So, the question has come up, whither the Maelstrom Rising series in the aftermath of the Wuhan Coronavirus? It was originally floated as question about whether people would really want to read more about the world unraveling while it appears to be doing just that in real life. It’s since turned into a different question:
Since the original backstory was written before the coronavirus outbreak, how would it effect the overall storyline? After all, there’s no mention of a global pandemic in the backstory. And how would the current crisis play out in such a way that the backstory remains mostly intact?
I think it’s actually somewhat simpler than I might have thought.
The economic fallout from all of this is going to be far worse than the death toll from the disease itself. The global economy is taking a huge hit, that will only get worse as quarantine measures continue. At the same time, global interdependence has also taken a blow that it might not recover from. (There were op-eds published several weeks ago, bemoaning the fact that the coronavirus has dealt a blow to globalization that it might never recover from.)
The rapid spread of the coronavirus, both due to open international traffic and the Chinese Communist Party’s malfeasance, has bolstered the case for nationalist movements across the globe. (There’s a whole other analysis there, that I might get to on this blog later.) The movement toward preserving national sovereignty and economic independence is only going to get stronger, if only as a self-defense measure against a repeat of the current crisis.
That said, there are very wealthy, very powerful people who are hard at work to not only reverse that trend, but actually tighten global controls. Voices are already calling for greater global authority to monitor and control activity, in order to counter the spread of the virus. Some aren’t even disguising the opportunism involved. They see this as a chance to “accelerate historical processes.” (Any real student of history knows that there really is no such thing.)
So, the conflict between those who wish to preserve their national cultures and economies as independent entities and those who are still hoping for transnational or even global states isn’t going away.
China is the big question mark. Evidence is mounting that the CCP has vastly understated their own case counts and death tolls. How many Chinese will eventually die from this crisis has yet to be determined, but they will not emerge unscathed.
As with the rest of the world, the economic impact will be greater still. The decoupling process has already begun, with the Japanese government offering to fund businesses moving their operations out of China. Some of President Trump’s advisers are urging the same. This will have long-term effects on China, including on their global economic hegemony, part of a program they’ve been working on for several decades. The New Silk Road isn’t going away anytime soon, but China is going to find itself at a severe economic disadvantage in the next few years.
What will this drive the CCP to do? What will desperation drive an authoritarian regime that has already made its own citizens disappear to keep things quiet do? If their goal is really to be the superpower of the future, and if they have been economically wounded to the extent that is possible over the next few years, would the solution perhaps be to burn down their strategic and economic rivals, to “level the playing field?”
As for the United States, if the plans to encourage decoupling from China go forward, there is the potential for an industrial boom in the years to come that this country hasn’t seen since the 1940s. However, it should be noted that, even as virus numbers have risen (with accusations flying of data manipulation all the while) and unemployment numbers have risen even more quickly, the political divides have not gone away. The hatreds within the political class have only become more entrenched, to the point of what can only be compared to “fiddling while Rome burns.” If there was any hope that the current crisis might reduce the polarization and divide in the US, reality seems to be dashing those hopes quickly.
What does all this mean for the Maelstrom Rising series? Most likely, this is only one more stressor on a system that is already on the verge of flying apart. It will probably not greatly affect the end results, meaning the series is still on the possibility list for the future.
Now, my main question was, “Does anyone still want to read this stuff?” But the series is still my top seller at the moment. So, I will continue. And the anthology, SPOTREPS, is still on the schedule. (Though some release dates might end up getting pushed due to economic concerns.)