campaigns to a specific geographic location - but they attack those they see as enemies anywhere on the planet; as a result, the war against these organizations is also global. One of the consequences of this change is that war and its effects are diluted in their local impact, and thus can continue for a long time "on a low flame" because the losses to both sides are less and more easily replaced. The expansion of modern warfare to include Cyberwarfare adds to this possibility of sustaining conflict for longer periods of time. The economic impact of Cyberwarfare, while it can be substantial, it is still a fraction of the economic cost of traditional warfare. With international borders at closer scrutiny because of COVID-19, Cyberwarfare is becoming the battlefield of choice in many conflicts, including the Iran-Israel conflict.

Health Globalization: If COVID-19 opened our eyes to anything, it is to the difficulties of containing epidemics in a world of global tourism and global economic exchange. Any epidemic has the potential to become a pandemic in today's world. While COVID-19 caught the world unprepared, this was due to a series of unusual circumstances. As a rule, global action has been positive in containing many diseases within specific regions or countries. The World Health Organization has played for the most part a central role in the fight against epidemics such as Ebola and the Avian Flu. Their inability to contain COVID-19 was more due to decisions by political actors and nations than anything else. A decision made by China to delay sharing of information on the initial outbreak tied the hands of the WHO. In the future, however, the WHO will probably play a growing role. If the WHO did not exist, it would have to be created to deal with the conditions of our global village. It will probably become a focus of International power.

Globalization of communications: The Internet, first launched in the last century, is growing by leaps and bounds in its size and in its share of economic activity. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated this process by forcing people to move to Cyberspace many of their activities. Companies like Zoom, Facebook and GoTo Meeting are benefitting from these changes. There is, however, a dark side to this development. The paucity of international regulations to internet activity, allows cyberspace to function very much as a lawless realm where anything goes. If one country closes a website because its activity is contrary to local laws, the owners of the website only need to move their content to a server in another country that is more receptive to their activity or their message. Blocking people from accessing that site from the first country is far more complicated than it looks because of international commercial and economic treaties. The significant increase in cyberactivity during this pandemic can take us either to a stronger international regulation of activity or to pressures to completely free cyberspace from any kind of regulations. The jury is still out on that one. An elimination of whatever regulations exist today will make cyberspace an even better medium to spread extremist ideologies than it is today; this would lead to a further fragmentation and polarization of local societies.

While Globailization exist in many other areas, I chose to highlight the impact on the ones I described because they present serious challenges and great opportunities at the same time for Humanity. History does not move independent from people; people move history. How we address these challenges will define the direction in which we go. Can we use these challenges to continue our milennia-old Jewish quest for Tikkun Olam? Or are we going to sit on the sidelines and let others decide our future?


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