In this important article, originally published in the Morning Star, Belgian political analyst Marc Vandepitte assesses the crucial importance of the recent joint statement of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Marc notes that this is the first time both presidents have spoken out so clearly and strengthened ties so closely. Situating this against the background of recent history, he explains that, following the end of the bipolar division of the world, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US had determined that no power should ever again be allowed to challenge its hegemony. However, China, “a poor, underdeveloped country rose in no time to become an economic superpower”. Despite desperate US opposition, a “unipolar world must make way for a multipolar world”. The Collective Security Treaty Organisation, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the new Silk Road are all building blocks for this. A strong peace movement is also a vital necessity.
JUST before the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping issued a joint statement on international relations and on co-operation between China and Russia.
It is a document of about 10 pages that comes at a time of great tensions with Nato over Ukraine and of a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games.
The text can be read as a plea for a new world order in which the US and its allies are no longer in charge, but in which the aim is to create a multipolar world, with respect for the sovereignty of countries.
“The sides oppose further enlargement of Nato and call on the North Atlantic Alliance to abandon its ideologised cold war approaches, to respect the sovereignty, security and interests of other countries, the diversity of their civilisational, cultural and historical backgrounds and to exercise a fair and objective attitude towards the peaceful development of other states,” it reads.
Similar signals have been sent out in the past, such as a joint statement in 1997, but it is the first time that both presidents have spoken out so clearly and have strengthened ties so closely. It is also the first time that China has explicitly spoken out against Nato enlargement.
To understand the scope of this document, it is useful to look back at recent history.
On the one hand, the first half of the 20th century saw the emergence of two new superpowers: the US and the USSR. On the other hand, there was the relative decline of the old colonial powers.
The US emerged victorious from World War II. Both the old superpowers and the USSR were completely broke. Washington dreamed of a new world order and exclusive control.
“To seek less than preponderant power would be to opt for defeat,” said Paul Nitze, top adviser to the US government. Alas, those plans were thwarted by the rapid reconstruction of the USSR and the breaking of the US nuclear monopoly.
After the cold war, the US finally became the undisputed leader of world politics and wanted to keep it that way. Half a century later, that dream came true with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dismantling of the USSR two years later. Henceforth there were no more obstacles to hegemony.
In 1992 the Pentagon left no doubt: “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival … We must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.”
At that time, the US saw no reason to keep a close eye on China yet. The Chinese economy was fairly underdeveloped and its GDP was only a third of the US.
Militarily, the country was also very weak. During that period, Washington mainly thought of Europe as a potential rival and worried about the possible resurrection of Russia.
After the fall of the USSR, the US opted for unbridled might. The invasion of Panama at the end of 1989 was a first exercise for what was to follow. Shortly afterwards war came to Iraq, Yugoslavia and Somalia — Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and Syria would follow soon after.
In addition to overt military interventions, the US has also increasingly waged hybrid wars or colour revolutions to implement regime changes, which have failed everywhere.
They did so in Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and Belarus. In addition, more than 20 countries have been subjected to economic sanctions.
Nato, created in order to militarily enshrine US supremacy, was also steadily expanded after the dismantling of the USSR.
Since the 1990s, 14 states on the European continent have joined the treaty organisation. Other countries such as Colombia became Nato “partners.”
So the US seemed to have the world to itself after the cold war, but then China came on the scene. For the first time in recent history, a poor, underdeveloped country rose in no time to become an economic superpower.
Over the past 30 years, China has experienced a remarkable economic expansion. Since joining the World Trade Organisation in 2001, the Chinese economy has grown more than fourfold. The leap forward was not only economic but also technological.
Until recently, the West, led by the US, had an absolute monopoly on technology, weapons of mass destruction, monetary and financial systems, access to natural resources and mass communications.
With that monopoly it could control or subjugate countries, especially those in the global South. The West and the US, its global policeman, are in danger of losing that monopoly now.
That is why the US has now identified China as its main enemy. In the context of the 2019 budget talks, Congress declared that “long-term strategic competition with China is a top priority for the US.”
It is a total strategy that has to be pursued on several fronts. The US is trying to thwart China’s economic and technological ascent, or, as they say, “blunt it.”
If necessary, this will be done with extra-economic resources. The military strategy towards China follows two tracks: an arms race and an encirclement of the country.
The US has more than 30 military bases, support or training centres around the country. Sixty per cent of the entire fleet is stationed in the region. This military containment has been going on for years.
In April 2020, the Pentagon released a new report advocating further militarisation of the region. The plan is to install ranged ballistic missiles at its own military bases or those of its allies.
If you also install cruise missiles on submarines, you can hit mainland China within 15 minutes. These are particularly dangerous developments.
As part of that entrapment strategy, the Pentagon is also strengthening military ties with countries in the region. In 2021, the US signed a security pact with Australia and Britain for the containment of China.
Enough is enough
Putin and Xi have had enough of all this. The eastward advance of Nato, the increasing military and hybrid warfare worldwide, the many economic sanctions and the encirclement of China, all this must stop.
Gone are the days that Nato, the G7 and the Western-dominated International Monetary Fund kept holding the reins. The unipolar world must make way for a multipolar world.
Rising aggression against both countries is driving China and Russia into each other’s arms.
China is home to almost a fifth of the world’s population, is a global economic power and is the most important trading partner of a majority of countries. Russia is the largest country in the world and is a nuclear superpower.
An alliance between these two countries is a serious counterweight to US supremacy. According to the Guardian: “The birth of this Sino-Russian axis, conceived in opposition to the US-led Western democracies, is the most globally significant strategic development since the USSR collapsed 30 years ago. It will define the coming age.”
It’s not just about these two countries, though. Russia is a member of several regional and multinational alliances. One of these, a military alliance, is the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which is currently involved in “peacekeeping operations” in Kazakhstan.
Another is the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), which is a Eurasian political, economic and security alliance. In addition to Russia and China, India and Pakistan are also members.
China recently joined the largest economic partnership in the world, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This partnership in south-east Asia represents 30 per cent of the world’s population.
The new Silk Road is worth $900 billion in investments, loans, trade agreements and dozens of special economic zones. They are spread over 72 countries, representing a population of about five billion people or 65 per cent of the world’s population.
New world order?
With his essay the End of History and the Last Man, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama announced a new era based on Western hegemony.
The debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen, among others, show that this was a boast that reflected a lot of hubris.
An alliance between China and Russia is an important counterweight to US supremacy.
If the newly formed alliance consolidates and other countries join it, this time we may well be at the dawn of a new era.
Not the end of history, but the beginning of a new stage, in which power in the world is more decentralised — a new world order.
We live in times promising to be exciting, but also dangerous. More than ever, we need a strong peace movement.