Saturday, July 28, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Other Disrupters

Donald Trump and his government are not the only global political
disrupters attempting to alter the international economic power
status quo.

There is at least one rival disrupter on a worldwide scale, and two
national entities attempting to alter their regional circumstances.

Each has its own interests and style of disruption, and each
attempts to restore their country’s earlier empire.

General Secretary Xi Jinping of China represents a culmination
of his nation’s re-emergence on the world stage that began with
the communist takeover of the mainland in 1949. Not only are the
Chinese actively pursuing its “Belt and Road” policy in central
Asia as a strategy to contain the influence of the world’s only other
billion-persons-plus nation of India, it is aggressively asserting its
claims in the South China Sea, and also single-mindedly building
dependency relationships in undeveloped countries in Africa and
South America.   There can be little doubt now, if there ever was,
that Secretary Xi and his colleagues want China to become the
dominant superpower of the 21st century, eventually replacing the
United States. The turning point for this strategy was the adoption
of a capitalist-style economic structure while preserving the
Marxist totalitarian state. This hybrid is what Mr. Xi and his
colleagues are trying to sell to a disrupted world community. His
critics point out that such a hybrid is doomed to failure in an age
of such remarkable communications technology, but with less
bravado and leverage than Mr. Trump’s, the Chinese agenda is
moving inexorably forward.

Historically, China existed as a major empire for about three
millennia. Three of its many imperial dynasties stand out --- the
Han Dynasty from 220 B.C. for the next 400 years; the Tang
Dynasty from 600 A.D. for the next 300 years; and the Qing
Dynasty from 1644 A.D. until it was overthrown in 1912. The
latter dynasty, despite its feckless demise, actually earlier
defined modern Chinese power and hegemony over its region.

President Vladimir Putin came to power after the revolution that
toppled the totalitarian Soviet regime (1917-91) that had played
such a central role in 20th century global politics. A communist
empire had replaced the imperial czarist empire (1611-1917)
stretching from eastern Europe to the Pacific Ocean. When the
Soviet Union broke up, many of its component parts declared
their independence, including Ukraine, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan,
Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldove, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan and Kyrgystan. Now nominally a capitalist
democracy, the new Russian Federation struggled for years to
adjust from its past. Retiring from the presidency after two
elected terms (but not from power), Mr. Putin returned to be
elected chief of state in 2012, and subsequently was reelected for
six years in 2018. His nationalist policies increasingly assumed
influence over most of its former member republics, reoccupied
Crimea which it had returned to Ukraine in 1954, confronted the
latter, as well as Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania
and Estonia --- all of which at one time had been part of the
Russian empire.

President Hassan Rouhani leads a group of Islamic ayatollahs
in Iran that is attempting to dominate the Middle East as did the
nation’s forerunner Persian Empire which ruled over a large area
from 550 B.C. to 651 A.D. In that earlier period, the main religion
was Zoroastrian. From about 700 A.D., the smaller empire
was Islamic under a series of kings and shahs who had reduced
influence in the region. A religious revolution replaced Shah Reza
Pahlevi with an Islamic republic and elected religious presidents.
Asserting its enmity to Israel, Iran has embarked on a program
to build nuclear weapons, now supposedly suspended, but it
continues to cast a menacing shadow over other nations in the
region, and not just Israel. For decades, the Middle East has been
a headlined world trouble spot, and since it became a major
exporter of oil in the 20th century, a global economic disrupter.

Of the four disruptions cited above, the Chinese activity would
seem to have the most sustained and long-term impact on the
existing world order. The U.S. effort to counter or contain it is
simply too recent and as yet undefined to be properly evaluated.
The other mega-nation, India, has nuclear weapons and a
growing global economic impact, but its internal problems and,
so far, weak leadership have delayed its potential key influence
on the complicated world political drama now taking place.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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