21st Century Geopolitics of the multipolar world order
To put it succinctly, the unipolar world is characterized by the US’ predominant hegemony in a wide variety of spheres, whether exercised directly through unilateral initiatives or indirectly (“Lead From Behind”) through its regional and institutional partners. The Multipolar forces in the world are working to replace the US-led international order with a diversified array of multiple stakeholders in order to bring balance to International Affairs. Importantly, they seek to do this through progressively reforming international institutions such as the UN, IMF, World Bank, and others, as well as creating their own counterparts to some of them like the BRICS New Development Bank or outright forming entirely new and unprecedented organizations like the SCO.
One of the latest proposals has been to broaden the BRICS format through what has now been called the “BRICS-Plus” strategy, which essentially seeks to have each of the five member states encourage multilateral cooperation between each other’s respective regional integration organizations. As Russian Valdai Club expert Yaroslav Lissovolik describes it, this could see Mercosur, the SADC, the Eurasian Economic Union, SCO, SAARC, and ASEAN all cooperating with one another in changing the world order.
The basis of American control over the world is through economic means as enforced by military ones. In certain cases, though, the US is unable to directly attack its rivals such as Russia and China without suffering unacceptable damage through a nuclear second strike, ergo why Washington is pushing to build anti-missile installations all around Eurasia in order to ring in these Great Powers and diminish their most credible deterrent capability. Complementary with this are the US’ space weapons, whether based in this theatre (X37-B and the policy of “Prompt Global Strike”) or directed towards it (anti-satellite weapons, whether kinetic such as missiles or non-kinetic like lasers).
Neither the US’ missile shields nor its space-related weaponry are sufficient enough for ensuring that the country is defended from submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which form a crucial component of any country’s nuclear triad. This explains why there’s an ongoing naval race across the world as the US seeks to ensure its dominance in the high seas in the face of rising competition from Russia, China, and others. The global ocean is also important for another reason as well, and this one relates back to the economic basis of American dominance over the world. China depends on the international waterways for the vast majority of its trade, which makes it inordinately vulnerable to any US efforts to block certain chokepoints such as the Strait of Malacca and Suez Canal.
Understanding the sudden systemic-shaking consequences that any hostile action like this could inflict for China’s domestic socio-economic stability, the People’s Republic prudently foresaw the need to pioneer ambitious trans-continental trade routes to its crucial European partner, as well as secure the Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC) along its existing maritime ones in order to safeguard its access to the growing economics of Africa. The latter are exceptionally important nowadays because their growth is expected to allow Beijing to relieve itself of its industrial overproduction so long as it can succeed in building up these marketplaces and stabilizing them. As for the Western Hemisphere, China wants to increase its soft presence here as a means of competing with the US and asymmetrically countering America’s moves in the South China Sea.
Altogether, the above stratagem explains the essence of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, which is designed to transform the world’s trading networks so as to facilitate the transition from a unipolar American-led international order to a diversified Multipolar one safeguarded by a host of Great Powers.
To live in a world where geography is respected and not ignored is to understand the constraints. Many obstacles simply cannot be overcome. That is why the greatest statesmen work near the edges of what is possible. Geography establishes the broad parameters– only within its bounds does human agency have a chance to succeed.