What International Relations Tells Us about COVID-19

This is an excerpt from an article first published on E-International Relations (April 26, 2020)

By Joshua Busby

The emergence of a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19) in 2019 may be the most consequential event of the early 21st century, upending modern life, globalization, and relations between countries. The outbreak of COVID-19 is a health crisis, with approximately 3 million cases and over 200,000 deaths and counting. It is also an economic one, with the various stay-at-home ordinances and travel restrictions imposed to break the chain of transmission leading to dramatically diminished economic activity, massive unemployment, and income losses around the world. From China’s initial reluctance to allow World Health Organization (WHO) experts into the country to G7 fights over what to call the virus to President Trump’s hold on funding for the WHO, the global response has been shambolic and largely uncoordinated, in contrast to the adequate if not exceptional cooperation during the last major global crisis, the 2008 financial crisis. What can we learn from theories of international relations about why the response has thus far been so ineffective?

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