A Global Perspective
A Global Perspective Short-Essay Collection.
From Stillwater to Singapore and beyond, we have all endured together the most disruptive global event in decades. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a profound sense of desperation as nations rich and poor sought to head off the catastrophic threat to people, economies and health systems. The crisis that seemed unimaginable to many at the start of the year has turned the world upside down. There is still minimal certainty about damages we have already endured, much less those that are yet to come.
Faculty and researchers at Oklahoma State University have been engaged in international collaboration since the 1950s, and the expertise of many of these faculty has relevance to the global pandemic. We have asked a number of these global experts at OSU to share their thoughts on how the pandemic will change the world.
Protectionism is unlikely to prevail in the wake of the pandemic.
Dr. John Schoeneman, Visiting Assistant Professor
School of Global Studies and Partnerships
Anti-trade politicians are already incorporating the pandemic related changes in global supply-chains as evidence for their arguments in support of trade protectionism. However, the supply chain disruptions we see now would not have been prevented in the absence of international trade, as the global pandemic has disrupted production in every nation. Protectionist trade wars would only cause further disruption. Furthermore, available evidence shows that protectionism has historically failed to produce the desired results of increasing economic growth and reducing vulnerability. One prominent example of this is the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that exacerbated the Great Depression.
The good news is that protectionist policies are an unlikely long-term outcome in the wake of a pandemic related financial crisis. Businesses and customers will need product diversification and lower prices as we emerge from the crisis. The economic losses that would surely come with trying to undo the trade networks from decades of globalization will be unpalatable and investor-funded lobbyists and voters will push back.
Instead of protectionism, the path forward is continued trade and better planning. Past research has already shown that embeddedness in trade networks increases supply and price stability, not vulnerability. To achieve stability, businesses should work on having better knowledge of their supply-chain maps and create a plan for disruptions. By increasing their number of trade partners they can reduce supply chain disruption risk, much like how portfolio diversification reduces risk. Additionally, governments should implement policy for better preparedness and coordination in the future.
Should we de-grow?
Dr. Anil Kaul, Director of High Complexity Clinical Laboratory
Center for Health Sciences
Having taught global health courses, including emerging infections and pandemics for more than a decade, the Covid-19 pandemic was not a surprise because the predictions were there but it was a shock to see how unprepared we were as a global community.
This unpreparedness came partly highlights the unsustainability of our current system. The fallout following the breakdown of global supply chains – particularly PPEs, testing kits/reagents, ventilators and pharmaceutical products – point to our ‘hidden vulnerabilities’. The biggest challenge is the need to keep supply chains and logistics open so these critical supplies are readily available to address the surging demand. If the current pandemic can cause such an upheaval throughout our entire social and economic system, then we need to explore different and better ways to organize our societies. There is a need for a more resilient and reliable supply chains.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused disruption across the world, deaths of the most vulnerable, lockdowns, closed borders, stock market crashes, and other devastating effects. Concepts like degrowth, which propose to re-localize a significant amount of production locally to increase sustainability, shorten the supply chains, and increase resilience through transparency and decentralization, will need a serious consideration. The response to the current Covid-19 pandemic has shown that degrowth is possible, because our society (and the state) has exhibited its ability to completely change the approach in responding to a major crisis.
The Covid-19 pandemic and U.S. supply chain linkages.
Dr. Eugene Bempong Nyantakyi, Assistant Professor of Global Business and Trade
School of Global Studies and Partnerships
The on-going Covid-19 pandemic poses significant public health and economic threat to the global economy. In response, most economies have implemented measures that have invariably closed borders and shut businesses. While these measures are meant to save lives and limit the impact of the pandemic on public health infrastructure, they have had unprecedented impact on global supply chains for US manufacturing firms.
The risks stem from the increasing reliance on “just-in-time” production processes. In normal times, this reduces inventory costs by allowing firms to source inputs only when they are required. The process has served global firms well, because the fall in transport and containerization costs have ensured that production inputs can arrive from faraway places like China cheaply and faster than before. In addition, American supply chain networks have been concentrated in countries that are significantly impacted by Covid-19, including from China and Europe.
The current crisis has exposed the weaknesses of overreliance on just-in-time manufacturing processes and concentration of supply chain linkages among a few trading partners. Over a short period, the pandemic has disrupted manufacturing processes of US suppliers and transport networks around the globe, particularly in China and Europe. This disruption partly contributed to the reduction in US manufacturing output in the first quarter of 2020.
Undoubtedly just-in-time production will continue to play a significant role in the US manufacturing sector. But the pandemic will cause many firms to rethink their global supply chain linkages. Part of that readjustment will entail moving the production of critical components in-house and increasing domestic supplier links to mitigate the disruption to production due to a meltdown in global supply chains as the current crisis has shown.
A return to isolationism.
Dr. Jonathan Z. Ludwig, Teaching Assistant Professor of Russian
College of Arts and Sciences
Unless a preventative vaccine or cure is discovered soon, isolationism will become the international norm, as even the friendliest of borders remain shut to all but essential traffic. Supply lines will falter, trade will slow, and international travel and student/faculty exchanges, the lifeblood of soft power, will trickle to a halt.
In the near term, countries will become dependent upon their own ability to produce food and goods. As long as they are able to end their quarantines at home, the United States and other nations that are able to feed their own people and have diversified economies will do better than most.
In the medium term, the crisis will exacerbate the already increasing rise of nationalist politicians who will come to power by convincing their citizenry that “outsiders” are the enemy, for it was “outsiders” who brought the virus to them.
If the virus continues into the long term, nations will be compelled to reconstruct regional pacts with whom they can trade, do other business, and travel freely. Some of these, such as a recently re-negotiated NAFTA, which can expand to include the United Kingdom and other Anglophone nations, will be the easiest to form. For others, it will be more of a challenge, as they will be wary about ceding sovereignty to regional powers such as China or Russia, their traditional adversaries or former colonial masters.
From less to more: Structural shifts in the food and agricultural systems in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Shida Henneberry, Regents Professor in Ag. Econ. and Director of the Master of International Agriculture Program
Ferguson College of Agriculture
Global economies came to a pause in 2020 as the world confronted the Coronavirus pandemic. The food and agricultural supply system we had relied upon for decades, now had to adapt to a new reality. Most countries immediately realized that the focus on production efficiency had been over-emphasized, and that the future would place higher importance on the food safety and national security roles of the food and agricultural sector. International trade according to the theory of comparative advantage would be overtaken by a desire for national autonomy and self-sufficiency in the production of essential commodities, like food and fiber. Changes in economic policy to accommodate political realities are not new, and as the world changes the agricultural sector changes with it. Some of the consequences as we adapt to the current pandemic might include:
Less reliance on international markets and more emphasis on self-sufficiency
Less in-time-inventory and more stockpiling and controlled agriculture.
Less small farm agriculture and more commercial corporate farms.
Less human workers in the packing plants and more robots to mitigate the impact on the food chain as a result of increasing illness among employees.
Less consumer purchases of restaurant meals and more delivery options for at-home consumption.
Less visits to retail stores and more on-line shopping.
Greater use of single serve packaging because of sanitation concerns, and less availability of self-serve buffets and other communal food service formats.
Less demand for cotton with the closing of retail clothing outlets.
The world after the pandemic.
Dr. Rhonda Casey, Interim Associate Dean
Center for Health Sciences Office of Global Health
We returned to the U.S. from a global health medical course in Greece at the end of February just as attention was focusing more sharply on Coronavirus. Within a short time, as the threat rose to pandemic proportions, our global health trips were canceled for the foreseeable future, and we all watched as the world changed.
As I think about our world after the pandemic, I think of the many individuals across the globe with whom we have established friendships and partnerships, most of whom will have battled the common enemy; and I know those relationships will endure. We can use this common ground as a portal to reach out to people in need globally, and find new ways to relate to the needs of the world. We have witnessed so many rising to action: converting distilleries to make hand sanitizer and automobile factories to make ventilators, individuals sewing face masks and providing meals for healthcare workers, people finding new purpose amidst the chaos and tragedy. We have seen people pull together to meet needs that did not previously exist; to lift up and support their fellow man. We have seen the world rise beyond the current threat to innovate, collaborate, strategize, and learn; and it will continue. We will reach new norms, with hygiene and infection prevention at the forefront across the world. We will find ways to safely travel the world again, and gradually paint it the brightest orange.
U.S. International Engagement more important now than ever
Dr. Jami Fullerton, Director of Academic Programs
School of Global Studies and Partnerships
U.S. Public Diplomacy is suffering terribly during the COVID-19 pandemic and may be changed forever. Because the virus prevents people from gathering face-to-face, relational public diplomacy programs, which are the gold-standard for effective engagement with citizens around the world, have been essentially eliminated. For example, Fulbright programs have been postponed or canceled this year. Peace Corp volunteers were sent home and their service abruptly ended in mid-March. The International Visitor Leadership Program, an 80-year old initiative that brings leaders from around the world to experience U.S. communities and connect with American counterparts has been put on hold indefinitely. Study Abroad and student exchanges won’t happen in Fall 2020, in part because of travel bans and the inability for students to obtain visas because U.S. embassies are shuttered around the world.
Therefore, in the absence of relational public diplomacy, mediated public diplomacy is critical to fill the gap and close the “final three feet” that President Eisenhower described as being so important to global understanding and world peace. The US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which runs Voice of America (VOA) and its sister outlets including Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty and whose mission to inform, engage and connect international audiences in support of freedom and democracy is needed now more than ever. Unfortunately, however the very agency that is responsible for using media to “win hearts and minds” has come under attack by the Trump Administration. During this pandemic, a time when face-to-face engagement is essentially impossible, the administration is openly critical of government-run media agency and is seeking to appoint a controversial right-wing broadcaster to head VOA. In the days and months after COVID-19, what was once considered a shining example of publicly funded independent media may become a propaganda tool for the U.S. President.
Global Networks will survive, but will be under suspicion.
Dr. Randy Kluver, Associate Provost and Dean
School of Global Studies and Partnerships
Since at least the 1980s, the nations have been organized less along regional or even political lines, but around networks, interactive ties between organizations, institutions and people. The "network society" has created a new infrastructure (technological, political, economic and social) upon which our contemporary society is based. The infrastructure is not perfect, of course, creating and sustaining inequality just as it does trade, prosperity, and concepts such as human rights. These networks are and have been the means by which globalization spread and prospered. These came under attack in the 1960s as the most visible symbol of globalization, with the IMF, the World Bank, Starbucks and other institutions and organizations portrayed as symbols of new forms of economic and political colonization and control.
Now, however, these networks (as well as the people and institutions that maintain them), are under much more sever scrutiny. Even before the pandemic, the trade and economic ties were being strained by trade tensions and rising tides and nationalism. The recent controversy over the World Health Organization's role in allowing the virus to spread, the thousands of conspiracy theories purporting the supposedly nefarious origins of the coronavirus and the almost instantaneous dismantling of global travel infrastructures all demonstrate the fragility of these institutional and logistical networks to a virus that none of us had heard of as recently as four months ago.
In spite of the suspicion of the network society, the infrastructure is there and is not going away. The networks have become much too important to us to dismantle. Just as we cannot realistically entertain the idea of dismantling the internet, there is little value to dismantling the networks that have created the society in which we live.
What is likely to happen is that we will attempt to rearticulate those networks. While in the past we designed networks for efficiency, nations are likely to attempt to re-design them to obtain political and economic advantage. China's Belt and Road initiative is a perfect example of a supposed trade network that is really built to confer political advantage. The networks won't go away, but they will be held to different standards.
Global Health is a National Security concern.
Brian D. Sandersfield, Director Joint Programs Management Office
Center for Health Sciences Office of Global Health
Global Health is a National Security concern. National Security includes the protection from emerging infectious diseases and a nation's economic vitality. Public health infrastructure set on prevention and preparedness is critical to a nation's economic and community health. Given the pandemic economic hardships felt across the globe, those countries with already underfunded health programs will be substantially impacted causing further deficiencies in their healthcare system. Future support of volunteer Global Health programs will be increasingly critical to support those nations with a lack of health infrastructure, expertise and funding support in order to prevent and mitigate further pandemics and to attempt to mitigate health infrastructure overloading as a crisis develops. To ensure a stronger health system, it is essential to continue to support Global Health programs and draw attention to the need of nations across the globe.
A strong public health program supports a strong national security stature. Global Health programs mitigate vulnerabilities is such a way as the global community must emphasize prevention and preparedness and the use of volunteer global health programs to ensure protective strategies in fragile states so that their healthcare, economic and national security do not deteriorate to the point of no return, as affected by global outbreaks. Leadership from Global Health programs play a critical role in supporting healthy and secure societies abroad.
The Necessities of Media literacy and online communities post Covid-19.
Dr. Skye Cooley, Assistant Professor Mass Communication
School of Media and Strategic Communications
The pandemic has demonstrated the power of technology to keep the world interconnected without having to physically leave our homes, but it has also exposed how frighteningly weak our online public spaces are across local, state, national, and global levels. The move to online spaces and interactions seems and easier transition for business than democracy; particularly because our online community spaces are designed to sell user data rather than inform, promote dialogue, or facilitate responsible governance.
These online spaces were already vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation long before films like Plandemic were circulating across your newsfeed. Covid-19 has simply accentuated tensions between public health and industry to better illustrate how wildly uninformed we all are on how to manage our national system when crises strike. While our system inequalities and political divides have been more fully unmasked, our abilities to meaningfully engage solutions and re-imagine potentials have been stifled by our own inadequacies in processing information and the lack of meaningful online community spaces with which we can engage others.
We have long taken for granted our information capabilities, abusing them to their lowest intellectual and financial denominators as mechanisms of entertainment and self-validation.
The crisis demonstrates the importance of our online public spaces, media literacy, and shows that vacuums of factual information allow disinformation and conspiracy theories to run rampant. Lacking the ability to have discussions around commonly understood facts allows partisan and economic divides to be more readily exploited by politicians and outside powers. As we stumble out of covid-19 lockdowns, the federal political system of the United States looks decidedly more fragile.
Escalating tensions between globalism, nationalism and nativism will impact higher education.
Dr. Steve Wanger, Associate Professor of Higher Education
College of Education, Health and Aviation
The trend in recent decades toward globalization is prompting many people and organizations worldwide to look for ways to respond. Although a wide variety of responses are evidenced, two are gaining significant traction: nationalism and nativism. The former is attested in the Make America Great Again campaign in the United States, the rise of Russian and Chinese exceptionalism, Brexit, xenophobic attacks in South Africa and nationalist movements in France, Germany, Turkey and other countries on every continent, among others. The latter is seen in the recent demonstrations in Hong Kong, re-emergent strains of Nazism in Europe and North America, the resilience of both Al Qaida and ISIS, and a host of other political, cultural, economic, and educational movements. Whether national or nativist in persuasion though, each of these human efforts represents a response to the perception that identity is endangered or lost in an increasingly global world.
Because the COVID-19 virus may be seen as an ultimate threat to identity, politicians and opinion leaders across the globe already utilize the pandemic to promote agendas that embrace widely divergent and competing worldviews. For some, the pandemic highlights the need for a coordinated global response. For others, such a response imperils national or nativist identities. Throughout the pandemic and beyond we will wrestle with the appropriate sphere for addressing economic, cultural, and educational issues. The tensions will continue to escalate between the ideals of globalism, nationalism, and nativism.
This portends significant impacts on higher education. Beyond the current plummeting number of students able to participate in study abroad, and the restrictions on international travel for university employees, numerous questions arise. These include, but are not limited to: (1) how will families respond to study abroad opportunities for their students when international travel resumes, (2) will government funding be maintained (and, if so, at what level) for university research conducted by transnational teams, (3) will faculty be willing to travel to areas where the perceived or the real threat of the virus is high, (4) how will collaborative academic programs (such as 3+1, 2+2, dual degrees, etc.) be impacted, (5) will universities sustain their efforts to internationalize curricula and the university experience, and (6) will the global and intercultural competencies of students (both undergraduate and graduate) decline? The answers to these questions will shape the future of higher education, its students, and our world for generations to come.