31 January 2020

Again a bipolar world, with different actors

Sergiu Medar

A statistic analysis of some of world’s states contribution to the international security, in terms of their political orientation, created, not through nowadays’ numbers, but through their development tendency, the possibility to recreate a bipolar world, just like Cold War’s one, however with different actors. If during those times, the two powers were US and the Soviet Union, now these are the US, on one hand, and China and Russia, on the other hand. Even if there are fewer chances for this perspective to become reality, one should also consider this scenario.

Image source: Mediafax

The Western world believed, worthily, in a world wherein liberal order wins and that will not change in the near future. Nowadays’ realities, however, prove that world’s political poles have already changed. Totalitarian states re-entered world’s influence sphere and they continue to grow, relying on globalization’s semi-failure and, surprisingly, on new technologies’ development. Indeed, these set the foundation of the new global evolution, but their use did not always follow the basic democratic concepts. Applying the new ethnic developments, including a combination of 5G communication systems and Artificial Intelligence and quantum computers has lead to the establishment of a new dictatorship, now, a digital one. What China does when monitoring the population and creating each citizen’s profile to limit his/her democratic liberties is something that leads to human being’s degradation and the society as well.

Only 30 years have passed since the end of the Cold War, 20 since the 9/11 terrorist attack, 12 since Russia’s invasion in Georgia and 6 since Crimea’s seizure by the same aggressor. During this time, Russia supported governments which have a different path than liberal democracy’s one. Among them: Syria, Venezuela, Libya, China, North Korea and others.

These actions, which have broke diplomatic rules and laws many times, have revealed power’s diversification throughout the world. Trump’s competition and competitiveness concept between big powers has changed the coordinates for the system based on rules and global order relying on globalization’s principles. When looking at states’ power to face such competitions, one must consider both the economic and the military power. The more are a state is stronger in terms of economy, the more it can become a military power.

In the 1990’s, 70% of the global economic activities were being developed in Europe and America’s states (Northern, Central and Southern). Economic studies show that by 2040 this percentage will decrease to 40%. Also, the rate of global GDP produced by Asian states will increase from 32%, currently, to 53%, by 2050. Although, in absolute value, US’s GDP did not decrease, however, through other states’ GDP increase, if by 1970 it was about 50% of world’s GDP, now, it has decreased to 25%. At the same time, China's share of global GDP has increased from 4.6% in 1990 to 15% today.

US remains world's most powerful military and economic state. Its economic growth is outpaced by China's economic growth rate, which makes its GDP, measured in terms of procurement power par (numerical comparison between a state's productivity and the standard of living), be lower than China's. When it comes to this important economic parameter, US already has world’s second position, giving the first place to the strong Asian competitor.

According to the figures made available by the World Bank, in 1991, the US, its allies and world’s other democratic states owned 88% of world’s GDP, as follows: US 26%, other NATO countries 52%, other democracies 10%, totalitarian states 6% and other states 6%. In 2018, the US, allies and other democratic states held 75% of world’s GDP as follows: US 24%, other NATO states 35%, other democracies 16%, totalitarian states 19% and other states 6%.

Out of all these statistics it is noteworthy, first of all, the decrease of world’s democratic states’ contribution to global GDP. By no means should one conclude that democratic regimes are less efficient than totalitarian ones, but rather that by 2018 China has developed unprecedentedly, and Russia "supported" by Western European states has sold huge quantities of energy to the European market, turning into a country able to face European Union and US’s sanctions. At the same time, totalitarian states have a higher contribution to world GDP, being increased from 6% to 19%. The statistics points out the slight decrease in US are contribution given that global GDP has increased. We can notice NATO’s member states contribution decreases, from 52% to 35%. This highlights both the fact that NATO has expanded with new less competitive states, but also the decrease of member states' economies.

The whole World Bank study leads to a worrying conclusion: power’s evanescence throughout the world has favoured non-democratic states both in terms of their number and their economic development. If absolute numbers should not create concerns, it is the global trend that worries analysts.

After analyzing these figures it follows that, in terms of power or global value, the world remains, when writing this analysis, unipolar, due to the fact that US alone has a world GDP contribution that’s greater than all totalitarian states. This does not mean that the US is greater than all other states of the world in all fields, but this superiority may go down. This is the reason why world’s unipolarity no longer exists if it is done in a narrow field analysis: commercial, financial, games industry, etc. Therefore, US calls for protectionist measures by unilaterally introducing new taxes as well as by withdrawing from international economic organizations that affect, even partially,  the American national interests.

There are analysts who see the world, when it comes to world’s polarity, only economically speaking, as superpolar. This is due to the fact that they include in economic statistics also the big international corporations. By their contribution to world GDP as well as by their political influence, these corporations can have positions that reflect, not once, their economic power over small states’ GDP. Therefore, through small states, large corporations can influence one or more votes in the UN plenary or other organizations they are in.

Given China's economy and technology development as well as its new relations with Russia, thanks to their common effort to counterbalance US economically and militarily, it can be concluded that Russia and China can represent, together, a new world pole. Starting with 2019, the two great powers have identified their common or complementary interests, the biggest being their opposite position towards US. US’s sanctions to both states made them seek mutual support against a common enemy. The principle "never against each other, but not always with each other" established as the cooperation basis by presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, can work as an objective for creating a second pole of the world. China could join such pole’s development with new technologies based on Artificial Intelligence, quantum computers, robotics, 5G communications, which are all already operational. Russia would join in with kinetic armed forces, missile systems, but also its control or steering systems, misinformation, propaganda, profiling, and elections manipulation in any of world’s democratic states, phishing for states and companies and other stable or mobile akinetic warfare systems.

If such a world system would be possible, it would be much closer to the model that followed the World War II. Now, just like then, it would confront two different societal concepts. On one hand, a new liberal democracy with some shades of illiberal democracy that would define the US and, on the other, an illiberal dictatorial system from Russia and a repressive, communist trade system belonging to China.

The new world pole will allow Russia reach Peter I, Russian tsar’s goals, but not from the Baltic Sea to the Persian Gulf, from North to South, but through a much more aggressive idea "from Lisbon to Vladivostok ”. Following this line, Putin took Gorbachev's idea, which spoke about a "United Europe" with a political and economic system that would include Russia.

These arguments of a possible, but unlikely to happen, new world pole must be considered by analysts, as it might actually be created if China and Russia's pride will be outweighed by the cynical pragmatism specific to these two states’ cultures.

Translated by Andreea Soare