Translated by: Tiago Jorge, Daniela Aires, João Nunes and Matilde São José
Fukuyama got ahead of himself. The end of history is far from now and the race for power, domination and force keeps unfolding in an increasingly bigger puzzle where more pieces seem to appear, whether they are natural resources once dispensable that become centre point of the agenda in a blink of an eye, or the instability in certain regions whose military ramifications allow the big powers – we’ll call them “athletes” – to make bigger steps on their way to the finish line, no matter the cost.
If we want to understand the swap from the decaying athlete – the Soviet Union, whose dissolution process ends in 1991 – for the younger athlete, who had spent the last decades been preparing herself to join the race, – the People’s Republic of China, founded in 1949 after a 20 year long civil war – it’s imperative to prove what we see with objective information. Between 1992 and 2010, the younger athlete’s GDP growth places her in the limelight, jumping from 11th to 2nd place of the world ranking, highlighting the paradigm shift in Asia’s political dynamics, where China now aids the decaying Russians who had to look up to find the fittest athlete in the region.
However, to explain the New Cold War between the United States – under democrat leadership after a 4 year republican festival – and China – who quickly looks like it’s about to lead the race against the Western rival – one must realize one of the main pillars of any world domination project in geopolitics: being an economic power and managing a large portion of territory (let’s bring some numbers to the table: the US’s territory is only larger than the Chinese by 237.000 square kilometres): it’s essential to be friends with everybody.
One of the most important poles in the game is the African continent. In 2020, China was present in 31% of all construction projects with values above 50 million euros. To add more weight to the matter, it will certainly be enough to mention the fact that it was precisely China that built the headquarters of the African Union, (and if there existed any doubts about Chinese intentions in the region, bugs were installed by Chinese engineers during construction). In addition to investments, China offered a parliament to Zimbabwe and forgave a debt to Sri Lanka, if they took one of its ports, causing tensions with India.
The Chinese goal is simple: to invest in developing countries and African powers that aspire to sit at the table with the big players, and in return receive all the possible influence on the continent by indebting them, because the Nigerian dam and all the other projects that China has volunteered to command are not gifts: there are no gifts or offerings in international relations, especially when it comes to a power with well-defined goals, as it is the Chinese case.
Turning the anchor to the right, we find the Middle East region, full of promising athletes and diplomatic, military and economic clashes that make the region an essential focus of the race. The United States invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 and began “rebuilding” the country ravaged by Taliban rule about a year later, followed by a brief period of peace transition followed by years of uncertainty and mistrust. In September 2021, twenty years after the initial incursion, the army commanded by Joe Biden leaves the scene, leaving the stage at the mercy of new actors, whose first audition had been brief and not very encouraging. Like the USSR, the United States remain in Afghanistan too long and leave a sharp mark on the millions of lives that now have to submit to even more inhuman and immoral conditions.
In Iran, the nuclear variable continues to be the only topic on the meeting table. The great western power is in a delicate position because the idea of an agreement about nuclear between the two countries doesn’t seem to be consensual, especially for Israel, neighbouring country that considers a deal between the two countries something that will affect the relations with the USA. In Iraq, invaded by the United States without any pretext – rather, under a false pretext – left millions of Iraqi citizens without a life and a hole too large for the building of a diplomatic bridge, with Iraq also being a country with points of internal tension that don’t cease to be concerning. The United States also are continuing their stay in Syria, that despite not being the true target of the American incursions – the American troops attacked Iraqi soldiers in the border between the two countries – still leaves a mark of violence and instability.
Despite the diplomatic efforts of Joe Biden – considering the good relations with Saudi Arabia, Israel, or the United Arab Emirates – the American impression on the Middle East can generate an inherent reluctance from the population, that did nothing to provoke the armed conflicts and ended up being the biggest losers of all losers of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With a well prepared strategy, China has the door partially open (the alliances mentioned above still have leverage in the region) to continue the project of “strategic aid” that started in Africa and affirm its importance in the Middle East.
In February of 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. After months of rising tension on the frontier, Vladimir Putin’s troops entered the neighbouring country for a “military operation” whose nomenclature doesn’t disguise it. The blatant assault to Ukrainian freedom victimized thousands and the Russian goals don’t align with the results: Russia is failing and will go out losing – like every participant of every war – and with few allies. However, one of these allies is the powerful China, that fills the role of crutch to a decaying power, waiting for the moment it will go to a hospital to begin being life support.
Putin’s relationship with Biden and with the rest of the West will not improve until the leadership of the first one ceases, allowing the comeback of the young people who want a Russia who relies on herself, but who is not dead. In this way, the extraordinary Chinese intelligence becomes necessary to dodge the problem and escape the claws of the punishing West and use her own to tighten the old Russia.
Interestingly, it is very close to Chinese territory that the major focus of tension between the characters of the new Cold War meet. The island of Taiwan is still being referred by Beijing as a part of China, mentioning the 1992 Consensus between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang, the leading party in Taiwan. However, the two sides disagree in terms of the Consensus’ content, with China talking about the establishment of “one China” and Taiwan referring “one China, different interpretations”, with Taiwan (or the “Republic of China”) becoming the “one China” of Consensus.
Since the US established diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1979 (breaking the mutual defense mechanism with Taiwan), the ones in charge kept unofficial relations with the island and continue to this day selling equipment and weapons, provoking the displeasure of China, which regularly flies over the island as a way of demonstrating the strength and supremacy it has over Taiwan.
The relationship between the two of the top athletes in the international track have considerably deteriorated in August 2022 when Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the American House of Representatives, landed in Taiwan to a brief visit who was not part of the itinerary. During the visit, Pelosi stated the American support already authorized by Joe Biden himself, who promised to help in case of aggression. For now, the Chinese people remain unpleased, and the American people remain provocative, we can only hope for the emergence of common sense. The race has already shown to have multiple parallel races, and the athletes must tight their laces really well.