"Coronavirus crisis is the first in a post-American world"

Director of the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI), Thomas Gomart is a historian and specialist in geopolitics. He recently published The panic of the world. 10 geopolitical issues (Tallandier, 2019). In an interview at World, it analyzes the new power relationships between the major powers and the arrival on the international scene of new players such as digital platforms.

Is the Covid 19 pandemic revealing the world to come?

In any case, it is the accelerator. It’s an acute crisis of interdependence, which reminds us that "The living stand biologically", as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said. On the positive side, it marks an additional step in the realization of the unity of the world. On the negative side, it increases latent, potentially explosive tensions. It is a lasting short-circuit of globalization, which is part of cycles, already set in motion, of cooperation, competition and cognitive confrontation, that is to say of mobilization, orientation and control of brains. What is new: the simultaneous confinement of more than 3 billion people, who have never been so connected. If the bodies are blocked, the brains work, with political consequences that are difficult to predict at this stage.

Three major debates are emerging. The first relates to crisis management, the second to future models, and the third to the reconfiguration of the international system. I focus on the latter because international politics is a balance of power before being a debate of ideas. Or, to put it another way, in cognitive competition, the impact of models depends less on their relevance than on the international positioning of the one who emits them.

Who are the winners and losers?

The Chinese authorities are mobilizing like never before to make believe that it would be China, the winner, in order to justify their political model not only inside but now outside, and their speech turned into caricatural propaganda. Admittedly, they have shown their effectiveness in implementing containment, but also their mistakes at the start of the crisis. The World Health Organization (WHO) office in Beijing was not notified until December 31, 2019. In contrast, Europe and the United States appear to be in deep trouble. However, the judgment on the final winner cannot, in my opinion, be final because of the possible outbreaks of infectious foci in China, and above all, the opacity of Chinese data on the actual number of deaths.


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