And now that it has, it begins to respond. To be honest, at the moment the world is still reacting to the situation, not having grasped the buildup as it was happening, the measures are piecemeal, disjointed and fragmented. The range of responses span from economic to military, diplomatic, political and social, but most importantly it needs to be tied together in an overarching blueprint with moral heft behind it. While certain actions are being seen in each of the dimensions, the construction of the unifying structure is still some way ahead.
The good news is that as we speak there in a frantic attempt underway to understand the size and scope of the challenge and provide the intellectual and academic framework which can address it. Here too, there have been efforts covering a wide spectrum of topics over the landscape of international geopolitics.
There have been cracks at modelling behaviour of PRC, there have been bids to create an economic and military strategy to contain them, including by this author, and there have been calls to develop international partnerships. There are thoughts on challenging the moral sanction of CPC within China and looking at the social transformation of that state. These are all necessary and further debate, discussion and analysis along all these vectors are still needed. What is also now critical, however, is to start thinking in terms of larger new world order. It is vital to do so because our efforts will not become pro-active from reactionary unless we have a clear idea of what kind of world we are aiming to establish. Merely containing China is too limited a thought model to serve us in face of the rapid changes seen at the global level.
The character of the global predicament, Chinese exceptionalism
There are two main imperatives which require us to look at this from the highest possible level of abstraction. One is the nature of the Chinese challenge, and the second is to understand the overall evolution of relative powers of all major players and their current positions.
As a reminder, the aim of various studies anatomizing the Chinese mindset is to build an accurate picture of their motivations and approach. We need to do this because that is what can guide our steps in the complex geopolitical manoeuvring that is needed to overcome the dragon’s gauntlet. There are a few key take-aways here.
The first of these is that China being an opaque state and society, the world at large is usually unaware of the discussions that take place within and that is the reason we only get to glimpse the real nature when a few such examples slip through. The very tight-knit society speaking in a common language within it but closed to outsiders, both due to the language being difficult and general unwelcoming approach, means that we only see a put-on face. It is critical therefore to remember that the Chinese will speak in two voices and must never be taken at face value.
What also becomes clear is that the Chinese are not guided by principles of the universal brotherhood of mankind. They are guided very much by Chinese supremacism. Their views on race, nationalism and state very much mean that the Chinese Communism is National Socialism on steroids. There is the same synthesis of leftist philosophies and racial superiority that gave us Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer, being echoed verbatim in China today. We see the same expansionary quest for lebensraum, and we see the same genocidal approach towards other races. We see the same desperation to replace the current incumbent in global power, and we see the same deep-seated hatred for those seen as biggest roadblocks towards domination.
Coupled with the heft of the largest population, the second-largest economy, third-largest military and fourth-largest landmass, today’s China becomes a formidable concern at the universal level. With the occupation of Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Uyghur province its geo-political influence spans from Central Asia to the Pacific. It is no longer the issue of an upstart nation looking to disturb the balance of the global order but of an 800-pound gorilla seeking to dominate all aspects of human endeavours as we know it.
The character of the global predicament, waning Anglo-Saxon dominance
The rise of extremist China by itself is a problem, but it gets significantly compounded by how the rest of the international order is changing. Since the rise of the colonial period, for the last 200 to 300 years or so, world history has been dominated by Western Europe and the United States, but that is changing in fundamental ways now.
The European imperialist powers held sway till about first world war, post which high point their influence started waning. Till the great war, various European nations in a state of détente with each other had focused on exploitative extraction of resources from the rest of the earth. That unstable equilibrium eventually upended when the competitions could no longer be accommodated without direct confrontation. Their imperial control continued post the war of course, but the transfer of locus of power had already started with the fall of Russian and German royal houses and destruction of landed gentry in Britain.
The interregnum between the two world wars was a period of fragile peace marked by churn in equations. The emergence of National Socialism in Germany and Communism in Russia with waning Britain and rising US set the stage for breakdown of white imperialism. Following the second world, the Western and Central European powers like Germany, Italy, Austria etc. completely came to be subservient to the US-led Anglo-Saxon Atlantic alliance. With Britain, Canada, Australia and other Anglo-Saxon countries forming the foundation of this new system, this grouping had disproportionate influence over the rest of the globe as well. East Asian countries like Japan, Philippines, South Korea were the de facto extension of this system.
This extended Atlantic compact was held in balance with the Soviet bloc encompassing many of the countries reemerging from colonial constructs. Only India and China were the main holdouts which did not become a part of either of the spheres in an overt manner.
The post-WW II system finally ended with the dissolution of USSR, and the world believed that the era of unipolar world order underwritten by America was finally here. “The world is flat” was the new buzzword. It was imagined that we are in a period of universality, with largely shared culture values backed by a rule of law. That was a significant miscalculation which lulled the world into sleep. For one, the world did not have shared values, and secondly, both due to overreach as well as just the vast extent of the international problems the US was simply unable to provide the force needed to stabilize it. It was exacerbated by the US itself fueling many of the forces inimical to this order.
What we see today, is the end of the sole global superpower. Pax Americana if it ever existed, is over, Europe is stagnant at best, and practically in retreat. The resurgent Russia not accommodated in the global order is disruptive, and west’s best bet China has turned out to be a bad penny. India is possibly a solution to most of these imbalances but is still not factored into global equations.
We are now in a period of churn, very similar to the interwar period, where the long-held structures were collapsing, and the new order had not yet established itself. The question that we are confronted with is, in our times can we make the transition from one order to the next, without a great war?
Principles for Vikaswad oriented world
A review of the history of “globalization”, starting from time colonialization was the driving force creating vast international networks, has one prominent learning. We do see that competition without conflict is possible, but for that for a few conditions must prevail.
First, there must be multiple powers each responsible for its sphere of influence, but not be too eager to step out. This is critical as the world is too vast, too complex, too varied in cultural values and belief systems and too complicated to be “centrally” administered.
Secondly, these powers must be in balance. It is also critical that these the world agrees to submit itself to a rule-bound structure for resolution of the inevitable conflicts that will arise on the boundaries of their interests. This requires a world which believes in give and take. Each of these precludes an expansionary power.
Let there be no doubt though, that these high-minded thoughts need a solid rooting in geo-politics. It is the nature of the world that different nations have different sizes and abilities, and there needs to exist an interlock where each of the responsible larger powers is given space to exist, at the same time curtailing those not in consonance with the popular compact.
In real and immediate terms, it means that Communist China must be removed as a factor from the global chessboard through global agreements and not wait for it to visit war on us before we start taking steps to neutralize it.
The world must come together to make it happen as Communist is far too much of a threat for let alone a single country, but even a part alliance to contain it. All of us need to be in this together for any of us to have a reasonable chance of success.
Realization of the principles in our times
To make the above happen in real terms, what is needed is an India-Russia-US agreement. A Yalta conference aimed at reorganizing the world to pre-empt the war. No other synthesis of countries is possible because only this combination can provide enough population base, military power, economic depth and geographical spread to span the globe as needed.
There is no escaping the reality that the Atlantic centric mindset, needs to be replaced by the Indo-Pacific centric mindset. The perpetual dragging in of US into petty continental jealousies which Germany and France are carrying over as mindless legacy needs to cease. The hard-nosed realization that a resurgent Russia needs to be coopted as a force for stability is long overdue. The cold war is over, the European empires even more so, and fighting the Napoleonic and Kaiser’s imperial wars with Russia is an anachronism. Russia has not been defeated and petty attempts to complete the unfinished agenda makes no sense in a world where the chessboard is different.
If Russia is given the space to exist, the US can better use the resources invested in a pointless shouting match in Europe to the Pacific theatre. To Africa and other places in the world in dire need of external intervention against Islamist terrorism and Chinese expansionism. A Russia unburdened with the need to check the Atlantic alliance on its borders and East Europe can also support these initiatives with resources of their own. Furthermore, Putin will be far more amenable to working with other countries on geopolitical concerns like nuclear Iran etc. If Russian core interests are not perpetually threatened. This give will be needed to co-opt Russia into taking an overt and clear stance against communist China.
India can and must be the central lynchpin around with a US-Russia entente can be synthesized, with a good relationship with both countries, India can step in a take over the moderating influence in the contested regions between the two. In Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, Indian personnel at civilian, ex-military and diplomatic levels can be the neutral parties ensuring that common tri-partite interests are preserved and neither US nor Russia can use these opportunities for disproportionate influence at the cost of other. US and Russia will not see India as being a danger in this context, because frankly India has a very different set of core concerns and is not in a position to Challenge US or Russia in the central interest area of European or American heartlands. A world underpinned by Indian “bank” guarantees allows for effective “capital” utilizations.
The new organization would have the US make close alliances over the Americas, Western Europe and Pacific rim. Eastern Europe, the Black Sea and CAR regions are to regions where the world lets Russia take leadership in international affairs. India naturally then, needs to step up to support not only the Indian sub-continent but the entire Indian Ocean region. India must take political, economic and military leadership in this entire space, and US and Russian led alliances must support India in endeavours here by channelling money and material through Indian led consortiums. This is again essential to counter the Chinese predatory economics in the region with committed international funds coupled with a keen understanding of the region.
This structure spanning most of the globe can also work together in Africa to provide the necessary humanitarian support which the current UN has miserably failed in providing. That too is critical, for if not done, the rapacious Chinese machine would have despoiled the continent within this decade.
A note on challenges
Of course, the above prescription is easier said than done, not because its hard to do due to real politic reasons, but because it runs afoul of the entrenched Atlanticist lobby in conjugation with its partners in Western Europe. In fact, the current realpolitik with rapidly waning Europe under siege economically by the Chinese and demographically by immigrants desperately needs to change its ways, but old entrenched egos have currently placed them on path hurtling towards self-destruction. It is this cultural mind shift which is the biggest obstacle to a rapprochement with old enemy Russia and acceptance of the Hindu brown India at an equal footing. The extreme leftism raging through the US and Europe is not helping matters either, with their infatuation of fascist and draconian junta’s like Communist China, they are helping bring their countries down and would resist attempts for a global move to check the same.
India and Indians too, need to quickly get out of the defensive, landlocked mindset that we have devolved into and take charge. Indian must upskill not only technically, but most importantly in space of languages, geography, international relations, real history and leadership to be able to take point position in the region. A shirking defensive mindset would be the biggest enemy India has.
Nevertheless, the world is facing unprecedented challenges, and if a free open World is to survive, and not go down in flames either literally or metaphorically, it must embrace the change for its very survival.