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A Geopolitical Quandary For The West

Abstract: Efforts to analyse the economic, political, and security trends to understand important aspects of the power transition process might have paved the way for broader research endeavours. However, the holistic international picture is yet to be shown. Taking a holistic view of geopolitics is necessary as it allows for a comprehensive understanding of global politics’ complex and interconnected nature. Geopolitics encompasses the study of how geographical factors influence political power and international relations. By taking a holistic view, we consider not only traditional geopolitical factors like territory, resources, and military power but also the cultural, economic, social, environmental, and technological dimensions that shape and influence global politics.

By providing a wholesome view of geopolitics, policymakers, scholars, and analysts can better understand the complex dynamics and interconnections that shape global politics. It allows for a more nuanced and comprehensive analysis, enabling informed decision-making and effective policy responses to the challenges of the modern world.

Problem statement: How can one understand the global shifts in the geopolitical landscape that are happening at present?

So what?: It is imperative to showcase the wider contributions of the emerging powers in Asia and Africa in the larger multipolar context. An understanding of the stated regions would help to get a sense of the varied international challenges resulting from the emergence of unique contemporary strategic interests in light of this shift to a multipolar world.

Concept of geopolitics or worldwide economy. Chess figures placed on map banner.


A Drastic Change In International Equilibrium

The world has experienced profound geopolitical implications. Broadly put, the contemporary geopolitical landscape is and continues to undergo several significant shifts, including China’s rise, the West’s decline, changing alliances, technological competition, climate change challenges, shifts in global governance, and the rise of non-state actors. These changes contribute to the transformation of power dynamics and international relations. Gone are the days of the Cold War, tinged with the hegemonic influence of the U.S. and its European allies, popularly referred to as the “West”. Indeed, the dawn of the 21st century has witnessed a remarkable resurgence of new players as present hallmarks of international order.

Gone are the days of the Cold War, tinged with the hegemonic influence of the U.S. and its European allies.

Touted as the “Eastern Horizons of Power”, the Asian and African subcontinents have carved a niche for themselves in the changing political climate. Moreover, newer forms of diplomacy, more specifically the aspect of “vaccine diplomacy”, adopted by Asian players like India, have shaken the very foundations of the existing notion of unipolarity.

The Decline of the West

Joseph Nye, an American political scientist, stated in 2010 that “the rise and decline of nations has always played a significant role in a more historical assessment of international relations”, hinting towards the very subtle nuances of the twin processes of rise and fall. It becomes clear why it would be imperative to delve into the past to relate to the present.

The premises of the World Wars and the Cold War might have led to an institutionalisation of international order skewed towards the institutional orientation of the U.S., as pointed out by G John Ikenberry when he drew on the premise of the world order being built around American power, interests, and ideals.

Little did one know that the very demise of the USSR in 1991, and the consequent emergence of the notion of “Unipolarity”, was to place the West in a perilous position, given the context of a structural shift in the institutional arrangements, in the light of the emergence of multipolarity.

Despite instances of unsolicited Western interference during the Gulf War in the ‘90s, the unfolding of conflicts in Haiti, Zaire and Yugoslavia, a crumbling reputation of the West and the U.S.’s notion of “Pax Americana”, was to become even more evident.

An Overview Of The Gradual Implications

Surveys conducted by the Pew Research Centre in 2011 show that the percentage of individuals who believed the People’s Republic of China would replace the U.S. as the primary global power rose from 40% to 49%. However, instances of the PRC not being the sole economic superpower have also been manifested. Extensive research shows that public opinion in countries like Mexico, Poland and Britain is not totally skewed towards the Chinese perspective.

As per recent data collated by the Pew Research Centre after surveying 30,000 people from across 24 countries, from February 20 to May 22, 2023, a median of 69% describe China’s technological achievements as the best or above average relative to other wealthy nations, with similar shares in high- and middle-income countries. A median of 54% also see China’s military as among the best in the world.

A median of 69% describes China’s technological achievements as the best or above average relative to other wealthy nations, with similar shares in high- and middle-income countries.

Majorities in most countries do not think China takes into account the interests of countries like theirs. Around half or more say China doesn’t consider them in Canada, France, Israel, Spain and Sweden. Only in the three sub-Saharan African countries surveyed, as well as in Indonesia, does around half or more of the public feel like China listens to their country.

Various channels and methodologies by Pan and Xu over several years show that Chinese urban residents are more liberal than expected and more liberal than the official positions of their government. Moreover, respondents’ political views remained relatively stable over time and were correlated across issues in ways comparable to those in democratic countries.

Pan and Xu’s work sheds new light on the views of Chinese citizens, challenging some mainstream scholarship on the topic. They find diverse views on many policy topics, suggesting that Chinese citizens do not always support government choices.

On the contrary, the emerging Asian economies of India, Singapore and South Korea have risen to prominence. Furthermore, the rise of regional alliances such as BRICS and SCO has also portrayed a sense of multipolarity and equal division rather than excess economic monopoly. Therefore, the more recent phenomenon of politico-economic globalisation remains inclusive of trends where more and more states develop their respective sets of policies and schemes, bearing in mind the larger strategic interests. In light of a new political order, there is demand for a blend of international welfare and new models of supranational government and coordination of the overall global processes, placed on the pedestal of ideological pluralism, as pointed out by eminent political scientist Nikitas Kostantinidis in his research paper titled “The effects on supranational government on system polarisation”.

The Present Day Scenario

The year 2022 witnessed a greater sequence of events, leading to a significant change in strategic perception. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the subsequent unfolding of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, eyebrows have been raised, and incidents of political blame game have surfaced.

Certainly, with the renewed tensions and the relative prevalence of a Second Cold War-like atmosphere, the geopolitical landscape has seen a pronounced disbalance in the geopolitical equilibrium. The re-emergence of great-power competition has made the context of the balance of power a more significant foreign policy initiative of all the major powers in the Indo-Pacific. According to Stephen Walt, there are two types of balancing that states conduct: balancing with internal effort and balancing with external effort.

Internal balancing refers to increasing a state’s relative power by increasing its military capabilities, enhancing economic growth, and focusing on policies that increase relative power. Conversely, external balancing increases the relative power by forging alliances against the targeted nation. With the anarchic nature of world politics, the security of a nation should be guaranteed by itself, given that today’s ally could end up being tomorrow’s competitor. Therefore, this leads nations to take a more dynamic approach in mixing internal and external balancing to safeguard their security.

With the anarchic nature of world politics, the security of a nation should be guaranteed by itself, given that today’s ally could end up being tomorrow’s competitor.

With India surpassing the United Kingdom on certain economic parameters and the continued influence of the PRC and Japan along with the broader levels of dialogue at regional organisations such as the SCO, BIMSTEC, BRICS, ASEAN and MERCOSUR, a collective international approach seems to be on the horizon, in the light of a nuanced approach to the shaping up of contemporary geostrategic endeavours.

As a sophomore at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. Ainesh Dey has participated and won laurels in several debates, quizzes and creative writing endeavours, both at the national and international level. His wide array of interests range from policy formulation, advocacy and international affairs to international business and developmental economics.

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