News ID: 319717
Published: 0338 GMT January 28, 2022

Imperialists used pandemic to intensify aggression against the developing world

Imperialists used pandemic to intensify aggression against the developing world

Iran Daily: What lessons can we draw from the recent pandemic, and the global scramble to contain it, about imperialism in the 21st century?

Efe Can Gürcan*: We could draw at least three main lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic as they relate to the issue of imperialism. The first is about the economic dynamics of imperialism. The pandemic provided an historic opportunity to amplify the power of Western-based Big Tech companies, which witnessed a tremendous increase in their profits in the pandemic era. These companies also led an unprecedented cycle of social media censorship under the pretext of curbing pandemic-related misinformation, particularly against social media outlets from leading Eurasian countries such as Russia, China, and Iran. Therefore, the first lesson to draw: We should be vigilant against the rise of Western-based ICT monopolies and social media discrimination in the pandemic era.

This also brings us to our second lesson, which relates to the geopolitical dynamics of imperialism. To me it seems that imperialist countries have taken advantage of this pandemic to intensify their aggression towards the developing world, especially when it comes to countries such as Iran, Cuba, China, and Russia. The pandemic has already destabilized the economies of many developing countries. Under these circumstances, imperialist countries hoped to amplify these negative effects through sanctions and other coercive means. Sanctions have restricted Iran and Cuba’s access to medical materials and equipment. It gave me great pain to observe how the international community has failed completely to denounce these unjust sanctions in the name of humanity. In Cuba, moreover, COVID-related grievances helped to trigger mass protests. Similarly, economic deterioration due to the pandemic conditions facilitated the failed attempt of a Western-backed color revolution in Kazakhstan. Furthermore, Russia is facing increased NATO aggression in Ukraine and neighbouring regions amidst grave economic difficulties caused by a combination of the pandemic and Western sanctions. In the meantime, the US attempts to weaponize the pandemic by scapegoating China and accelerating its trade war on the Chinese economy.

The third lesson to draw is to be vigilant about “medical imperialism” in the COVID-19 era. This era witnessed the intensification of a global competition for producing national vaccines and acquiring medical materials and equipment used to fight the pandemic, with imperialist economies being able to outspend them and limiting the medical access of lower-income countries. The pandemic era has also exposed the absurdity of the Western-dominated intellectual property rights regime, whose medical aspects are monopolized by Big Pharma at the expense of the developing countries. Unfortunately, the international community has completely failed to support international cooperation for the fight against the pandemic, while the United States attempted to undermine the World Health Organization’s prestige. Instead, philanthrocapitalists, who represent Big Tech (e.g. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), took the lead in promoting privatized healthcare systems.

 

*Efe Can Gürcan is associate professor of international relations at İstinye University, Istanbul, and director of its Center for Belt and Road Studies. He is the author of ‘Imperialism after the Neoliberal Turn (Capitalism, Power and the Imperial State)’, published by Routledge in 2021.

 

   
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