Recent patterns and advancements, ranging from conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine to the competition between the United States and China, could signal a significant global geopolitical shift. The possibility of a prolonged confrontation between the Western nations and their adversaries, notably China, Russia and Islamic World, is becoming increasingly prominent.
The ongoing crises, conflicts, and wars underscore the significant transformation of the geopolitical landscape in recent years, with a resurgence of great-power rivalries taking center stage in international relations. The conflicts in Gaza an Ukraine, intensifying global divisions, might be indicative of a more profound geopolitical restructuring, potentially heralding a transition towards a new world order.
The escalation of conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine raises concerns about the heightened risk of a third war. particularly concerning Taiwan. The substantial transfer of American artillery munitions, smart bombs, missiles, and other weaponry to Ukraine and Israel by the United States is depleting stockpiles, a fact not lost on Chinese President Xi Jinping. With Xi considering Taiwan incorporation into the People’s Republic “historic mission”, the prolonged duration of these conflicts appears advantageous from his perspective.
US President Biden comprehends the high stakes involved and is actively working to alleviate tensions with China. Notably, following the dispatch of several cabinet officers to Beijing, the spotlight is now on Biden’s scheduled summit talks with Chinese President Xi during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in San Francisco from November 15-17. Both Biden and his G7 counterparts emphasize their intent to ” de-risk” the relationship with China rather than pursue a complete “decoupling” from the world’s second largest economy.
Regardless of the terminology used, this ongoing process is poised to redefine the global finance order, influencing investment and trade patterns significantly. Observable shifts in trade and investment flows suggests a potential division of the global economy into two blocs. A noteworthy example is China’s increasing trade with the Global South compared to its trade with the West. Despite the substantial costs associated with economic fragmentation, China is discreetly decoupling substantial portions of its economy from the West as a strategic move to mitigate vulnerability to future pressure.
The current situation can, in no small part, be attributed to the United States, which bears responsibility for actively fostering China’s economic ascent over the past four decades. This support has inadvertently contributed to the emergence of the most formidable rival the United States has ever encountered. Presently, China possesses the World’s largest navy and coast guard, openly contesting Western supremacy in the global financial system and international institutions. In essence, China is diligently working to construct an alternative world order, positioning itself at the center of this evolving paradigm.
While the existing system is frequently described in ostensibly neutral terms like the “rules-based global order”, it undeniably revolves around the United States. The U.S. not only played a significant role in shaping the rules underpinning this order but also appears to consider itself exempt from certain crucial rules and norms. This includes regulations that prohibit interference in other countries’ internal affairs. It becomes evident that international law holds substantial sway over the less powerful but it is markedly less effective in constraining the actions of more powerful entities.
The current conflict-ridden global environment may play to China’s advantage when it comes to establishing an alternative world order. Historically, it was war that gave rise to the U.S.-led global order, including foundational institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations. Meaningful reforms to these institutions have proven it is challenging, even during peace time.
This holds particularly true for the United Nations, which appears to be undergoing an irreversible decline and is increasingly marginalized in international affairs. The hardening gridlock within the UN Security Council has led to a greater burden on the UN General Assembly. Notably, General Assembly was compelled to adopt a resolution on the Gaza conflict, calling for a “humanitarian truce” and end to Israel’s siege. However, the General Assembly is inherently weak and unlike the Security Council, its resolutions lack binding force.
As U.S.-led institutions experience deterioration, so does America’s influence beyond its borders. Even countries like Israel and Ukraine, heavily reliant on the U.S. for military, political, and economic support, have, at times, disregarded U.S. advice. Israel, for instance, rejected American counsel to reduce the military attacks and take greater measures to minimize civilian casualties in the Gaza humanitarian crisis. Ukraine’s dispersed forces were attributed by U.S. officials to the stall in its counteroffensive.
Amidst the global recalibration prompted by the Sino-American rivalry, significant regional shifts are conceivable. A prolonged conflict in Gaza could trigger a geopolitical reorganization in the Greater Middle East, where most major powers -except Egypt, Iran and Turkey- are 20th century constructs shaped by Western powers. Israel’s war is already bolstering the geopolitical role of gas-rich Qatar, a regional player that, by supporting violent jihadists, including Hamas, has gained international noteriery.
Various forces and trends, such as Russia’s increasingly militarized economy, China’s slowing growth, and the rising economic influence of the Global South are amplifying the likelihood of fundemental changes to the international order. Simultaneously, the world is contending with challenges such as widening inequality, the ascent of authoritarianism, the rapid advancement of transformative technologies like artificial intelligence, environmental degradation, and climate change.
While the specifics remain uncertain, the prospect of a fundamental global geopolitical rebalancing now appears almost inevitable. The looming specter of a prolonged clash between the West and its rivals, particularly China, Russia and Islamic World remains a significant concern.