Experts provided widely differing – and sometimes unexpected – answers to these questions, when the media organization TEDx hosted a ‘Corona Special’ conference in Oslo on 27 March. This TEDx talk was the first to be held 100% digitally, as comprehensive measures aimed at limiting the transmission of the coronavirus Covid-19 have been put in place in Norway, as in most parts of the world.

The conference convened a long list of experts from a range of academic disciplines and professional fields, who all gave their talks from the confines of their ‘home offices’. FNI Director Iver B. Neumann opened the proceedings, and was followed by philosopher Einar Øverenget, Professor of Economics Karl Ove Moene, business founder and CEO Nassima Dzair, mathematician and a tech investor Silvija Seres and honorary president of the Norwegian Red Cross Sven Mollekleiv – to name a few.

TEDx talk

Corona as game-changer

All presenters focused on the impacts and possible consequences of the corona pandemic, from widely differing perspectives and raising a series of questions: Can AI and robots help us through the corona crisis? Will the crisis change how we view parenting and childhood? Will social distancing have a lasting impact on our relationships and how we communicate?

FNI Director Neumann, whose academic background is in political science and social anthropology, focused on international politics and whether the pandemic could become a catalyst for deeper change or even disruption in the political world order.

During the past four decades, China’s power has grown steadily, to the point that it is now challenging the United States as the leading power in the world. The Corona crisis has presented China with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate its world-wide power’, said Neumann, who added: ‘Nothing surprising here; crises are always key drivers of social change, and that includes the fight over who should be the states system’s top dog.’

You can watch the entire TEDx talk here.

We come bearing gifts

Iver B. NeumannNeumann argued that China now seems to be seizing the opportunity, while the world is in the midst of what is arguably its worst crisis since the Second World War, to attack US hegemony head on.

'And note that its strategy parallels the US’s own historical strategy of how to become a hegemon: China offers medicines, doctors, material assistance to alleviate a crisis,’ said Neumann, reminding the listeners of the US Marshall Program after WWII.

‘These gifts that are now being gratefully received by a range of other states will at some point have to be met with counter-gifts. China is cleverly using the Corona crisis to build up political favours, with a view to replacing the US hegemony with Chinese hegemony.’

You can read a transcript of Neumann’s TEDx presentation here.

A video recording of the conference is available here.


Related reading:

Will the Corona crisis be the end of the liberal world order? (Op-ed, in Norwegian)

The world after the corona crisis (Interview in Minerva, in Norwegian)