By Peter Baofu, Ph.D.
The recent formation of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is only part of a larger concerted effort by China to realize its "China's dream," that is, to reshape the existing but declining Western-dominated world order initiated by victorious Western powers after the end of WWII.
This raises a more challenging question: What does it take to replace the existing but declining Western-dominated world order? Let me answer this question on the basis of what I call the "six pillars" of the world order in what follows.
(1) THE FIRST PILLAR OF THE WORLD ORDER - POLITICAL
The first pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order is "political," and a good example is the United Nations (UN), which was created by the victorious Western powers and their allies at the end of WWII in 1945.
The very fact that the five countries with the "veto power" in the Security Council of the UN have been China (or the PRC since 1971, but the ROC until 1971), France, Russia (or the U.S.S.R. until 1991), the U.K., and the U.S, precisely reveals this power asymmetry at the end of WWII in 1945, as these were the five major powers which worked together to defeat Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.
But the victorious Western powers (like the U.S. the U.K, and France), together with their ally (the ROC, which occupied the Chinese seat in the UN until 1971) learned soon enough that the promise of the UN was quickly broken, as the U.S.S.R., their war-time ally during WWII, became a formidable adversary in the subsequent Cold War between East and West.
Then, the West suffered from another major setback, which was that the U.K. and France were no longer first-ranked major powers in the same league like the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Nowadays, these two declining Western powers are part of the European Union, and their economies are even much smaller than those of Japan and Germany (the two "defeated" powers at the end of WWII, with no "veto power" in the UN). It is also for this reason that France and the U.K. have often furiously resisted any idea of having their "veto power" taken away because of their decline -- as the "British Empire" and the "French Empire" had long collapsed.
More seriously, the UN, as an international organization, has often been exploited by the major powers for their national interests at the expense of the rest of the world. For instance, the U.S., partly because of the Jewish Lobby and partly because of the historical conflicts between the U.S. and some Islamic countries in the Middle East, has time and again vetoed all resolutions condemning Israel for its violence against the Palestinians and others in all these decades, so that Israel has continued its aggression in the region with impunity (including "crimes against humanity" in Gaza in recent times). The chronic talk about changing the power structure of the UN to make it more effective has dragged on for decades without any progress on the ground.
So, the recent formation of BRICS (which stands for "Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa") is one way to create an alternative "political" pillar of the world order. But BRICS has its own weaknesses. Firstly, it is composed of members which are also rivals in their different ways (e.g., China and India in South Asia and Southeast Asia, Russia and China in Central Asia, etc.), in spite of their cooperative endeavors on other occasions. Secondly, it is not "global," with only 5 members (although countries like Argentina, Bangladesh, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Syria, and Turkey have shown interest in joining). And thirdly, it is dominated by China, since its economy is much larger than the economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa combined together.
Therefore, the historical legacy of BRICS may well be the first step for China and others to reshape the "political" pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order. So this is just the beginning, as there will be more steps to come.
(b) THE SECOND PILLAR OF THE WORLD ORDER - ECONOMIC
The second pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order is "economic," and a good example is the multi-national economic institutions like the US-led World Bank and the EU-led International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The very fact that the U.S. and the EU have led these two multi-national economic institutions has to do with their economic dominance in the early decades after WWII, and it is also not surprising that the head of the World Bank has always been an "American" (chosen by the U.S.) and the head of the IMF has always been an "European" (chosen by the EU), as I already explained in detail this hegemonic practice in my earlier article titled "Western Racism in the IMF and the World Bank" (published on 09/08/2011). But China, Russia, India, and others have already exerted pressure on the two organizations to get rid of this Western-dominated discrimination.
More seriously, these Western-dominated multi-national organizations have often been exploited for Western interests at the expense of the rest of the world. For instance, in the current global financial crisis, the World Bank and the IMF have paid too much attention to the U.S. and the EU and have generously given too much money to aid the Western troubled economies. As an illustration, in the case of Greece alone (which is European), more than 270 billion dollars have already been given to the small country, while the developing world has not received much attention (or sympathy) from the IMF and the World Bank. Has the IMF or the WB ever given more than 270 billion dollars to a poor and undeveloped country in Africa, Asia, or Latin America? No, never. One may be tempted to argue that this is just an isolated incident. No, not at all. Does anyone still remember that, back in the 1990s, when some East Asian economies suffered from their own version of financial crisis, both the IMF and the World Bank merely made different excuses and offered very little resources to help the troubled Asian economies then?
Worse, even when the IMF and the World Bank offer financial assistance to the developing world, they often impose numerous conditions which tend to worsen the local economies in the longer term. For this very reason, there is a lot of resentment towards (and discontent with) these multi-national economic institutions among many developing economies. The recent national referendum in Greece to reject the bailout plan imposed by the EU and the IMF precisely shows this resentment and discontent all the more, and the Economics Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman even openly supported the "NO" vote by the Greeks.
Thus, the recent China-led formation of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is one way to create an alternative "economic" pillar of the world order to counter-balance this Western economic dominance. In fact, many folks do not know that another main reason for China to initiate the formation of the NDB and the AIIB is the refusal by the EU-led IMF and the U.S.-led World Bank to increase the voting power of China (in accordance to its greater economic might and contribution in our time), so as to perpetuate the continued economic dominance of the U.S. and the EU in the two organizations. Rightly felt unfairly treated (and excluded), China decided to go its own way to form the NDB and the AIIB.
Even more importantly, China has more ambitious visions in mind, as it has already proposed the "Silk Road Economic Belt" and the "Maritime Silk Road" (both of which aim to connect the entire Asian continent with Europe and Africa), the "Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP" (which includes ASEAN, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand," so as to counter the U.S.-led "Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP"), as well as the internationalization of the Chinese "yuan."
Therefore, the historical legacy of the NDB, the AIIB, the "Silk Road Economic Belt," the "Maritime Silk Road," the RCEP, and the internationalization of the Chinese currency may well be the first few steps for China and others to reshape the "economic" pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order. So this is just the beginning, as there will be more steps to come.
(c) THE THIRD PILLAR OF THE WORLD ORDER - MILITARY
The third pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order is "military," and two good examples are NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe (together with the current crisis in Ukraine) and the U.S.'s military "pivot to Asia" (together with the current territorial disputes in the region).
In the case of NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe, one of the root causes of the current crisis in Ukraine is the Western violation of "a 1997 agreement between NATO and Russia" based on "a 1990 deal-the Bonn 2 Plus 4 talks" (as "the cornerstone of the negotiations that ended the Cold War"), in which "Russia agreed to allow a unified Germany to join NATO on the condition that no NATO troops would be stationed east of the Oder-Neisse River," as confirmed by David Hoffman on June 19, 2015 in his letter to the editor of The Washington Post. But, since then, NATO has expanded all the way to the door steps of Russia -- like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and the like. The next targets by NATO are Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. But the attempt by NATO to recruit Ukraine finally gets on the nerves of Russia, and the "red line" has been crossed, because, unlike other areas, Ukraine has a special place in the history of Russia, since its capital Kiev was part of "the Tsardom of Russia" from 1667 onwards. Surely, another root cause of the current crisis in Ukraine is the intervention by the EU and the U.S. to transform Ukraine into their sphere of influence.
In the case of the U.S.'s military "pivot to Asia," one of the root causes of the current crisis in East China Sea and South China Sea in regard to China's territorial disputes with its neighbors has to do with the existential need for China to break free from the U.S. "Island Chain Strategy" first pointed out by John Foster Dulles in 1951 during the Korean War, which is the military containment imposed by the U.S. in the "First Island Chain" after WWII (so as to encircle the U.S.S.R. and Communist China by sea in the Far East during the anti-Communist Cold War). This is the vast region encircling the entire coastal areas of China, and precisely here, the U.S. has formed military alliances with local countries (like South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, and the like). As the world's largest trading country, China heavily depends on these coastal areas for shipping goods to, as well as receiving goods from, the rest of the world and therefore considers the massive military presence by the U.S. in the region as a strategic "choking point" in times of conflict. China has long wanted to drive the U.S. military out of the "First Island Chain," at the very least, and China's current land reclamation in South China Sea to build "unsinkable aircraft carriers" is precisely to counter the American military containment in the region since the Cold War. Surely, there can be other interests that China has in mind, such as the search for potential natural resources in East China Sea and South China Sea, but China's strategic military fixation with the "choking point" held by the U.S. in the "First Island Chain" is too important to overlook.
Consequently, both Russia and China share some common interests to counter Western military dominance in their respective backyards, and the formation of the security group known as the "Shanghai Cooperation Organization" (SCO) connecting Central Asia and South Asia with the rest of Eurasia is precisely one way to create an alternative "military" pillar of the world order to counter-balance this Western military dominance. Although it currently has 6 members (i.e., China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan), both India and Pakistan will become full members in 2016. The SCO is initially concerned with "security-related" issues, like the threats of "terrorism, separatism and extremism" in the region, and in the past years, its members have regularly carried out military exercises for military cooperation, intelligence gathering, and counterterrorism. In addition, Russia and China have also engaged in joint naval exercises in the Far East and in the Mediterranean Sea in recent years.
At the same time, China has embarked on a double-digit military spending over the last few decades to transform its once poorly equipped armed forces into a feared fighting force now (with the multi-faceted developments of fifth-generation fighter jets, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, space weapons, aircraft-carrier killers, stealthy drones, the informationalization of the military, strategic bombers, and cyber warfare capabilities, just to cite a few examples).
Therefore, the historical legacy of the "Shanghai Cooperation Organization," the massive Chinese military buildup, the Sino-Russian naval exercises, and the Chinese strategic determination to break free from the military containment imposed by the U.S. in the "First Island Chain" (and beyond, for that matter) may well be the first few steps for China and others to reshape the "military" pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order. So this is just the beginning, as there will be more steps to come.
(d) THE FOURTH PILLAR OF THE WORLD ORDER - LEGAL
The fourth pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order is "legal," and a good example is "the International Criminal Court" (ICC).
The very fact that the ICC has time and again focused on leaders in relatively poor and underdeveloped (mostly African and Asian) countries for different alleged "crimes" -- while the leaders of Western powers have time and again engaged, with impunity, in major war campaigns which had killed so many times more innocent civilians and destroyed so much more the environments around the world (with the most recent cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, and the like) -- really raises the disturbing question concerning the extent to which the ICC becomes an "instrument of Western powers" in global legal affairs.
For instance, the leaders that the ICC had indicted in the past years were all Africans, like Joseph Kony (from Uganda), Omar al-Bashir (from Sudan), Uhuru Kenyatta (from Kenya), Muammar Gaddafi (from Libya), and Laurent Gbagbo (from Ivory Coast). It is no surprise that "the ICC has been accused of bias and as being a tool of Western imperialism, only punishing leaders from small, weak states while ignoring crimes committed by richer and more powerful states" (Wikipedia).
In other words, notorious Western leaders like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair, Benjamin Netanyahu, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, and the like had initiated ruthless wars which had killed so many times more innocent civilians in the world and destroyed so much more the environments but, to this date, have never been charged, arrested, and tried for their crimes against humanity and war crimes.
For instance, during the Vietnam War alone, the U.S. had dropped more bombs on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia than all the bombs that had ever been dropped during WWII. The deaths of these myriad non-Western lives were (and still are) not regarded as worthy enough and have drawn no international (Western) condemnation, but the deaths of a few Western lives in a developing country, more often than not, could easily lead the international (Western) community to take legal (and other) actions against the attackers.
It is thus not surprising that many Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans are skeptical towards the neutrality of the ICC, because of its inherent dependency on Western powers as an international legal institution. After all, as I already explained in the earlier article "Why Israel's Far Right Policy Damages America's National Interests" (published on 24/03/2015), "Israel's bombardments of Gaza for weeks in 2014 had left about 3,000 Palestinian civilians dead, most of whom were women, children, and the sick -- and destroyed the entire territory like hell. Even the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was forced to condemn it as 'a moral outrage and a criminal act' and called for those responsible for this 'gross violation of international law' to be brought to justice. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, made a similar point that 'house demolitions and the killing of children raise the ''strong possibility'' that Israel is violating international law' that 'could amount to war crimes,' as reported by RT on August 26, 2014. And Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu aptly 'compared Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu to the Islamist militants who killed 17 people in Paris [on January 7-9, 2015], saying both had committed crimes against humanity,' as reported by Reuters on January 15, 2015." Yet, the ICC has taken no legal action against Israel, because of the strong opposition by the U.S. (partly because of the Jewish Lobby).
Consequently, China and India have never accepted the legitimacy (or neutrality) of the ICC, which also explains why they have so far refused to join the ICC. Instead, China had proposed the "non-interference" principle, as Qin Gang, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, summarized his country's foreign policy of non-interference in 2007, when he stressed that "China...will not interfere with other countries' internal affairs" (and expect others to pay the same respect towards its national sovereignty). Other non-Western countries propose alternative solutions; for instance, South African President Jacob Zuma proposed the withdrawal of the African Union from the ICC altogether in 2013 (because of the widespread African perception that the ICC has become "an instrument of Western powers" or "a tool of Western imperialism").
Thus, these alternative ideas may well be the first few steps for China and others to reshape the "legal" pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order. So this is just the beginning, as there will be more steps to come.
(e) THE FIFTH PILLAR OF THE WORLD ORDER - CULTURAL
The fifth pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order is "cultural," and a good example is the "Washington consensus," which has seen its meaning changed and broadened several times over the years to loosely refer to the U.S.-driven ideology of "free-market capitalism" and "liberal democracy" as the right path towards growth, development, and progress in the world.
At the end of the Cold War, this ideology sounded persuasive, when the world witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Empire. But the massive financial crises in the U.S. and the EU since the 2000s, together with the hugely destructive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gaza carried out by liberal democracies, have questioned many folks, both inside and outside the West, about the credibility of this fairy tale of "open-market capitalism" and "liberal democracy," as I already explained this in great lengths in my books titled "The Future of Capitalism and Democracy" (2002), "Beyond Democracy to Post-Democracy" (2004), and "Beyond Capitalism to Post-Capitalism" (2005).
By contrast, China's model of development, which has succeeded in eliminating the poverty of hundreds of million people in a relatively short period of time and in transforming China to become the world's largest economy in 2014 (based on the "purchasing-power-parity" estimate as announced by the IMF and the World Bank last October), now becomes a source of emulation in the developing world. Even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi learned something from China's success as the "world's factory" to propose a comparable path for India to follow, especially in regard to his "Make in India" idea.
Already, in a recent survey published on June 24, 2015, "findings from the Pew Research Center show that China is closing in on the U.S. in global favorability." Even Business Insider in the UK released a report by Niv Noresh in July, 2015, arguing that "the West is blind to the appeal of China's model of authoritarian capitalism" in the rest of the world, because "when developing countries look to the West, they see growing disillusionment among its electorates, austerity and rising inequality. The West's uncertainty about its own future serves to magnify, even glorify, the Chinese success story for developing economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It will not come as a surprise if more turn to China for lessons in economic development."
In addition, China has actively set up Confucian institutes around the world in the past decades, so as to promote the richness of its longest continuous civilization in the world (that is, its "soft power").
Thus, the appeal to China's model and the richness of its civilization may well be the first few steps for China and others to reshape the "cultural" pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order. So this is just the beginning, as there will be more steps to come.
(f) THE SIXTH PILLAR OF THE WORLD ORDER - TECHNOLOGICAL
And the sixth pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order is "technological," and a good example is NSA's global surveillance.
One should thank Edward Snowden for his revelation of how much the U.S., with the secret collaboration of a few close allies, has actually collected an enormous amount of information from the entire world in a way which is simply mind-boggling, to say the least. Nothing seems really safe from NSA's global surveillance and intrusion, but we are talking only about NSA, so, if one also includes the intelligence gathering activities of all other secretive agencies in the U.S. and its allies combined together, the magnitude of global surveillance by Western powers in the entire world is simply nothing less than absolutely shocking. The "Big Brother" (from the so-called "Free World") is constantly watching you, no matter what and when you do or say, and regardless of where you are!
In response, China has implemented different measures to counter Western global surveillance. Firstly, it has introduced the "Great Firewall" inside China to monitor online traffic coming in and out of the country. Secondly, it has built its own global positioning system, known as the "Beidou" system, to rival the U.S.'s GPS network. Thirdly, it has built its own satellites with different functions for domestic uses. Fourthly, it has designed its own operating systems, computer protocols, and computer hardware (and one should not fail to notice that the current most powerful and fastest supercomputer in the world, "Tianhe-2," is Chinese, not American, as ranked by the TOP500 project in the U.S.). And fifthly, it has competed with the U.S. in cyber warfare on the global scale.
Thus, these different implementations may well be the first few steps for China and others to reshape the "technological" pillar of the existing but declining Western-dominated world order. So this is just the beginning, as there will be more steps to come.
The six pillars (above), together with the examples given in each, are solely illustrative, not exhaustive, but the important point to remember here is that the existing Western-dominated world order faces formidable new challenges in a way never seen before in its past history.
After all, no power had ever overtaken the U.S. as the world's largest economy for more than 100 years (since 1872) until October, 2014, when both the IMF and the World Bank officially announced that China overtook the U.S. as the world's largest economy (based on the more accurate "purchasing power parity" [PPP] estimate -- which differs from the older "nominal" estimate based on daily fluctuating currency exchange rates in popular mass media; for this reason, economists use the term "nominal," meaning "not real," to refer to the older estimate, as opposed to the new "real" PPP estimate).
Each successful step that China has undertaken to challenge the six pillars of the Western-dominated world order means in practice a further decline of Western dominance in global affairs. Even more importantly, these first few steps on multiple fronts (as illustrated above) are only the beginning of what China and others strive to reshape the existing but declining Western-dominated world order in our time, but there will be more steps in the decades to come.
We are only witnessing the beginning of the reshaping of the world order not seen since the rise of the modern West in its ruthless and destructive colonial conquest of the world a few hundred years ago. But this is just another way to say how profound the rise of China is to the rest of the world in our time and beyond. I already explained this in great lengths in my book titled "Beyond the World of Titans, and the Reshaping of the World Order" (2007).
The psychological unease with the current rise of China in the West is historically understandable, as no power in history enjoys its own decline. But it would be a mistake to regard the rise of China as an existential threat to the West, because, to the Chinese, it is to regain its former greatness as the "Middle Kingdom" (meaning the "center of the world") in the last millennia -- after a short interruption for about one hundred years or so, from the time when the older Chinese Empire (under the Manchu Dynasty) began to collapse in the second half of the 19th century, to the time when Mao Tse-Tung pronounced in 1949 that "The Chinese people have stood up." To regain its former greatness has been "China's dream" in these last one hundred years or so. For this reason, the title of this essay contains the words "China's dream."
But it would be an even greater mistake for the U.S. (and the West in general) to be trapped in a politics of "denial," with its endless anti-China bashing in Western mainstream media nowadays, especially with sensational wishful thinking stories like "The Chinese economic success is not real," "The Chinese economy is imploding from within," "The Chinese Communist Party is in its last days," "Chinese society is falling apart," "China's military is a paper tiger," "China will never overtake the U.S. as the world's number one, and the PPP estimate is a joke," "The Chinese are only good at copying from the West but cannot invent," "Communist China is a dysfunctional totalitarian dictatorship and is bound to fail," and so on.
The historical consequence of this Western politics of "denial" could be deadly self-defeating in the long run, because the older Chinese Empire itself (under the Manchu Dynasty) committed this greater mistake in the second half of the 19th century with its politics of "denial" about the rise of the modern West, with sensational wishful thinking stories at that time like "The Europeans are barbarians," "The Europeans need us, but we do not need them," "We only need to learn from the military strength of the Europeans, but they have nothing else worth learning from," "We only need to use martial arts to defend ourselves, and the bullets fired from the guns used by the Europeans cannot hurt our bodies," "The West cannot conquer us," and so on. Shortly later, in the last few decades of the 19th century, the older Chinese Empire (with its politics of "denial") was beaten and humiliated so badly by Western powers on Chinese soil that, to this day, this period has been called by Chinese historians as "the one hundred years of humiliation," at a time when China was condescendingly treated and brutally violated, for the first time in its long history of greatness, as the "Sick Man of Asia."
Will history repeat itself, with this latest American (and Western) politics of "denial"? Time will tell, for sure. But it is wise for the U.S. (and the West in general) not to repeat this greater mistake in history. After all, as the old saying goes, "If you cannot beat them, join them and learn from them."
Dr. Peter Baofu was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and had taught as a Professor at different universities in America, Western Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Balkans, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. He completed more than 5 academic degrees in the states, including a Ph.D. from M.I.T. (in Cambridge, Massachusetts), and was a summa cum laude graduate. He is the author of 81 books and 83 new theories (as well as numerous articles), all of which provide a visionary challenge to all conventional wisdom in the social sciences, the formal sciences, the natural sciences, and the humanities, with the aim for a "unified theory of everything" -- together with numerous visions of the mind, nature, society, and culture in future history.
Some examples of his 81 books on world affairs include "The Future of Post-Human Espionage" (2015, forthcoming), "The Future of Post-Human War and Peace" (2010), "Beyond the World of Titans, and the Remaking of World Order" (2007), "Beyond Nature and Nurture" (2006), "Beyond Civilization to Post-Civilization" (2006), "Beyond Capitalism to Post-Capitalism" (2005), the 2 volumes of "Beyond Democracy to Post-Democracy" (2004), "The Future of Capitalism and Democracy" (2002), the 2 volumes of "The Future of Human Civilization" (2000), and so on.
What would the world be like if, for example, Russian energy sources, the Ukrainian food industry and the German industry united to work together?