By: Prof. Dr. Walid ‘Abd al-Hay ↗.
(Exclusively for al-Zaytouna Centre).
Among the problems facing future studies when developing their models is in the inclusion of the “High Impact–Low Probability” variable, especially when this variable constitutes a turning point in a certain trend or the mega-trend of the phenomenon in question.
This high-impact, low-probability variable can be divided into three types:
1. Black Swans, which are the events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations. Specific planning for such an event is close to impossible. This is not the case of the Coronavirus, which was predicted by lots of scientific studies. 
2. Known but unprepared for, which are the events that were identified as a potential threat, but where little or no action is taken to prevent or mitigate the impacts. This is the Coronavirus case.
3. Known and prepared for,  which is not the Coronavirus case.
This variable is studied by following approaches used in futures studies. They are the Heuristic approach, deterministic approach and the probabilistic approach, each of which has its own methodological steps.  However, we will not detail each approach in this article.
Based on the above, the coronavirus was not only expected by scientists, but also by politicians,  nevertheless no plans to face it were made, for reasons worthy of contemplating and studying.
First: The Global Order Between the Mega-Trends and Its Turning Points
According to human history, the “human mind”—through gradual evolution—has eventually managed to absorb major shocks (Epidemiological, political, economic, environmental, or others). It has managed also to re-adapt its structures to maintain four “mega-trends,” which have not stopped in human history despite all the major and minor turning points, and were not deterred by shocks, turning-points or the winding path of phenomena. These mega-trends are:
1. Preserving human life: For the “trend” of world population, in any period of history, tended always towards increasing, despite all what humanity has faced whether the years of drought and degradation, wars, diseases or nature’s anger, etc.
2. The scientific development in all aspects of life: Knowledge accumulates in various sciences and arts. All theories and discoveries are scrutinized, where some remain, others get developed, and others are replaced by new ones, for sometimes the old ones become no longer appropriate, whether in economics, technology, politics, literature, art, etc. This development and scientific accumulation did not stop, even for a moment, despite all the sudden and not so sudden developments.
3. The communication between societies and the development of its tools, through the growth of cities (More connected communities), shortened distances (By using transportation methods; from horses until the Concorde), and even the abolishing of distances (Through satellite TVs and the internet). This is greatly confirmed by the historical studies of anthropologists. 
4. The dialectical relation between humans and humans (and the society with the other society), and the dialectical relation between humans and nature and beyond. This dialectic is represented by a dual relationship that sometimes manifests itself through conflict (wars or negative natural phenomena such as pollution, disasters, epidemics and the like), or sometimes through reconciliation and benefit (whether by cooperation or reaping all kinds of fruits/gains from nature).
Based on the above, the post-coronavirus (COVID-19) international scene may put the aforementioned mega-trends on some winding or lagging tracks. It may produce phenomena that are unheard of. However, I’m inclined to say that the four mega-trends will continue; the population increase will not stop (When comparing the number of births to the number of deaths, even with the coronavirus pandemic); Scentific development will not stop (for the human mind is restless by nature, and will not settle when faced by anything new. Rather, it will pursue it to understand, adapt and even employ it). The communication between societies and individuals will not decline, rather any hole in the network would be sealed in a hurry. Finally, the dialectical relation between humans and humans, and between humans and nature and beyond will not stop.
Accordingly, I will dedicate the rest of the article to discuss the features of the international scene in light of the transitional disruptions, trying to foresee the near future of the international scene (3 years), and determine its general features, despite its being the description of a moving scene.
Second: The Relationship Between the Change Rhythm and the International Scene Transitions With the Biomedical Dimension
It’s up to the medical labs to estimate the period required to reach a drug that curbs the spread of the virus, hence mitigate the implications of the human and economic cost. If the virus is to last until 2021, as per some reports (the briefing of the Public Health England),  the human and economic implications will be profound. However, there are other medical centers that are more optimistic. 
Due to the serious consequences for all, major powers have turned to the health sector experts to face the crisis. This may increase competition between these countries on the one hand (Especially pharmaceutical companies, and the resulting trade gains and the strengthening of the soft power of the state), yet it may advance the synergy and collaboration of experiences by sharing relevant discoveries, on the other hand. Such a collaboration was urged by a large number of global elites, and was supported by a UN General Assembly resolution, co-sponsored by 188 nations.  It is more likely that this approach is not only confined to global powers, especially since the virus is not aligned with anyone in its war, not on a class level, or on national or religious levels, etc. Thus, it is an enemy of “all,” which enhances, to some extent, the common confrontation. The reports of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that “The economic impact is and will be severe, but the faster the virus stops, the quicker and stronger the recovery will be.”  Perhaps the adoption of most central banks of policies that facilitate monetary policies, increases cooperation between different countries, without denying that some competition between them still remains.
Third: The Economic Repercussions and the Ability to Adapt to Their Adverse Impacts
The accelerating change makes a faster impact, hence the ability to adapt becomes weaker, under the disturbance caused by a “High Impact–Low Probability” variable, which is in our case the coronavirus.
Looking at the historical precedents of the impact of epidemics on global economies, we find SARS, for example, has cost in 2003 East Asian countries about 2% of their gross national product (GNP). The total economic cost of the 2011 Japan earthquake has reached up to $235 billion, where the production has stopped at some of its largest companies.  Despite Japan’s great potentials to adapt, the impacts of the earthquakes remained until 2017. Undoubtedly, the coronavirus impact in many countries have exceeded that of Japan’s earthquakes.
It is clear that the repercussions of the crisis are not equal in all countries (humanitarian and economy wise), neither in all sectors (Compare the tourism sector, airlines, or major companies along with the banking sector or the stock markets, etc.), nor in all regions (compare the impact in Europe, US, and China with African or Latin American countries). The repercussions in the oil countries is different from other countries, where oil prices, in the last week of April, fell to $20.84 a barrel, the lowest since 2000, and US oil prices turned negative for the first time. 
If we look at the most important stock markets in the world (see table 1), and compare between the first and last week of April 2020, a large percentage drop happened at first, then it started to recover in late March after the US Senate passed a $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill to help workers (About 4.4 million workers became unemployed in April) and businesses (because they stopped working).
Table 1: The Percentage Drop of Shares in the Most Important Global Markets
|Index||First week of |
April 2020 
|Last week of |
April 2020 
|Financial Times Stock Exchange (London)||28.8%||24.5%|
|Dow Jones (New York)||24.1%||18.5%|
However, shares in technology companies (for entertainment, holding online meetings, or online learning) made great gains, such as Zoom (+146.1%), Netflix (+29.4%) and Amazon (+26.4%). The travel industry has been badly affected, in the last week of April 2020, more than 100 countries had travel restrictions, which made the airlines cut more than hundred thousand flights. All of this indicates the different levels of impacts from one economic sector to another. 
The depth of the crisis resulting from the Coronavirus varies among countries. Strong economies, especially those of global powers, and despite the loss, will be able to shoulder the burden of the crisis. However, this does not negate the fact that some of them may witness an economic recession. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the global economy is expected to shrink by 3.0% during 2020, while it predicted a partial rebound in 2021, with the world economy growing at a 5.8% rate, depending if a cure for the coronavirus was found. 
As for the developing or poor countries, or those undergoing political instability periods, they will face significant challenges. The flow of money into them has considerably tapered off, furthermore, the costs of dealing with the pendamic, including health expenditures and business interruptions, have made things worse. And as a result of the potential human and economic risks in these countries, investments are being reduced. From the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis until late March, Investors had removed $83 billion from emerging markets since the beginning of the crisis, the largest capital outflow ever recorded. Until now, nearly 80 countries have requested the help of IMF, which may make it consider allocating Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), as was the case during the 2008 financial crisis. Major central banks have initiated bilateral swap lines with emerging market countries. As a global liquidity crunch takes hold, a broader network of swap lines would be facilitated by international monetary organizations.  Preliminary estimates that the global economy may need bailouts that could collectively top $10 trillion.  It must be noted that global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth since 2008 (the financial crisis) until 2020 didn’t exceed 3%, with the exception of three years; in 2010 (4.5%), 2011 (3.4%) and 2017 (3.3%). During the rest of the years, it was less than 3%, which means that the global economy was experiencing a lot of problems before the Coronavirus. Hence, one cannot draw a future picture separate from the structure of the pre-coronavirus global economic system. 
The economic dealing with the crisis indicates that cooperation would be the more likely trend, without denying that competition may be embeded in it. However, the financial, commercial and monetary pressures include everyone, albeit with a varied impact, depending on the region. For example, these pressures in the Gaza Strip are much heavier than anywhere else in the world.
There is a positive correlation between a rising degree of globalization and the per capita growth of economies. An econometric study has showed that the growth rate of per capita gross domestic product increases by 0.33 percentage points when the globalization index increases by one.  This is realized by many countries which remain keen on globalization, especially its economic dimension.
In light of discussing the end of globalization or the return to traditional realism in international relations in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is necessary, at first, to differentiate between globalization as a process and as a normative perspective. This means that it is necessary to differentiate between globalization as a manifestation of the intertwining and overlapping mechanisms and parties of the international community, which form a cobweb, and the normative perspective that is based on determining who benefits and who is harmed, and the ethical and humane assessment of globalization. The latter is not what I want to discuss, for it has been heavily discussed by researchers. What I want to focus on is a specific question: Is the international community, after the pandemic, going to tear down the cobweb of globalization?
The reversion of states to mechanical interdependence (going back to the notion of the nation-state) is largely dependent on the erosion and disintegration of the role of organic interdependence organizations (economic and technical interdependence, as well as the international division of labor between states); so the question is: can the current international structure tolerate the disintegration of those organizations?
When talking about the end of globalization or the gradual transition away from it, a number of indicators need to be taken into consideration, which indicate that this matter is not so simple, in light of the current conditions, and the depth of the mega-trend of organic interdependence. These indicators are as follows (in addition to the historical mega-trends mentioned earlier in this article): 
1. Multinational Corporations:
According to EU estimates, the multinational corporations (MNCs) account for half of global exports. There are 60 thousand MNCs that have half a million branches around the globe, of those 162.4 thousand branches are in the EU. Will these giant companies dismantle their factories and branches that cover their production, marketing and after-sales services, etc? MNCs’ activities may witness winding paths, as was the case when the world trade volume decreased by 1.1% between 2018 and 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.
2. International Trade:
The international trade has increased from 1950 to 2019, from a level of $62 billion to $19 trillion, more than 306 folds, and with an annual increase of 4.4 folds. A decline will definitely happen, but it will recover the moment the pandemic ends. Most probably the two types of market mechanisms will return: The socialist market economy whose country currently adopts a globalization perspective, and the capitalist market perspective that has proven to be immensely resilient to the convulsing global economy.
3. Foreign Direct Investments:
In 2018, global foreign direct investment was around $1.3 trillion, which is third annual decline since 2015 (i.e., before the coronavirus). These enormous sums and mega projects are difficult to dismantle, rather, countries having these investments may offer more inducements to investors, in order to keep and prevent their economies from collapsing, due to the pandemic. That is although the investments were in decline before the pandemic, however, the burden of economic stoppages may push some countries to make more concessions to attract investments, thus, strengthening the path of globalization again.
4. Migrant Workers:
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 164 million migrant workers worldwide. They transfer huge sums annually to the their countries, supporting their economy. Will these people leave their jobs? and their fortunes? These workers are distributed over different regions (32% in Europe, 23% in Northern America, 13.9% in the Arab states, 13.3% in other Asian countries, 7.9% in Africa and 7.1% in South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific, etc). Some of them may return to their homeland, or the increase in their numbers may slow down, but overcoming the pandemic will make them return to their factories, especially in light of the mutual need between the two parties.
5. International Students and University Branch Campuses (University Branch Campuses similar to the branches of MNCs):
There are 5.3 million foreign students studying outside their countries, with an increase of 3 million during 2000–2020 (out of those currently there are 330 thousand Americans studying outside the US). Internationally, there are 225 university branch campuses. Will these students leave their foreign universities, will the university branch campuses close? and can countries afford to accommodate returning students and returning workers, with all the resulting economic and social imbalance?
6. International Non-Governmental Organizations Network
During the period 1990–2020, the number of international organizations increased reaching 5 thousand international governmental organizations, while the international non-governmental organizations increased from 6 thousand to 25 thousand, covering all sectors. These organizations have now transnational political, legal and humanitarian influence, etc. How will they be dismantled?
All of this means that dismantling the infrastructure of globalization is not possible. Globalization will remain, without negating the possibility of some change in some of its aspects.
Fourth: Political Repercussions Between Globalization and the Nation-State:
The political debate between those studying the political repercussions of coronavirus focuses on two main points: The status of the nation-state in domestic and international politics, did the crisis cause the state to cease significantly its heavy involvement—regionally and internationally—in foreign affairs? Or is it otherwise? In this matter, a significant number of writers and researchers tend to believe that the coronavirus has defeated globalization, and that countries are back to the nation-state notion and their traditional functions. The regional systems would be disintegrated and the concept of sovereignty would be restored, as refined by Jean Bodin in the sixteenth century. They believe that when the pandemic ends, the existing international order would disintegrate. Such a landscape is described in the writings of Stephen Martin Walt, the pioneer of neorealism, which is inconsistent with the views of Joseph Nye (the originator of the soft power), and partly consistent with the views of William Burns and other thinkers. 
The second point is the question, will the repercussions of the pandemic increase the conflict tendency in a way that reshapes the international system, or the peaceful competition would continue, especially among major powers? In other words, is the international community on its way to a zero-sum game or a non-zero-sum game?
Looking at the trends of the contemporary international system, we find that it “promotes economic and technical interdependence,” on the one hand, but it has involved, since 1945, political and social disintegration, on the other hand.  Both ways affect one the other, or according to the theories of globalized political economy—such as neoliberal institutionalism, the neomedievalism concept or the “cross government” theory—they cannot be separated (interdependence and disintegration). Suffice to consider the following table highlighting the most important manifestations of disintegration: 
Table 2: The Increase of Member States in the United Nations
(Due to the colonial phenomena disintegration and the separatist tendencies of minority groups)
|Year|| Number of |
Table 3: Separatist Minority Groups in 2020 
The current scene brings us back to the theory of Émile Durkheim about the inverse relationship between organic interdependence and mechanical interdependence, between the individuals and societies. Therefore, globalization will resist any recoil from interdependence, based on the following features:
1. The economic and technical interdependence, which represents organic interdependence weakens the mechanical one, which is based on race, language, religion, sect, etc. It is known that the core of the nation-state (The example of the Peace of Westphalia 1648) was based first on mechanical interdependence, then was strengthened by organic bonds. As for globalization, it raises the importance of organic interdependence at the expense of the mechanical one. Hence, it threatens the status of international nationalism, especially with the overflow of external influence over all aspects of political, social and economic life. Accordingly, the return to the mechanical interdependence, whose disintegration led to social and political fragmentation, will not allow the nation-state—as some think—to easily regain its position. Most probably the “soft power” of the country, which finds the coronavirus vaccine first and saves itself, will strengthen its “soft power.” These countries, especially the great powers, will instrumentalize the coronavirus issue to strengthen their position in the context of globalization, which means strengthening their soft power. This is considered axiomatic in the competition between the superpowers. It seems that China has improved its image, despite being accused of lack of “transparency” at the beginning of the crisis. For it quickly curbed the acceleration of the crisis, in addition to providing aid to other countries, especially Italy and others (which Russia has followed suit). This may lead to “some” tension in its relations with some other countries, despite the call of the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) to end the politicization of Covid-19. 
In return, the ability of the United States to quickly face the crisis with technical and managerial creativity may enhance the prospects of Donald Trump’s second presidency. However, his total or partial failure may weaken these prospects, which will have political repercussions, especially on the US policy in various parts of the world, including—to a certain extent—the Middle East. He has made “economic incentives” the backbone of the “deal of the century.” In light of the deep trade and financial repercussions of the Coronavirus crisis, accompanied by oil price shocks, the momentum of this plan will suffer especially where the Palestinians are concerned. Nevertheless, Israel will consider it an opportunity, taking advantage of the international and regional preoccupation with the pandemic, and thus a “national unity” government is being formed, while there are preparations for the annexation of large areas of the West Bank (WB).
2. The mutual need of the global power markets will make these powers engage in a non-zero-sum game. That is investing in conflicting interests in a manner that does not harm their common interests, which have now a great clout in these countries (economic, financial and monetary) policies. These are some of the most important pillars of globalization.
3. The importance of specialized international organizations, such as WHO, may increase, despite Trump’s convulsions. For the world has become more aware of the dangers of pandemics, especially their spread across borders. Consequently, environmental and other organizations, especially those of service nature, would be strengthened, whether they were international governmental or non-governmental organizations, and this would reinforce globalization again.
4. The ideological dimension: The above scene indicates that it will be embodying Hegel’s Complex, i.e., country policies will synthesize between socialism (distributive justice) and capitalism (growth rates). This would make international relations (between countries) less prone to violence, while internal violence and civil wars would continue to a certain degree, in a non-linear track. Such a synthesis was predicted earlier by a number of international relations scholars. 
5. The crisis seems to have “embellished” the view of military institutions in global public opinion for their contribution in limiting the spread of the pandemic. This was the case with Russia, for example, which called in the army to help tackle the coronavirus crisis.  This task given to the hard power will grant it more freedom of movement, particularly in developing countries, not to mention the possibility of strengthening its economic role, as is the case with China and other countries, especially developing ones.
6. It seems that the Asian perspective on international relations, has to a certain extent acquired some “glory” at the expense of increasing criticism of the Western perspective, especially when comparing the speed of the Asian response, especially in the pandemic epicenter, with the delay of European and American response. Some have described this as the beginning of the de-westernization process, or the beginning of a complex perspective that is represented in the WEAST model introduced early by some political researchers, based on the notion that “East meets West in a new global culture.” 
7. The coronavirus will make the forces of organic interdependence adapt themselves at first, and so it will slightly do with the forces of the mechanical interdependence. However, the next strategy of technical interdependence (Transportation, communications and the Internet), climate interdependence (The coronavirus have crippled factories and air and land transport leading to a sharp drop in the percentage of pollutants such as carbon dioxide. Even China’s coal consumption has declined by some 40%, according to some reports),  and the previously mentioned indicators, is not stopping globalization but “organizing it more,” and looking for new dimensions regardless of its normative evaluation. For the “spider” remains, and the old and new ways of weaving continue. The shock may cause some bounce for two years or more, and then the mega-trends would return and have their impact. As the world found in the League of Nations a way out after the First World War, and in the United Nations after the Second World War, the world will adapt to the coronavirus and continue its track, but with many consequences.  The percentages of the poor covered by social and health assistance vary between countries, which will reflect on their stability. Hence, the impact on internal conditions will vary. Moreover, the non-treatment of coronavirus in poor countries means the possibility of its return to the rich countries, a situation that calls for more international cooperation, which may gradually lead to an increase in the phenomenon of “digital” diplomacy as more international teleconferencing takes place.
8. The pandemic has made many international bodies demand the easing of sanctions and siege policies on some countries, for humane reasons, so they would be able to cope with it, as in the cases of Iran, Palestine (The West Bank and Gaza Strip), and others. This was evident in the positions of the US Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who called on Trump to relax the siege.  Therefore, the world may converge to confront the virus, but it may temporarily diverge so that each side protects itself from the epidemic.
9. The geopolitical dimensions will remain the same because the virus cannot change geography. Therefore, Europe pay attention to its southern Mediterranean and Russian neighborhood, and some cracks may appear in the walls of the European Union (EU) or in EU-US relations. Nevertheless, the political, economic and social fabric is so intertwined, that it is difficult to disassemble it as being promoted. For the disintegration of the EU, for example, is not an easy issue, thus the crisis may lead to the restructuring of some EU institutions, or the EU may pay attention to some issues, as a matter of normal reaction to some matters. China, also, will not abandon its global project or the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) project.
1. After curbing the coronavirus spread, the world turns to repairing its economic damage, including the decrease of per capita income in 170 countries. However, this cannot be done unless the existing structures of globalization are utilized, but in return, national competition would push globalization towards the interests of the nation-state leading to political crises without reaching any direct clashes with rough means. However, some oil countries may experience more instability, due to economic paralysis caused by the coronavirus on the one hand and the large drop in oil revenues, on the other hand (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Algeria, Libya, Mexico, Ecuador, Nigeria, etc). Some oil countries may have to review their policies and projects, like Saudi Arabia, whose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged four years ago to build an economy free from dependence on oil. He started projects that could not be accomplished without selling oil at $80 a barrel, while now it is $20 a barrel.  Some Arab countries were heavily dependent on tourism as one of their most important economic resources, however, at the end of April 2020, the tourism sector losses in the Middle East were estimated at about $ 40 billion, and that doesn’t include airlines losses of more than $14 billion. In some countries in the region, including Egypt, Iran and Turkey, tourism and airlines are a strategic parts of the economy, accounting for a significant portion of their GDPs. 
2. Discovering a coronavirus vaccine, goes through the stages of discovering the drug, then testing it, then producing it on a large scale, then distributing it. This means that the virus will accompany the world economy for a period of not less than one year, thus prolonging the negative effects on the economies, especially in poor countries. Such effects may vary according to the political, economic and social coping mechanisms of each country, and depending on the speedy arrival of the vaccine, and if the pandemic doesn’t spread again next year in 2021.
3. The results of the US presidential elections will speed up or slowdown the adjustment in the international system structure. For if Trump wins for a second term, the economic tool would be used again in global conflicts, where the Middle East, China and Latin America would be most affected, In case he failed, the incoming Democratic president would work to fill the gaps left by Trump in US foreign relations, especially with the EU and China, and to a lesser extent the Middle East. In this context, if unemployment rates continue to rise and quarantine continues in some states, the US may witness waves of violence.
4. The deep crises caused by the Coronavirus have made developing countries, including the Arab countries, realize that building regional blocs—on sound foundations—is in the long run the protective shield against the effects of all “High Impact–Low Probability” variables. Despite the shortcomings of regional structures when facing the pandemic, as was the case in the EU, the ruling on EU’s role based on a less than 4 months old phenomenon is hasty. We believe that the EU may respond to the crisis, after absorbing the shock and the surprise of its rapid spread.
5. We think that the peaceful aspect of international relations will press more strongly than before the coronavirus. This may seen when new international organizations form or when the existing structures try to re-adapt, without denying that the conflict tendency will persist, however less sharply than before the Coronavirus period. Accordingly, the economic and social service role of the rough power may be the most pressing in international relations, especially that such a role was played in many countries, even if in varying degrees.