Welcome to a Multi-polar World – Again By Dr. Arshad M. Khan
China and Russia conducted joint naval exercises in the South China Sea last week. Five Russian and ten Chinese ships participated in eight days of drills covering joint air defense, anti-submarine operations, landing, island-seizing, search and rescue operations, and weapons use. In the single largest naval exercise undertaken by the two, the Russian fleet comprised an Udaloy class anti-submarine destroyer, the Admiral Tributs, while the Chinese supplied surface ships, including landing craft, and submarines. The message, in the wake of the international tribunal’s ruling against China’s claims in the South China Sea, is crystal clear.
Even more important is the trade offensive as outlined at the recent G-20 meeting in Hangzhou. Their vision affords a new template for an all inclusive plus-sum game that was clearly directed against TPP, seen by China as antagonistic to its interests, and an attempt by the US to call the shots on Pacific trade.
Chinese influence in Europe is exemplified by the huge UK contract to build two and possibly three nuclear power plants in England in conjunction with EDF of France. The deal was given the go ahead by Prime Minister Theresa May the week after the G20 meeting.
The Chinese multi-polar view also embraces trade in currencies other than the dollar, particularly in the case of Russo-Chinese trade. A starting point is the joint Russian Far East and Chinese Northeast initiative. Rivals in the past, U.S. policies directed against both countries have boomeranged bringing them closer together.
Who is responsible for this policy? Or perhaps it is just hubris — the false security of being labeled the world’s only superpower. Well, welcome to the multi-polar world again — and perhaps not a bad thing given the humanitarian disasters wreaked upon the world in the last decade and a half. As a balancing polarity, Russian military power, including 7300 nuclear warheads, combined with Chinese economic strength could well be a stabilizing force. Worth noting that on a Purchasing Power Parity basis, China is already the world’s largest economy.
Also on the dollar front — or rather omission thereof — Russia and Iran announced last week that trade between the two countries will henceforth not be in dollars. It is a natural outcome of the U.S. seizing foreign assets at will, a constant threatening posture, and the my-way-or-the-highway attitude to sovereign nations. Many countries have waited patiently for alternatives, and now China is making such available.
Other long time U.S. allies have been emboldened by China’s open outreach. Rodrigo R. Duterte, the newly elected president of the Philippines, aside from lacking basic diplomatic courtesy, has declared his intention to follow an independent (from the U.S. that is) foreign policy. He wants to end joint U.S.- Philippine naval patrols west of the country in the South China Sea; acquire weaponry from China and Russia also; and develop economic and trade relations with the same.
One wonders if the CIA is now busy hatching a coup plot to send him scurrying and bring the Philippines back into the fold. President Duterte would do well to remember another loquacious president, Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, also elected but then swiftly dispatched into exile through a coup within six months of excessive verbiage.
There was a time when the U.S. was a good friend of Pakistan, a country now used and discarded to suffer on its own the aftereffects of the war on terror. The latter starting with an Afghan war on a country that was not involved in any way with 9/11 except that it offered a place to stay to a mujahedin commander, who had assisted with CIA help in getting rid of the Soviets. The man’s name was Osama bin Laden. The Afghan government wanted proof of his involvement; George W. Bush was not prepared to wait. A trillion and more dollars later, after 2325 soldiers are dead and 20,083 wounded, the U.S. is still there. In a related scandal, an average of 22 American veterans commit suicide each day. Might it have been better to have offered proof of bin Laden’s involvement? The obvious question, ‘what has been gained by making enemies out of most Afghans who were once friends’ betrays the folly.
In the history of the world, the downfall of great powers often begins with overreaching leading to a fed-up citizenry. That the U.S. has begun its downward slide is confirmed by a demagogue like Trump now having an even chance of becoming president as Hillary Clinton’s lead collapses.
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US.