Complexities In The Modern World – OpEd


Tired of sabre rattling for thirty years the European powers settled on the Peace of Westphalia which after a long period set for Europe some rules that would guarantee peace for many years.

“The Westphalia peace came to lay the foundation for a modern European state, it helped the emergence of international law, which was based on many international principles and laws that regulate international relations between states in order to control the deteriorating situation and prevent the use of power. It stressed the principle of international balance and made it a necessity, and thus this principle will create a balance between States and prevent the use of the policy of violence and power and domination in international relations.” (THE WESTPHALIA PEACE AND ITS IMPACT ON THE MODERN EUROPIAN STATE ZREIK, M. Faculty of Politics and International Studies, Central China Normal University, Hubei, China ).

But for the emergence of Adolf Hitler who had a penchant for the acquisition of land peopled by German-speaking population which was further emboldened by Lord Palmerstone’s misplaced assurance to the British people that peace had been secured Hitler continued his grabbing of countries regardless of the opposition of the local people. Hitler received his coup de grace through his invasion of Russia and his nemesis in the form of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin. American involvement initially through the supply of military hardware and then the open declaration of war caused by Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

After the defeat of both Germany and Japan at the Yalta Conference President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin agreed that after Germany’s unconditional surrender, it would be divided into four post-war occupation zones, controlled by U.S., British, French, and Soviet military forces. The city of Berlin would also be divided into similar occupation zones. Japan’s unconditional surrender was announced by Emperor Hirohito in August and the surrender document was signed in September 1945.

But Japan today is now with the American allies and is a bulwark against China and North Korea combined. Eleanor Albert writes ( June 25th, 2019) that China’s support for North Korea dates back to the Korean War (1950–1953) when its troops flooded the Korean Peninsula to aid its northern ally. Since the war, China has lent political and economic backing to North Korea’s leaders: Kim Il-sung (estimated 1948–1994), Kim Jong-il (roughly 1994–2011), and Kim Jong-un. But strains in the relationship surfaced when Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon in October 2006 and Beijing backed UN Security Council Resolution that imposed sanctions on Pyongyang.

After North Korea’s missile launch test in November 2017, China called on North Korea to cease actions that increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Still, China’s punitive steps have been somewhat restrained. While China has backed UN resolutions, in some cases it has withheld support until they were watered down.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Sino-Russian entente has changed the scenario in global politics. There is an element of ideology through which China-Russia wants to prove that the dictatorial system can provide essential commodities to the needy faster than the democratic system can.

In any case, democracy is practiced in the Western countries that are rich while poverty-ridden countries of South Asia and Africa are dependent on fulfilling the conditions laid down by IMF-IBRD-ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK which these countries are unable to fulfill. It would be unfair to say that international banks are unwilling to help out the needy. On the contrary, they would like poor countries to follow a guideline for growth and prosperity. China however has the advantage of geographical proximity to poor countries in South Asia, cultural affinity with Singapore, and the reluctance of ASEAN to be aligned with either the US and Sino-Russian alignment.

One can travel a few decades back when Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah. India’s Pandit Nehru, Indonesia’s Sukarno, and UAE’s Gamal Abdul Nasser refused to join the Western bloc and founded the Non-Alignment Movement to be free to choose their country’s destiny. Those days have changed with China’s rise as the second richest country in the world. China’s rise is now akin to Xi-Jinping’s ambition not only regarding Taiwan which he regards as an integral part of mainland China but also to implement his Belt and Road Initiative.

Dr. Yu Jie and John Wallace of Chatham House explain that the BRI is an ambitious plan to develop two new trade routes connecting China with the rest of the world. But the initiative is about far more than infrastructure. It is an effort to develop an expanded, interdependent market for China, grow China’s economic and political power, and create the right conditions for China to build a high-technology economy.

There are three main motivations for the BRI. The first, and most discussed internationally, is China’s rivalry with the US. The vast majority of Chinese international trade passes by sea through the Malacca strait off the coast of Singapore which is a major US ally. The initiative is integral to China’s efforts to create its own more secure trade routes. Besides China wants to make participating nations interdependent with the Chinese economy, and thereby build economic and political influence for China.

In that respect it has similarities with the Marshall Plan that followed the Second World War  but with the essential difference that China dispenses funding to other nations based purely on shared economic interests. But there are considerable differences between the US and China. Real GDP growth rate: 6.9 in the US and 2.2 for China. Military and security expenditure: 2 % of GDP for the US and 3.29% for China. It would be fallacious to bracket the US and China as close competitors. Surely China is going up but to match the US (now along with her allies) will be wrong.

Finally, it is difficult to predict how the US and its allies will react to the Sino-Russian alignment. Whether the West will play the Goldilocks game: having or producing a balance between two extremes; or take seriously the Sino-Russian alignment-both ideologically, militarily, and strategically. UN Secretary-General is optimistic about a diplomatic solution. So it is believed by the rest of the world. In most recent Russian statements ( given the constitutional complexities that exist for Putin which do not apply in the case of the US) it is doubtful that a political solution would not be found.

Ambassador Kazi Anwarul Masud

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a former Secretary and ambassador of Bangladesh

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