BRUSSELS — Globalization, that awkward catchall for our interconnectedness, was already under assault from populists, terrorists, trade warriors and climate activists, having become an easy target for much that ails us.
Now comes the coronavirus. Its spread, analysts and experts say, may be a decisive moment in the fervid debates over how much the world integrates or separates.
Even before the virus arrived in Europe, climate change, security concerns and complaints about unfair trade had intensified anxieties about global air travel and globalized industrial supply chains, as well as reinforcing doubts about the reliability of China as a partner.
The virus already has dealt another blow to slowing economies, and emboldened populists to revive calls, tinged with racism and xenophobia, for tougher controls over migrants, tourists and even multinational corporations.
Among all the challenges to globalization, many of them political or ideological, this virus may be different.
“We always forget that we’re at the mercy of nature, and when episodes pass we forget and carry on,” said Ivan Vejvoda, a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. “But this virus has put forward all these questions about the interconnectedness of the world as we’ve built it. Air travel, global supply chains — it’s all linked.”
“我们总是忘记我们都受自然的摆布，事情过去后我们就会忘记，并继续下去，”维也纳人类科学研究所(Institute for Human Sciences)研究员伊万·韦伊沃达(Ivan Vejvoda)说。“但这种病毒提出了关于我们所建立的世界互联性的所有问题。航空旅行、全球供应链——这些都是相互关联的。”
As the virus spreads to Europe and beyond, Mr. Vejvoda said, “it makes China seem a bit more fragile and dependence on China as ‘the factory of the world’ more iffy."
The rapid spread of the virus from Asia is “another straw on the camel’s back of globalization,” said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, the London research institution.
伦敦研究机构查塔姆研究所(Chatham House)所长罗宾·尼布利特(Robin Niblett)表示，这种病毒从亚洲迅速蔓延，是“压在全球化骆驼背上的又一根稻草”。
The political tensions between the United States and China over trade, as well as concerns about climate change, already had raised questions about the sense and cost of shipping parts country to country and the potential for carbon taxes at borders, he noted.
Coupled with the risk of a supply chain that is vulnerable to the breakout of the next coronavirus, or the vulnerabilities of an increasingly authoritarian China, Mr. Niblett said, “If you’re a business you have to think twice about exposing yourself.”
Particularly now, with more countries using sanctions and economic interdependence “as a new form of coercive diplomacy, and it adds up to becoming more risk-averse toward globalization,” he said.
Globalization of disease is hardly new, noted Guntram Wolff, director of Bruegel, an economic research institution in Brussels, citing the massive deaths that followed the European arrival in the Americas, or the plague, which the now-canceled Venice Carnival in part commemorates.
“What’s different is that with the airplane things can spread very fast,” he said. The immediate impulse is to recoil and erect barriers. “We already see flight numbers down dramatically.”
Climate-conscious citizens were already discouraging discretionary air travel, as were digital technologies that allow remote participation and transmission of information.
“You wonder if perhaps the peak of the global aircraft boom has passed,” Mr. Wolff said. “Many people are asking if we really need to have that kind of regular daily travel by air to all parts of the world.”
In a way, this virus underscores the imbalance in globalization. Private-sector supply chains have become very effective. Air travel is comprehensive and never ending. So the private sector is constantly moving around the world.
But any sort of coordinated governmental response is often weak and disorganized — whether on climate change, health or trade. And efforts to strengthen globalized public efforts are attacked by nationalists and populists as infringements on sovereignty.
Nor can governments do much to unfreeze supply chains, and few governments in Europe have the financial flexibility to inject much extra money into the economy.
Theresa Fallon, the director of the Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies, agreed that much of the pushback may now be directed at China.
俄罗斯、欧洲和亚洲研究中心(Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies)主任特蕾莎·费伦(Theresa Fallon)也认为，现在中国可能面临许多的负面反应。
She recently returned from Milan, where officials are checking temperatures of travelers, doctors are careful about office visits and locals were visibly keeping their distance from Chinese tourists, she said.
“China’s growth has been a long, positive story but now gravity has hit,” she said, with the virus arising as “a kind of black swan that underlines how different China is.”
Many companies “are rethinking about putting too many eggs in the Chinese basket,” she said, especially as hopes of China becoming more like the West are fading.
“We see more centralization and lack of trust in China," in its statistics and its ability to manage the crisis, she said. That was so even as Chinese leaders try to influence what they call “discourse management” with international institutions like the World Health Organization, in attempts to downplay the epidemic.
That crisis of confidence in China extends beyond China’s ability to handle the virus, said Simon Tilford, director of the Forum New Economy, a research institution in Berlin.
柏林研究机构新经济论坛(Forum New Economy)负责人西蒙·蒂尔福德(Simon Tilford)说，中国的信任危机超出了中国应对这种病毒的能力。
But the spread of the virus to Europe will also have a significant impact on politics, likely boosting the anti-immigrant, anti-globalization far right, Mr. Tilford said.
“We already see a lot of populist concern about the merits of globalization as benefiting multinationals, the elite and foreigners, not local people and local companies,” he said.
Politicians who insist on control over borders and immigration will be helped, even as the virus transcends borders easily.
“Their argument will be that the current system poses not only economic but also health and security threats, which are existential, and that we can’t afford to be so open just to please big business,” Mr. Tilford said.
That argument may attract voters “who hate overt racism but fear loss of control and a system vulnerable to a distant part of the world," he added.
The racial impact of the spreading virus is delicate, all agreed, but there.
“It’s always different when it happens in your own neighborhood, among people like yourself,” said Stefano Stefanini, a former Italian diplomat. “When it happens in Denmark or Spain or Italy you have more of a feeling that it happens among people who share the same lifestyle — so you can see it happening to you.”
But the virus also allows people to express hostility to the Chinese that they may have felt but had been reluctant to articulate, said Mr. Tilford. “There is already an undercurrent of fear of the Chinese in Europe and the United States because they represent a challenge to Western hegemony,” he said.
That fear is being stoked by the Trump administration’s campaign against Huawei, China’s telecommunications company, but also by reports of Chinese repression and censorship through the use of advanced technology.
Many Chinese living or traveling in the West have reported a quick spike in abuse and avoidance in public places and transport. “It’s a sign of how close to the surface these sentiments are,” Mr. Tilford said.
The media, too, shares this sense of cultural distance and difference, Mr. Stefanini and Mr. Tilford said.
Mr. Stefanini recalled debates in the Italian Foreign Ministry about whether to send condolence messages, depending on the numbers of deaths and how far away they occurred.
“Events in Australia get massive coverage, but mass floods and deaths in Bangladesh barely register," Mr. Tilford said. The outbreak in China “feels distant geographically and culturally, with a touch of racism, as if we measure lives lost in a different way,” he said.
The Italian sociologist Ilvo Diamanti had a more philosophical concern. The spread of the virus to Italy “has called into question our certainties,” because “it makes defense systems in the face of threats to our security more complicated, if not unnecessary,” he wrote in Monday’s La Repubblica. “The world no longer has borders that cannot be penetrated.”
意大利社会学家伊尔沃·迪亚曼蒂(Ilvo Diamanti)对此有一种更具哲学性的担忧。这种病毒向意大利的传播“已经使我们的确定性产生了质疑”，因为“在我们的安全受到威胁的情况下，这使防御系统变得更加复杂，”他在周一的《共和报》(La Repubblica)上写道。“世界不再具有无法攻破的边境。”
To defend against the virus, Mr. Diamanti wrote, “one would have to defend oneself from the world," hiding at home and turning off the television, the radio and the internet. “In order not to die contaminated by others and become spreaders of the virus ourselves, we would have to die alone.”
This, he suggested, is “a greater risk than the coronavirus."