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Chinese initiatives: Evidence of a new global multipolarity

By John Queripel | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-05-10 10:32


China has, and is, making the sort of diplomatic breakthroughs that are both surprising and perceived in the West as threatening.

An important breakthrough has already been achieved in the Middle East with the recent accords, made under Chinese initiative, between the two nations who have been major antagonists in the region: Iran and Saudi Arabia. The US, traditionally the most powerful broker in the world, was shut out, unable to do this due to it having "skin in the game". The US may have been able to bring the Saudis to the table, but clearly not Iran as it was considered in their playbook as irredeemably evil and against whom it is applying increasingly stringent sanctions.

To the surprise of many, China was able to bring these two long time enemies together. Doing so has brought renewed hope to the whole region as many of the conflicts were proxy wars finding their genesis in the Saudi-Iran rivalry for regional hegemony.

Certainly the US agenda of further isolating Iran is now much more difficult considering that, due to the Chinese initiative, it is now cementing relations with Saudi Arabia who was once Washington's most a staunch ally in the Middle East.

The current diplomatic initiative of China, which is attracting the attention of many though regarded with both suspicion and distain in the West, is that of bringing together Ukraine and Russia in an attempt to stop a conflict damaging not only to both sides, but also to the wider world at large. Again the US, and Europe, have dealt themselves out of the game due to their "skin in the game".

China was able to make these diplomatic breakthroughs due to their being seen as an honest broker. The genesis of their being perceived as such goes back to the principles enunciated by the founding premier of the People's Republic: Zhou Enlai.

Zhou's "Five Principles" were first declared in his negotiations with India in 1953 and 1954, before he took them to the Bandung Conference of nonaligned nations in 1955 as a basis for formulating International relations.

The principles are mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-aggression, noninterference in the internal affairs of others, equality and peaceful coexistence.

Such principles were impossible for nations to apply in the post World War II period of US hegemonic dominance, even more so after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a US-led unipolar world. Instead, the US was able to assert its will around the globe, with the assistance of its Western allies in, what it liked to call, "the rules based international order". It was the author, arbiter and (often brutal) enforcer of these rules.

With the US-dominated unipolar world now diminishing, currently there is the emergence of a new multipolar global order. In this multipolar world, China obviously has an important role to play, though not in the manner of setting the rules, something of which it has shown no desire to do. What is emerging rather is the increasing observing of the UN Charter in the international arena.

Chinese initiatives in international diplomacy and increasing attacks on its self-declared "rules-based order" have clearly annoyed Washington, so used to being dominant in setting the geo-political agenda.

At a time when the United States has sought to portray China's rise as a threat to the global order, Beijing has found a way, as shown in its recent successes, to demonstrate its stabilizing capacity and its ability for peacemaking.

Halford Mackinder wrote in his book Democratic Ideals and Reality, published in 1919, "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; and who commands the World Island commands the world." By "World Island" he was referring to the land mass extending from Europe to Asia and Africa. The heartland he understood to be the areas through which the Chinese led Belt and Road Initiative is being extended.

The great powers in this heartland are China, India and Russia. Each of those nations are building links through such bodies as the Shanghai Cooperative Organisation and BRICS, which bypass the structures established by the old hegemonic powers, first Europe and then the US.

The world is fast changing with new alliances and connections being rapidly established. Those clinging to the old, particularly in the West, and here I include Australia, risk getting left behind.

John Queripel is a Newcastle Australia based author, historian and social commentator.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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