New geography with old geometry

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by Tolaha, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. Tolaha

    Tolaha Senior Member Senior Member

    Nov 28, 2009
    Likes Received:
    The Hindu : Opinion / Lead : New geography with old geometry

    International institutional reforms must keep pace with the qualitative shifts in power in order to deal with global challenges
    The international institutional structure has remained largely static since the mid-20th century rather than evolving with the changing power realities and challenges. Reforming and restructuring the international system poses the single biggest challenge to preserving global peace, stability, and continued economic growth. A 21st century world cannot remain indefinitely saddled with 20th century institutions and rules.

    Power shifts are an inexorable phenomenon in history. The global power structure continually evolves. Although the focus currently is on the post-Cold War power changes, the Cold War era itself witnessed important shifts.

    For example, it was only after the Cold War began that the Soviet Union rose as a global military power, although it failed to become a true economic power. By the second half of the Cold War, Japan and Germany emerged from the ruins of World War II as formidable economic giants. And in keeping with the profound technological and geopolitical changes since the late 1980s, international power shifts have become even more pronounced, as underscored by the gradual rise of the East since the 1990s.


    The United States emerged as the sole superpower due to a quirk of history — the sudden, unexpected collapse of the Soviet Union. Indeed, when viewed against history, the existence of a single superpower is highly unusual. Even at its pinnacle, the British Empire did not parallel the American Empire in global ascendancy. Britain was not the hegemon in Europe, so it could not be the global hegemon. In fact, Britain’s failure to gain pre-eminence in Europe, where it faced other major powers like Russia, Germany and France, motivated it to concentrate on distant lands. That is how Pax Britannica was established.

    The fact is that there has never been a global hegemon on the lines of America. The normal pattern in history is one of uneasy coexistence among several great powers. So, the emergence of a single superpower post-1991 was an anomalous development.

    If the international institutional structure is to be recast, the U.S. must begin to adjust to the ongoing shift in its own status from being a global hegemon to turning into less than a global hegemon, yet remaining the world’s leading power. The world is gradually moving toward the normal condition in history — coexistence among quite a few great powers.

    A liberal, rules-based international order for the 21st century can be developed if sincere efforts begin toward that goal. That task demands making the international institutional structure more relevant to the newly emerging challenges and power realities.

    In essence, this will be possible if the U.S. is willing to take the lead to reform the international institutions before events overwhelm the present system. The choice is to either restructure the international order while international peace prevails or allow developments to take us back to the pattern of past history — namely, decisive change has come only after a major bloody war involving great powers, with the victors of that war shaping the new international system. That is what happened in 1945, 1919, 1815 and 1713. The choice today is to either break free from that historical pattern or remain a prisoner of history.


    The world presently is in transition, although we still do not know what the new order would look like. Until recent years, a handful of powers made all the international decisions on global trade, economy, peace and security. But the emergence of new players in the geopolitical marketplace is fundamentally changing the global power dynamics. With the “new kids on the block” extending their influence beyond their immediate region, the list of players shaping international relations is growing.

    The new powers legitimately seek greater participation in international institutions and their decision-making. The power shifts and new global challenges actually symbolise the birth-pangs of a new world order, making far-reaching institutional reforms inescapable.

    Changes indeed are already beginning to occur, but rather modestly. For example, the G-20, composed of both wealthy and emerging economies, has replaced the G-8 as the main forum for discussions concerning the global economy. The G-20’s formation, however, was an improvisation designed to defer genuine reforms in the Bretton Woods system. The slow pace of quota and governance reforms in the International Monetary Fund and the reluctance to restructure the World Bank to create a more dynamic institution that breaks free from its donor-recipient straitjacket only highlight the need for a reformed international financial architecture. Meanwhile, the risks to global economic growth have grown due to several factors, including the large, capricious cross-border capital flows, the Eurozone crisis, and the excessive volatility in commodity prices.

    More broadly, the challenge is to accommodate in the international system not only the new powers that have been emerging after the Cold War’s end but also the new powers that emerged before the Cold War ended. Indeed, the powers that emerged before the Cold War’s end do not pose any of the special challenges that China does, in the sense that they are liberal democracies promoting rules-based international governance and eschewing muscle-flexing.

    Geoeconomics is not dictating geopolitics, as some pundits had romantically visualised when the Cold War came to an end. In fact, politics today drives economics, with political risk dominating the financial markets. But not to accommodate the powers that emerged by the 1980s would only signal that a country counts as a power only when it begins to flex its muscles. Take Germany, the only booming economy in the eurozone today. Should Germany indefinitely remain a rule-taker rather than being accommodated as a rule-maker?

    China’s dramatic rise parallels Japan’s phenomenal rise as a major power during the Meiji Era (1867-1912). The difference is that Japan, after having re-emerged as an economic powerhouse from the ashes of World War II, has run into economic stagnation since the 1990s. However, one of the least-noticed developments in Asia in this century has been Japan’s political resurgence. With its pride and assertiveness rising, the nationalist impulse has become conspicuous. Tokyo is intent on influencing Asia’s power balance.

    China is beginning to exercise influence far beyond its shores. The larger discussion on accommodating China in the international system, however, misses one key fact: China is already heavily accommodated in the present international order, to an extent that no new power of the past half-a-century has been. Yet, Beijing has turned into a key obstacle to the accommodation of other new powers.


    China’s accommodation occurred not because of its rising power. China was still backward, poor and internally torn when it was made an integral member of the “hard core” of global geopolitics — the system that deals with international peace and security issues: the United Nations Security Council. In that sense, China is the luckiest of all the new powers.

    In fact, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru rejected a U.S. suggestion in the 1950s that India take China’s place in the Security Council. The officially blessed selected works of Nehru quote him as stating on record: “Informally, suggestions have been made by the U.S. that China should be taken into the U.N. but not in the Security Council and that India should take her place in the Council. We cannot, of course, accept this as it means falling out with China and it would be very unfair for a great country like China not to be in the Council.” The selected works also cite Nehru as telling Soviet Premier Marshal Nikolai Bulganin in 1955: “I feel we should first concentrate on getting China admitted.”

    It is thus no accident that China now is a status quo power with regard to the U.N. system, seeking to remain Asia’s sole permanent member in the Security Council, but is a revisionist power on the global financial architecture, seeking an overhaul of the Bretton Woods system.

    Today, the world appears at a defining moment in its history. Some of the challenges it confronts are unique, ranging from accelerated global warming to cybercrime and the spreading international reach of terrorism.

    Healthy, effective international institutions have become critical to building genuine cooperation and power stability. The most pressing challenges are global in nature and demand effective international intervention. Yet the “democratic deficit” of existing international institutions and their inadequacy to play a forward-looking approach has become glaring.

    (Brahma Chellaney is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Centre for Policy Research.)
    ejazr, balai_c and ani82v like this.
  3. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

    Jan 17, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Here comes the myth that Nehru " gave" the UN Security Council seat to China again, and again

    And the author of this is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Centre for Policy Research :rofl:

    ooops, it was ROC who held the UNSC seat before being replaced by PRC. As one of the "Big Four" allies in World War II (China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the Republic of China (ROC) was one of the founding members of the United Nations.


    Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek as a representative for China signing the United Nations Charter on 24 August 1945
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2012
  4. ice berg

    ice berg Senior Member Senior Member

    Nov 18, 2011
    Likes Received:
    No wonder the level of discussion is so low sometimes. If a professor can make a blunder like this, then we certainly shouldnt be so hard on members here,..:tsk:
  5. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 8, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Hyderabad and Sydney
    ^^^^ Please note that this are from official released documents of govt. correspondence and the offer clearly mentions that India would REPLACE ROC

    Informally, suggestions have been made by the U.S. that China should be taken into the U.N. but not in the Security Council and that India should take her place in the Council.

    If you have some credible source that indicates that there was no informal offer made then feel free to share.

    Anyways, the UNSC issue is not the main point here. The main point is that China has been accomodated at an unprecedented scale as a major power by the US. Even if the UNSC issue was put aside, PRC ties were establshed in 70s, the US worked in integrating China with the global trading community. And also in other International insitutional bodies. Something that has never happened earlier except maybe when the power transition from the UK to the US took place. And that also took place as part of two major wars.

    But the current accomodation would still not be enough because China feels that it deserves a bigger role. And hence China will be a revisionist power on the global level.

Share This Page