In the midst of the clash between powerful forces, a fresh worldwide structure grapples to form | Written by Simon Tisdall
The race to dominate the fast-changing global landscape of the 21st century is becoming more intense. US President Joe Biden aimed to form a strong alliance with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The European Union revealed a plan to protect its economic security against threats from China and Russia. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping asserted that China is the leading power to the top US diplomat in Beijing.
In the city of Paris, leaders from both the developed and developing world came together to strategize a fresh start. Their goal was to fulfill the financial commitments made at Cop27 last year, in order to support at-risk nations in addressing the challenges of climate change, poverty, inequality, and debt. Less affluent countries are pushing for significant changes to the global institutional system, which they believe has been unsuccessful.
The past week was full of activity. But what is the rush for? Recent emergencies have led governments to believe that the current state of affairs cannot be sustained. The effects of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the rapidly worsening climate crisis, and the financial strain of high costs of living, such as energy, food shortages, and inflation, are causing a pressing need to reconsider how the world will function – and who will be in charge – in the years to come.
A unique opportunity for significant change has presented itself, reminiscent of the post-World War II era in 1945 or the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Confidence in the Western neoliberal ideology and unregulated, free-market capitalism championed by leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher is weakening. Government subsidies and intervention are becoming popular again. Globalization is slowing down. Those who have been ignored are demanding to be heard.
The importance placed on the United Nations and adhering to international standards is noticeably declining. The Security Council, unable to come to a decision, is becoming less significant. The International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization, which represent global regulations, are not considered effective by developing nations. Efforts by the UN to promote peace and resolve conflicts seem to be failing.
The far-reaching consequences for global politics and security due to these changing ideologies and structures are significant and unsettling. The strategy adopted by the United States, under the influence of President Biden and his national security advisor Jake Sullivan, is to maintain a seemingly positive role as a global leader while prioritizing the domestic economic well-being of the American middle class.
This implies that there will be no more trade deals that lead to American jobs and investments being sent to countries with lower wages and taxes. There will also be penalties for countries that go against American goals. The rise of Donald Trump in 2016, along with the rise of right-wing populism in Europe, was driven by the belief that working people’s incomes, safety, and opportunities were decreasing. Biden aims to change this trend.
Last week’s meeting between the White House and India’s prime minister is relevant in this situation. Biden presented Modi with offers regarding defense and technology, along with a large amount of compliments. This is not due to a sudden genuine fondness for India’s Hindu nationalist leader by the US, who is known for violating human rights and suppressing media freedom.
It’s because Biden wants Modi’s help in containing China economically and militarily – and sustaining American pre-eminence. Apparently, it’s the cost of doing business in the race to rule the world.
Xi, a repeat offender of violating rights, has his own idea for how the world should be organized in the 21st century. Like others, his vision puts him at the forefront. China benefitted greatly from globalization, but now its economy is struggling and its aggressive actions towards Taiwan and debt negotiations are having negative consequences. However, despite this, Xi, who is now essentially the president for life, is intensifying his efforts.
Xi’s global system is founded on not interfering with other countries’ internal matters, which means that a nation’s lack of democracy or internal oppression is solely their concern and not anyone else’s. Essentially, it serves as a guide for tyrants and is strongly opposed by the western world. It is understandable why Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, may have felt uneasy during his recent trip to Beijing. Despite securing a meeting with Xi, the Chinese leader chose to have a conversation from a distance rather than sit next to him. The visit resulted in no significant progress and further emphasized the stark ideological differences between the two nations. President Biden then made a critical mistake by referring to Xi as a “dictator” in a sudden moment of frankness.
The EU’s first economic security strategy, which includes stricter regulations on technology and military exports, outsourcing, and foreign investment, can be attributed to Beijing’s attempts to spread its authoritarian ideals globally. This is part of a larger initiative to increase self-sufficiency and adaptability in a world that is becoming increasingly chaotic, while also decreasing Europe’s reliance on outside sources, as seen with Russia’s energy embargo. China is the main focus of this strategy.
Could the 21st century, similar to the latter half of the 20th, inevitably be divided into two opposing powers? A diverse world could provide more security, equality, and potential benefits for all. However, this requires a concept that is not commonly understood by American and Chinese leaders, except in the context of Northern Ireland – the idea of sharing power.
However, there is a changing trend. Countries that fall in the middle, like Brazil, Nigeria, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, are now pushing for a greater role in global matters and have the influence to back it up. Even smaller, less powerful nations are asserting their opinions on critical issues like climate change, poverty, war, and immigration. They warn that time is limited – and they are correct.
These nations have discovered a remarkable leader in Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados. Mottley advocates for a revolutionary method to address climate issues and worldwide progress, which includes a significant redistribution of resources to less wealthy countries. This marks a significant departure from traditional practices, which are currently ineffective.
What type of new worldwide system will eventually develop? It is evident that the traditional power struggles are no longer viable when the environment is in crisis, ice is melting, and established regulations are disregarded. In order to thrive in the 21st century, the world must move away from nationalistic and competitive alliances and instead adopt a fair and truly multipolar arrangement.
In essence, politicians must possess bravery in order to enact change. While it may seem unlikely, the adage holds true that anything is achievable with determination and effort.