By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera*
"Geographic facts do not change, but their meaning for foreign policy will." – Nicholas J. Spykman,
COLOMBO (IDN) - A new world order has begun with roles interchanging. United States as the leader of the free world and the architect of globalization is advocating nationalism in a close of its borders while China who earlier spoke about national values is now praising globalization.
President Xi during his visit to Davos clearly gave leadership toward the case of globalization. According to President Xi, “There was a time when China also had doubts about economic globalization, and was not sure whether it should join the World Trade Organization. But we came to the conclusion that integration into the global economy is a historical trend. To grow its economy, China must have the courage to swim in the vast ocean of the global market.
"If one is always afraid of bracing the storm and exploring the new world, he will sooner or later get drowned in the ocean. Therefore, China took a brave step to embrace the global market. We have had our fair share of choking in the water and encountered whirlpools and choppy waves, but we have learned how to swim in this process. It has proved to be a right strategic choice”.
Back in the 1960s US positions on boundaries was explained clearly by President Kennedy in Berlin in his remarkable oration “ich bin ein Berliner” there should be one Berlin, the iron curtain that divided nations will fall one day and it did fall in 1989. It took 30 years for United States to change its position to build a wall and confine to its boundary.
Back in the ancient history, China exercised its power and developed a wall – “Great Wall” – to secure from outside invaders. Today, the US is revisiting what China did several thousand years ago and China has evolved as a nation in this regard.
In geopolitics it is vital to understand the politics of borders and frontiers. According to Robert Kaplan, “the ability of states to control events will be diluted, in some cases destroyed. Artificial borders will crumble and become more fissiparous, leaving only rivers, deserts, mountains, and other enduring facts of geography. Indeed, the physical features of the landscape may be the only reliable guides left to understanding the shape of future conflict.”
Yale Professor Nicholas Spykman explained in his Rim Land theory the arc surrounding the heartland of Halford J. Mackinder is where tectonic shifts will occur and nations will use their military power in this important crescent. In the 20th century, most wars from Korean war, Vietnam, India Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Balkan wars were fought on this “Rim Land”. The next possible war could also trigger from South China Sea an area of the Rim Land. It was the capture of greater Caribbean by US Navy after the Indian wars which unlocked the power of US from Panama Canal which was the most significant strategic project. Two oceans the Atlantic and Pacific was controlled with US military strength and NATO was the platform to take forward liberal democratic values as a coalition.
In the same manner one could examine the case of China who is seeking a historical claim of the South China Sea to unlock its power in Indian Ocean. Like in the past in the greater Caribbean region, the US held Panama. Today China has OBOR (One Belt one road) with a $890b investment with 900 projects along the belt and road. A revival of what China had during the past.
The North Atlantic power Axis is clearly turning towards the East. While the newly elected President Trump who has mentioned “NATO is obsolete” and challenges its values. China will gain a better control and win more allies in the East. Liberal democracy will be seen by Asians as a model that does not deliver efficient results. Asia could drift towards a technocracy a model operated by technical experts and expert government servants which deliver quick results.
China has proven clearly more than the 100 liberal democracies around the world that 625m people were taken out of poverty from this model. Singapore has proven as an East Asian miracle performing through a meritocracy at its highest value delivering results to the public. The Public health, water safety, education, infrastructure and all economic indicators are at the highest level. Corruption Perception Index which was released recently indicates Singapore at 7th place while Sri Lanka is at 95th place worse than last year.
The concept of a technocracy will be something to look at to improve on many sectors of the nation. Senior Research Fellow Parag Khanna from LKY school says “increasingly, Asians favour pragmatic, outcome-oriented governance, and prefer to be ruled by civil servants rather than politicians” a prediction that Asia could turn to technocrats and depart western democracy.
Duality and double standards was a significant factor in erupting the course of glory of the western empire. It happens within the Nation and not from outside. The double standards on Human Rights, Democratic values and much more are clear indicators that people has lost trust with their own systems.
“Waterboarding is not torture, it’s one step below torture” says Trump who wish to be the core members of NATO who is against torture. A nation like Sri Lanka is accused by a group (ICTJP) Executive Director Yasmin Sooka for abduction and torture. UK’s Sir John Chilcot report which created much noise about British soldiers committing war crimes in Iraq which accused Prime Minister at that time, has gone completely silent. Certain western experts accuse the Sri Lankan military and suggesting foreign judges in a Hybrid court.
Stratfor Global Intelligence, one of the leading US security think tanks in the world recently published an article about Sri Lanka which explained: “Despite its small size Sri Lanka holds substantial strategic value by virtue of its geographic position: it is at the center of Asia’s busiest maritime routes and has a wealth of natural deep harbors.” It further points out Sri Lankan Government owes Beijing $8 billion more than 12% of its $64.9 billion debt.
While celebrating Sri Lanka’s 69th year of independence, it is important to clearly identify our internal and external geopolitical threats as a nation with the hope of charting our path towards a developed nation.
'Asanga Abeyagoonasekera is a visiting lecturer in International Political Economy (IPE) and the Director General of INSSSL the National Security think tank of Sri Lanka. [IDN-InDepthNews – 04 February 2017]
Photo: Asanga Abeyagoonesekera, the Executive Director of LKIIRSS. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
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