The shuffling of the cards; the emergence of a new world order

Jul 6, 2023
The world globe with chess pieces depicting geopolitics. Image: iStock

Over the next two months, two crucial meetings, indicating the massive changes the geo-political order is undergoing, are taking place.

The first of these saw India host a summit of the Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in a virtual format on July 4.

A month later the 15th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit of heads of state will be held in Johannesburg.

Little will be made of these meetings in the jingoistic western media, despite their immense significance.

For over two centuries Western powers have dominated the world, economically, militarily and politically. That rule, currently often called ‘the rules based international order,’ is largely viewed as natural in the West, though in the long view of history, where the East, particularly China and India, has been dominant it is an aberration.

Those nations lie at the core of both the SCO and BRICS.

These organisations represent a direct challenge, daresay threat, to the Western hegemonic powers, of Europe and the U.S., grouped in the G7. The SCO and BRICS, in terms of Purchasing Power Parity, are now larger than the G7, (whose share of global GDP has fallen from nearly 70 percent in 1989 to 44 percent in 2022), with that difference only increasing.

Projections, using Purchasing Power Parity, among them, Standard and Chartered, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Lowy Institute show that within the next decades China’s economy will far outstrip that of the U.S. whose economy, so dominant in the past century, will fall to number 3 by 2030, behind a resurgent China and India. Indonesia, being projected to be at number 4, makes clear how economic power has swung from the West to the East.

Halford Mackinder in his book, ‘Democratic Ideals and Reality,’ published in 1919 wrote, ‘who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; and who commands the World Island commands the world.’ By the World Island he meant the land mass extending from Europe to Asia and Africa. This is the locus of the SCO.

Along with China and India the organisation includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and Russia. It has successfully drawn nations together, understood in the West largely by their enmity, India and Pakistan, India, and China, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The SCO now accounts for about 80% of Eurasia’s territory and over 30% of global GDP.

Other Eurasian nations have observer status, Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia, and Belarus, while an extensive list of nations have dialogue status, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Egypt, Nepal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and Turkey. Tellingly, included are Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, and Turkey, a NATO member.

Iran has signed a memorandum of obligations paving the way for its accession to full SCO membership, with Belarus also submitting a membership application.

The SCO clearly represents a threat to the world’s leading hegemon, U.S. policymakers believing, ‘a regional hegemon in Eurasia would represent a concentration of power large enough to be able to threaten vital U.S. interests.’

The rapidly changing world order is also seen in the emergence of the BRICS initiative. The existing nations could be joined by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Argentina, and Egypt, whose membership bids are pending at the upcoming summit in South Africa.

Representing 42% of the global population, and nearly one third of the world’s GDP, the BRICS nations are developing a basket-based reserve currency, national digital currencies, and blockchain technology to support intensified cross-border economic interactions.

Most of this change has been Chinese led, leadership is also seen in other initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative, now with 150 nations involved, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which like the BRI was established in 2013, and the Silk Road Fund.

In recent months Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced another three global initiatives; The Global Security Initiative, the Global Development Initiative and most recently the Global Civilisation Initiative.

The U.S. led unipolar world, present for the past 30 years, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, is being challenged by the emergence of new organisations and networks. The unipolar world as ‘the end of history’ with eternal Western triumph, declared so confidently by Francis Fukuyama at the end of the Cold War, has proved to be short-lived.

This big story, however, will find little place in ‘the white man’s’ media.

As a U.S. songwriter wrote. ‘the times they are a-changing.’

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