Biden’s Call For Democracy Versus Sino-Russian Entente – OpEd


With the Sino-Russian declaration of “no limits” to their cooperation one wonders if Joe Biden’s call for democracy as the pillar of a free world is going to be attractive to the developing world.

Decades back many developing countries were freed from mainly British rule and some from the colonial rule of Portugal and Spain in South America where the Monroe Doctrine played an important role. The advent of the Second World War marked the hegemonistic rise of the US and The Western powers which literally divided the world into rich nations-US and Europe- and emerging economies.

Some of these countries refused to be drawn into the game of rich and big powers and floated the idea of non-alignment which today has 120 nations as members. They represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’ members and contain 55% of the world population. Membership is particularly concentrated in countries considered developing countries and some developed countries as well. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the support given by the developed countries has changed the contours of the non-aligned bloc. Many non-aligned countries have refused to criticize Russia in the UN-sponsored resolution and have called for a peaceful solution to the conflict. 

The Economist magazine had a detailed discussion with Henry Kissinger who said, interalia, “We are on the path to great power confrontation. And what makes it more worrisome to me is that both sides have convinced themselves that the other represents a strategic danger. And it is a strategic danger in a world in which the decisions of each can determine the likelihood of conflict. And in such a situation it is natural to attempt to be preeminent, technologically and materially. So a situation can arise in which an issue escalates into a confrontation about the overall relationship. That is the biggest problem, at the moment. And, when you have an issue like Taiwan, in which concessions become very difficult because it involves fundamental principles, that becomes even more dangerous.”

Kissinger added “ The nature of sovereignty begins with the definition of the interests of states. And it is also inherent that sovereign interests will not always coincide, and that nations will need to explain their interests to each other. So if either of those elements comes into being where those interests are close enough to permit negotiation of differences, it becomes a mediating influence. Where sovereign nations use force to prevent outcomes, military conflict may occur. The general challenge of diplomacy is to bring those interests into connection with each other and not to settle issues by war.”

Kissinger believes that a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine conflict is possible and is the demand of the world. The problem lies mainly with the Americans who despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s repeated requests that Ukraine should not join either the Western-sponsored group or the Russian camp so that Russian security is not threatened. The US and the West are insistent that no country should be allowed to interfere in the sovereignty of another country by force. TREATY OF WESTPHALIA After saber rattling for thirty years the major European powers desiring rest produced the Treaty of Westphalia (1648).

“It also ended the Eighty Years’ War (1568 – 1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally acknowledging the independence of the Dutch Republic. It was negotiated from the Westphalian towns of Münster and Osnabrück. In the international politics, this treaty was the first, modern diplomatic congress to use international law to influence relations between independent states and for the creation of the concept of reign, non-intervention in interior affairs of another nation, territorial unity, and legal equality between the independent nations. It heralded a foundation for the modern European state system known as the balance of power, which was one of the contributing causes for numerous future wars including both World Wars. It was also the first pan-European effort to achieve a fair resolution for numerous conflicts and a lasting peace, rather than merely penalizing the defeated side.” ( Historyplex).

Europe had been more or less a settled area till the Emergence of Adolf Hitler and his unbridled ambition to unify German-speaking people in a single unit. The major European powers at the time including British Prime Minister Lord Palmerstone who misread Adolf Hitler’s hunger for power led to the catastrophe of the Second World War. 

 Palmerston believed that something like the British system of responsible government would be good for all European states and that it would become the norm (as by the first decade of the 20th century it had). was better than tacit acquiescence in wrong and that opinions were mightier than armies. Palmerston believed that no country had no permanent allies, only permanent interests. This is true even today as the policy of non-alignment heralded by Tito of Yugoslavia, Churchill of Britain, Nkrumah of Ghana, Sukarno of Indonesia Gamal Abdul Naser of the United Arab Republic, and Pandit Nehru of India proved its efficacy in international relations. 

Hitler’s gravest mistake was his invasion of the Soviet Union which was many times bigger than Germany and Hitler’s army was bogged down in severe winter disrupting supply lines for his beleaguered troops. Added was the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan which forced the US to openly declare war and join the allies. Without adding to the hundreds of books and articles written on German-Japan’s defeat and the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffice it would be to say that the Yalta Conference decided that Germany would be divided into occupied zones administered by U.S., British, French, and Soviet forces. The conferees accepted the principle that the Allies had no duty toward the Germans except to provide minimum subsistence, declared that the German military industry would be abolished or confiscated, and agreed that major war criminals would be tried before an international court, which subsequently presided at Nuremberg. Nuremberg Trial refused to accept the plea that the accused were performing their duties assigned to them.

Those who were sentenced to death were Goering, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm von Keitel, Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, and Martin Bormann, in absentia. Rudolf Hess, Walther Funk, and Eric Raeder were sentenced to life in prison. Hitler escaped punishment by committing suicide. As mentioned earlier the principles of non-alignment which survive today have given the opportunity to several countries to abstain from voting on the US resolution on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The countries which abstained took the stand that a political solution should be sought instead of accusing Russia of invasion.

One has to remember that Vladimir Putin has been urging the Western countries to ensure that Ukraine should not join either NATO or any other Western alliance nor should Ukraine be a part of the Russian alliance. Unfortunately, the Western powers paid no heed to Russian proposals. Instead, the West encouraged President Zelinsky of Ukraine to continue his crusade against Russia. Despite US, NATO, European Union, and others’ encouragement to Zelinsky that it is not possible for Ukraine to defeat Russia or to recover the lost territory. The US public may not mind the dispatch of money and materials to Ukraine but they under no circumstances would support American troops to fight the Russians on Ukranian territory. It is understood that the US has already assured Russia that American troops would not be sent to Ukraine. Despite all these Russia has not abandoned the nuclear option. It is possible that the “nuclear option” is a ruse used by Russia to encourage Ukraine by the Western powers to find a political solution.

 The Ukrainian problem has been further complicated by total support extended by China to Russia as a front, to display to the poor and needy countries in South Asia and Africa, that the Western description of “ illiberal autocracy” of the Sino-Russian entente is far more efficient to feed the poor and the needy than the Western countries. The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is a case in point. The Initiative is to demonstrate to the poor and the needy of Chinese readiness to help these countries to build infrastructure which they cannot afford to do. 

Critics have warned the poor countries citing the Sri Lankan example of a “debt trap” by China publicly warned by Vice President Mike Pence of the Donald Trump administration. It remains to be seen how far love for democracy will win over the need of the poor. If one looks at the voting pattern of the UNGA resolution on the Russian invasion of Ukraine one gets a clear picture of many countries including India who abstained in the UNGA vote. Such abstention indicated that many countries were not ready to charge Russia with the invasion but would rather want a political solution to the issue. The world is s not yet prepared to bring the curtain down on mankind and would prefer, however much wounded, to continue its existence.


In order to examine the consequences of Chinese economic growth one has to examine the fallout of “ decoupling” and “delinking” of the global economy from that of China. A recent write-up in The Economist (China hits back against Western sanctions-July 23 2023) says to counter America’s effort to contain China’s technological ambitions, Xi Jinping, China’s paramount leader, has called on regulators to fight back against Western coercion in what he has called an “international legal struggle”.

The result is a flurry of lawmaking that is creating a framework for a more robust Chinese reaction to America’s commercial warfare.  An “unreliable entities” list, created in 2020, punishes any company undermining China’s interests. An export-control law from the same year created a legal basis for an export-licensing regime. In 2021 year, an anti-sanction law enabled retaliation against organizations and individuals who carried out the sanctions of other countries. A sweeping foreign-relations law enacted this year, and prompted by Western sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, permits countermeasures against a wide range of economic and national security threats facing the country. It came into effect on July 1st. In addition, an anti-espionage statute came into force, extending the reach of Chinese security agencies.

All the while, China has tightened various data and cyber-security rules. The new rules are already being used, as opposed to merely brandished. The Economist adds that China produces 98% of the world’s raw gallium, a key ingredient in advanced military technology. This includes America’s next-generation missile defense and radar systems. A shock to the supply of gallium could cause long-term problems for the American defense industry, reckons CSIS, a think-tank in Washington. Moreover, a gallium-based compound, gallium nitride, may underpin a new generation of high-performance semiconductors. Keeping it out of foreign hands would stymie Western efforts to develop the technology while furthering Xi’s policy goal for China to control. It would, however, be foolhardy to assume XI-Jinping would have a free hand to establish global rules in conjunction with Russia which is already been described as a “vassal” of China.

President Joe Biden has already declared war on the “illiberal autocracy” of the Sino-Russian entente of “no limits”. Closer home in South Asia along with Africa and other developing countries one could cite the joint statement given by the heads of the FAO, IMF, World Bank Group, WFP, and WTO on February 8, 2023, called to prevent a worsening of the food and nutrition security crisis the world needs to  (i) rescue hunger hotspots, (ii) facilitate trade, improve the functioning of markets, and enhance the role of the private sector, and (iii) reform and repurpose harmful subsidies with careful targeting and efficiency. Countries should balance short-term urgent interventions with longer-term resilience efforts as they respond to the crisis. Last Updated: Jul 17, 2023. Though inflation is now a global phenomenon there is no reason to believe that the Sino-Russian entente, in particular the Russian ban on the export of food grains from Ukraine, has not played a devastating role in augmenting the global food crisis, and China by association remains guilty. In the near future, China appears to have the upper hand as big American companies are dependent on China.

A report by Nikkei Asia (12 July 2023)  informs that Overall bilateral trade between the U.S. and China — the world’s two largest economies — reached a record $690 billion last year, with U.S. exports to China increasing by 28% between 2018 and 2022. U.S. imports from China in 2022 totaled $536.3 billion. “China has grown to be an indispensable part of the global economy,” and China is now also “a single market not much less than the domestic U.S. market for these high-tech companies. While the U.S. government tried to block Chinese access to high technology, the high-tech firms in the U.S. can’t live without the Chinese market.” 

Apple and other tech giants like Google are looking to move parts of their supply chains away from China and into other Asian countries. Apple has said India will be a “major focus” for the company, which is hoping to tap the country both as an alternative production base to China and a source of growth. An investor of Apple has blamed both the U.S. and China, saying economic tensions have been “wrongly created on both sides. Using Apple as an example, he stressed that U.S. engagement with China has produced results that have been “good for Apple and good for China.”

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told Nikkei at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year that he is a “firm believer” that the “world is better served by nations having lots of trade, and by building to participate in a much larger global economy than by any kind of falling prey to geopolitics.” Arvind Krishna, chairman, and chief executive of IBM, says the “world is better served by nations having lots of trade, and by building to participate in a much larger global economy than by any kind of falling prey to geopolitics.” 

Similarly, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, told Nikkei last year that he hopes “the largest powers in the world will always find some common ground to work together on issues that the world needs us to work together, while not sacrificing what’s in their national interest.” However, analysts do not see the U.S.-China technology confrontation ending anytime soon. It is predicted that the U.S. would only quit once China’s technological competitiveness decreases. In short China and the global economies are so intertwined that it is not possible in the short run to de-globalize the world economies.

As may be seen above US big economic players are more interested in dealing with China than to exorcise China as “enemy number one”. President Joe Biden and the Western world would be better advised to moderate their public utterings as should Xi-Jinping in undertaking any risky adventure. 

Ambassador Kazi Anwarul Masud

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a former Secretary and ambassador of Bangladesh

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