Unipolar vs Multipolar. G7 vs BRI. US vs China. EU vs Russia. China & Taiwan. Russia & Ukraine. What Is Going On?

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Global geopolitics 2022 has become all about conflict. But there are multipolar paths ahead if one understands Chinese strategic thinking.  

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis  

An oft-overlooked aspect of China’s Belt and Road Initiative is that from a political ideology perspective, it has its genesis back in 1949, being the same concept of safety from Western antagonism that had been very real for the Soviet Union.

That changed from 1963 when then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai called for Chinese economic development to replace the classic and somewhat austere tones of Marxism.

Zhou said at the time that China needed to become a leading manufacturing and service nation and industrialize agriculture. He reported that China had tripled its population, and that the ‘Great Leap Forward’ was deemed an inefficient move which the CPC could not continue with.

This transformation was further formalized under Deng Xiaoping yet made China dependent on exports to provide the currency earnings and jobs for the vast peasantry of China at that time.

This created a completely different China, where it had been for three decades operated almost as a nation under siege, cut off from the world,  to becoming a trading nation open to the world. I recall being in Beijing at that turning point – in what passed for discotheques (dance halls) Chinese boys would sit shyly at one end of the hall and the girls at the other listening to ballads. Within two years they’d be making out to Donna Summer.

However, the global concept behind China’s transition was far deeper than trade and investment. It was Chinas view that it needed to embed itself at the core of global development. The overall policy under Deng became known as Reform and Opening Up. The global dimension of ROU was actually developed as a Scientific Method project of the Party from 1963. This involved OBOR, now the BRI, as the operating platform for the new global role of China and was duly ushered in by Xi Jinping in 2013. This gives an indication as to how far ahead Chinese planning extends.

Understanding the Belt and Road Initiative and why the G7 have been so competitive about it means looking at the concept through its political analysis and Beijing’s plans for China within the world community. It should be noted that China is not a member of the G7 – meaning we are but a few percentage points down the road of having China really part of that global group.

Opening the G7 up is a huge undertaking as current players are loathe to give up their slice of the pie, however a precis can be developed, although this may lead to misjudgments – deliberate or otherwise.

In terms of the BRI, it is probably only the Soviet Union that tried anything comparable. That eventually led to the dismantling of the Soviet Union, to be replaced as the new, smaller Russian state. That has a much smaller population and did not transform its economy anywhere near as much as China, but it did not have the need and nor did it have an excessive population problem. That led to Russia deciding to use its material assets and become an energy global major. It removed the many non-performing State-Owned and under-performing assets of the previous Soviet Union and sent many of them hurtling into the EU – where they have created some political chaos, and within the Baltic and Eastern European states especially.

The Soviet Union, in its time, and now China today have changed this world, and it is probably forever. This is why Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and many other Chinese and Russian leaders are constantly suggesting the world is moving to a multipolar platform and that the process cannot be reversed.

The USA is currently, under Biden, trying to reverse these successes and bring back Western domination – USA hegemony – to the globe. BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa has now a key obstacle to this as it replaces the Western dominance of the oceans with China and Russia controlling the single largest land mass of the globe, from the Atlantic to the Pacific through Africa.

But there is a difference – the BRICS nations wish to accomplish this in association with others – and not by dominating them.

But who are these others? European nations for Europe. Asian nations for Asia. Both continents will exist with sub regions to maximize trade and control of global threats such as terrorism and drug smuggling.

Today, the world is at the point of a US push back which may last 10-20 years. However, this will ultimately fail as it is inadequately intellectually prepared, and inadequately tactically or strategically thought through, although some elements, such as getting Ukraine to fight Russia are very clever in terms of distracting Moscow. But ultimately, this does not get Washington very far.

The US hope is that the Ukraine issue will lead to a weakened Russian military – however the downside is it is draining the West of significant resources, most notably energy as well as food.

Water supplies could also be later impacted – Russia has 20% of all global freshwater reserves, while the neighboring European Union faces severe shortages and has massive degradation problems. 60% of EU cities are currently over-exploiting their water reserves while 20% of EU groundwater is polluted.

While the US – and G7 push back will delay some aspects of global reorganization and the march to a multipolar world, the BRI may reduce its scope (which always results in Western media glee), however even over the next two decades, China and Russia will be ready to return. A later, expensive infrastructure rebuild for certain BRI projects may be needed, but all that will have occurred is the delay to multipolarism by 10-20 years or so.

The BRI then is a global rebuild much deeper than anyone realizes. At its core is the drive to a multipolar world. The truth of this is already evident – of 193 countries in the world, 146 have signed BRI agreements.

This largely means that many Western think tanks and intelligence organizations have missed the end game: The BRI is a geopolitical rebirthing of the world into a global form. Nations globally will play certain key roles, but the world is being transformed into a deep plan of production of resources, manufacturing, and service industries.

Key though is that this is not a world controlled by China and Russia. But because of their detailed studies they have thought through the development trends of the world and are managing this, instead of it being an organic process. In time the systems will merge, rather than be imposed upon one another. It will emerge into a global sharing format, more aligned to the original principles of the United Nations, or as someone commented on one of my recent articles concerning geopolitics, a ‘G77’ rather than a G7.

The danger is in those countries who seek to lead, impose and then to dominate. This whole process needs patience and preservation of national strengths to control the development of a multipolar, rather than unipolar world. The question is how changes in the United States philosophy will be managed. The last time a global change on this magnitude occurred was the demise of the British Empire to be replaced by the American. That didn’t happen without some ugly scenes and atrocities being committed. Yet unlike the end of Empire, today’s weaponry has the potential for nuclear conflict.

Changes though will also impact the US economy working out what happens to the capitalist part of the world economy and how it shares its wealth in future. Comments from US President Joe Biden recently that the CEO of Exxon ‘Made more money than God’ in the last quarter will become increasingly inappropriate – and globally despised – in terms of the capitalist element this represents.

Back to China – the simplistic, Marxist concept of socialism overthrowing capitalism has now long gone. China has synthesized the process and is continuing to test and change it. Socialism and Capitalism under the banner of sharing, among a multipolar global community are emerging in a new form. The Belt and Road Initiative is where this is most clearly being seen.

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About Us

Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists British and Foreign Investment into Asia and has 28 offices throughout China, India, the ASEAN nations and Russia. For strategic and business intelligence concerning China’s Belt & Road Initiative please email silkroad@dezshira.com or visit us at www.dezshira.com