Many in the West believe China’s economic ascendancy indicates that Beijing is covertly working to usher in a new world order in which the balance of power has shifted.
History shows that changes in the world order are inevitable, but they do not take place as quickly as some analysts think. For example, the rise of the US to the world’s primary geopolitical position took nearly half a century, from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. France’s rise to domination over western Europe in the late 16th-early 17th century was a long and arduous process.
In these as well as many other cases from ancient and medieval times, the rise of a new power was facilitated by stagnation, gradual decline, and military confrontation among the various existing powers.
For instance, the US was already powerful in the early 20th century, but it was the infighting during the two world wars among the European powers that brought down the edifice of the Europe-led world order and opened a path for American ascendancy.
But while it is possible to identify the changing winds of the world order through various analytical methods, it is much harder to find ways to preserve an existing order. It requires a whole constellation of leaders from competing sides to grasp the severity of the threat posed by radical change and to pursue measures together to cool down tensions.
The key question that needs to be addressed is whether the West still possesses the necessary political, economic, and military tools to uphold the existing world order and not allow slip it into chaos, as the world’s leaders mistakenly did in the first half of the 20th century.
The successful preservation of an existing world order is a rare event in history. Following the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15, European leaders gathered to build a long-lasting peace. They saw that the French power, though soundly defeated under Napoleon I, needed to be accommodated within the new fabric of the European geopolitical order. This meant not only inviting French representatives to conferences, but offering military and economic cooperation as well as concessions to the French to limit their political grievances.
In other words, European diplomats had an acute understanding of post-French Revolution geopolitics and understood the need to build a long-lasting security architecture through balance of power.
But such approaches are unusual. Perhaps the shock of the bloody Napoleonic Wars, as well as the presence of such brilliant diplomats such as Metternich, Talleyrand, Castlereagh, and Alexander I, assured the success of the new order.
It is far more common that challenges to the world order lead to direct military confrontation. Failure to accommodate Germany in the early 20th century led in part to WWI, and the errant diplomacy of the Treaty of Versailles led in part to WWII. The list goes on.
China’s rise to power is another case for study. The country is poised to become a powerful player in international politics thanks to its economic rise and concurrent military development. Beijing has strategic imperatives that clash with those of the US. It needs to secure procurement of oil and gas resources, which are currently most readily available through the Strait of Malacca. In an age of US naval dominance, the Chinese imperative is to redirect its economy’s dependence—as well as its supply routes—elsewhere.
That is the central motivation behind the almost trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which is intended to reconnect the Asia-Pacific with Europe through Russia, the Middle East, and Central Asia. At the same time, Beijing has a growing ambition to thwart US naval dominance off Chinese shores.
In view of these factors, mutual suspicion between Beijing and Washington is bound to increase over the next years and decades.
Thus we are amid a changing world order. What is more interesting, however, is what the US (or the West collectively) can do to salvage the existing order.
From the US side, a strengthening of existing US-led alliance systems with Middle Eastern and Asia-Pacific states could help to retain American influence in Eurasia. Specifically, it would enable the US to limit Russia’s, Iran’s, and possibly China’s actions in their respective neighborhoods.
Another powerful measure to solidify the existing the world order would be to increase Washington’s economic footprint across Eurasia. This could be similar the Marshall Plan, with which the US saved Europe economically and attached it to the US economy. New economic measures could be even more efficient and long-lasting in terms of strengthening Western influence across Eurasia.
But no matter what economic and military moves the US makes with regard to allies such as South Korea, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and others, any attempt to uphold the existing world order without China’s cooperation would be short-lived. It would echo the way Germany was cast out of the Versailles negotiations, which served only to create a grievance in Berlin and prompt clandestine preparations for a new conflict. In a way, the West’s current problems with Russia can also be explained this way: Moscow was cast out of the post-Cold War order, which caused worry and a degree of revanchism among the Russian elites.
Without China’s inclusion in the world order, no feasible security conditions can be laid out. To be preserved, the world order must be adjusted to rising challenges and new opportunities. Many Western diplomats are uncomfortable dealing with China, but casting Beijing in the role of direct competitor would not solve the problem. Nor would giving Beijing large concessions, which would be too risky.
What is required is a middle road—a means of allowing China to participate in an adjusted world order in which some of its interests are secured. Only that will increase the chances for long-lasting security in Eurasia.
Pulling this off will require an incredible effort from Western and Chinese diplomats. It remains to be seen whether they will be more successful than were their predecessors from the early 20th century and other periods of history.
Author’s note: First published in BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,452, February 19, 2020
COVID-19 Diplomacy and the Role of the United Nations Security Council
On 30th January 2020 World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, soon after on 11th March 2020 it was declared Pandemic i.e. a worldwide spread of a new disease. As of today, COVID-19 is having a foothold in more than 195 countries, with 28,377 mortalities and 617,288 confirmed cases, while at the same time no specific treatment and vaccine have been developed so far.
To address the pandemic effectively, countries have started considering and offering bilateral and regional cooperation, with a much recent example is a SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund proposed by Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi, along with G-20 nations pledging USD 5 trillion. This pandemic is not only ruthlessly claiming the lives of innocent people but has brought the entire world to an economic halt. Kristalina Georgieva, chief of the International Monetary Fund, has given an indication that the world has entered into recession. To address this grave situation, a much stronger response is needed by all the nations to consider it as a global public health challenge in the form of a security threat.
This article deals with the aspect of international diplomacy in global cooperation to tackle the menace of COVID-19. The role of the United Nations Security Council in health governance is important to mention as the recent COVID-19 crisis not only emerged as the global health challenge but also it poses a threat to international peace and security.
The spread of infectious diseases is more prevalent in the globalized world, where members of the world community are interdependent to tackle such pandemic. To overcome this challenge, a robust and comprehensive global health framework is required, which inevitably involves cooperation and coordination amongst states, international organizations, civil societies, and other relevant actors. The primary inter-governmental body in global health coordination and cooperation is the World Health Organisation but the ongoing crisis has made it clear that the world has to look beyond WHO and there is a need for intervention of the UN Security Council as it did before during the Ebola crisis.
Considering the unprecedented extent of the COVID-19 virus across the globe, it arguably constitutes a threat to international peace and security. During the Ebola outbreak, the Security Council adopted resolution 2177 (2014) calling for immediate action and resolution 2439 (2018) condemning attacks by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Looking at the current development of events, all these situations are prevailing in this pandemic. The world needs an accelerated response from the World Health Organization to strengthen its technical leadership and operational support to governments and other partners in that effort. There is a pressing need for quarantine, treatment, and public education, which the WHO is undertaking. However, to make it more effective, an obligatory resolution has to be passed by the United Nations Security Council. There is a possibility that Security Council resolution may help in easing the process of global cooperation, with having equal probability of making the entire process apolitical.
The efforts taken by international health and humanitarian relief workers are praiseworthy, provided their efforts have to be properly channelized, with necessary arrangements, such as medical evacuation capacities and their immediate deployment to the affected countries, must be put in place. As said by then Secretary-General of the United Nation – Ban Ki-moon – in the UNSC resolution 2177, that “The gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for an emergency.” The current situation is more grave and of high magnitude affecting almost all the countries of the world. The United Nations launched a major humanitarian appeal to keep COVID-19 from circling back around the globe and to mitigate its impact on fragile countries with a weak health system.
Much has been expected from the United Nations in this trying time, to establish an emergency health mission aimed at stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability and preventing further outbreaks by passing a resolution. The world needs to race ahead of the outbreak and curb it through the coordinated actions of the United Nations.
The UN Security Council has condemned the “heinous and Cowardly” terrorist attack on a gurdwara in Kabul, where over 25 worshippers were killed and 8 injured during this epidemic. The Security Council said that “The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers, and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice, and urged all states, in accordance with their obligations under International law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Government of Afghanistan and all other relevant authorities.”
Considering the prevailing pandemic where the whole world is going through such tough times, what has stopped the UN Security Council from adopting a resolution for the aforesaid situations? When it has adopted two resolutions in the past for such situations, can we put an onus on China’s diplomacy? Much recently China has rejected Estonia’s proposal to hold a UNSC meeting to discuss the coronavirus and loss of lives across the world as per media reports. It is believed that COVID-19 emerged from the Wuhan province of China and currently China is the President of the UNSC till March 31. All the countries are silent over China’s role, arguably, because in the worst-case scenario the countries affected have to import medical equipment from China. Looking at all the developments concerning COVID-19, the United Nations Security Council must step in and take control of the situation to repost faith of nations in it.
Reforms of diplomatic agencies
The Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) has played host to a round table the participants of which discussed a report by senior expert of the Center for Advanced Governance (CAG), RIAC expert Oleg Shakirov.
In the introductory part of the report the expert stated that diplomatic agencies are very conservative and are rarely subjected to fundamental reform. This is due, firstly, to their special status, and secondly, to their elitism.
According to Shakirov, there is a need to systematize international experience and analyze diplomatic organizations’ reforms.
The author of the report said that to perform such an analysis they selected countries by two criteria. Firstly, the country had to have completed a comprehensive modernization of its diplomatic service – an integrated process known as modernization, transformation or reform. Secondly, they examined reforms the progress on which could be obtained from open sources of information.
While preparing the report, experts considered the experience of reforming the diplomatic agencies in eleven countries, four reforms were analyzed in detail (Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Uzbekistan), and seven were analyzed in brief (Australia, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Canada, New Zealand, France and the USA).
The report identifies two reasons for reform – national and global. The first type was demonstrated by the example of Uzbekistan. After a change of president, the country launched a large-scale modernization strategy which envisaged foreign policy changes and the Foreign Ministry’s new agenda: the reform was the result of political reforms at home.
As for the global causes that are common to all countries, the participants singled out the three main ones: the growing influence of economic factors on world politics (economization), a change in the communication environment, and the tightening of ties between states.
Speaking about economization, O. Shakirov made it clear that at present foreign affairs agencies are adapting to an increasingly greater role of economic factors in world politics. In most cases, this adaptation boils down to expansion of powers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This means a new agency springs up, or the old one has been strengthened to address economic issues, or an agency or department in charge of economic issues is transferred to the foreign affairs department. For example, at the end of 2018, the Investment Committee was included in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan.
Amid the increasing role of economic factors, there may occur changes in the configuration of the diplomatic network, as happened in Denmark. Denmark closed some embassies in Europe, while opening new agencies in a number of developing countries in order to expand economic ties. In addition, in the conditions of economization, there appears a need to create new mechanisms of cooperation between diplomats and business. Often, external observers want more tangible results from diplomacy: not only a victory in negotiations, but, for example, specific advantages for companies.
Under the current conditions there are expectations that diplomacy should function as a service. For example, in the Netherlands, not only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but various departments within the government provide assistance to Dutch companies if they operate abroad. Among the most innovative measures is the creation of special mobile applications that would ease interaction with government agencies.
The second global reason is associated with a change in the communication environment diplomats live in. The speaker emphasized that since the Internet is becoming the main source of information for an increasingly larger number of people, the changes are most noticeable in the Internet as ministries and individual diplomats regularly use their pages on social networks and experiment with formats. The Russian Foreign Ministry has been repeatedly named one of the leaders in the field of digital diplomacy. Another feature of the communication challenge is declining public trust in government agencies, which explains why some diplomatic agencies are trying to establish a dialogue with the internal audience as part of reform. Germany has set a good example: its diplomats make public speeches in different cities and hold seminars on foreign policy with the participation of the public.
The third reason is the strengthening of relations between states. There are many channels of cooperation, not only through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also via other departments – the ministries of economics, the “digital” ministries, the ministries of agriculture, etc. The researcher noted that non-governmental agencies are also joining in. In general, foreign policy is acquiring the qualities of a network. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has traditionally been an “interpreter” or “translator” from the local to international. Today, it no longer enjoys the monopoly in this area.
O. Shakirov remarked that even though in some countries reforms pass fairly quickly, in most cases they take long. In France, during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, the 2015 reform was autonomous but incorporated the previous experience. The arrival of Emmanuel Macron marked a new stage of public service reforms, so the Foreign Ministry reform acquired a new quality.
For any bureaucratic organization, reform is not an easy process. That is why it is very important how reform preparation is carried out. There are two imaginable scenarios to this effect. The first scenario – the new government provides guidance on what kind of transformations need to be implemented. In this case, this will come more than stressful for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The second scenario envisages taking into account the various wishes of the lower and middle level diplomats. However, in both cases, the instruction for reform comes from above – from top leadership.
The report draws two main conclusions. The first is that reforms of foreign ministries occur more often than commonly believed. And although changes are not always immediately noticeable, they are plentiful. This process can be perceived as part of the evolution of diplomacy and government. Changes in diplomatic agencies take place all the time. But reforms are an attempt to set the boundaries of these changes and systematize them, to make them more focused. What is important is that changes in the foreign policy environment have become faster and more intensive.
The second conclusion is that it is vital to keep reforms afloat. It is essential that a reform goes on regardless of political leadership. For example, in the United States, a project launched by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went into oblivion after Mike Pompeo took over.
The participants in the discussion pointed out the relevance of the issues raised, their seriousness. There were also critical remarks, the main one being that the report is based solely on documents, without “live” connection with employees of foreign affairs agencies.
From our partner International Affairs
Public Diplomacy Via Twitter
Historically, after the invention of the printing press in Europe; the communication with the foreign publics was potentially altered. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Venetians had already introduced the systematic dissemination of newsletters inside their own diplomatic service. Under ancient regimes, the French started rebuilding their country image abroad than other European powers. Identity creation and image projection as well as nation branding became peak under Louis XIV and similarly in other countries like Turkey had also followed it aftermath of the Ottoman Empire.
Public diplomacy (PD) is a ever expanding field. PD doesn’t have a one line definition. However, according to Nicolas Cull; he had mentioned 5 elements of PD: Listening, Advocacy, Cultural Diplomacy, Exchange diplomacy and International Broadcasting (IB). According to Center on Public Diplomacy “PD has been widely seen as a transparent means by which a sovereign country communicates with publics in other countries aimed at informing and influencing audiences overseas for the purpose of promoting the national interest and advancing its foreign policy goals.”
These 5 elements has been now effectively conducted via use of internet; famously known as digital diplomacy. When British Prime Minister Palmerston had reported reaction of “My God, this is the end of diplomacy” after receiving the first telegraph message in 1850’s from Foreign Ministry. Such reaction was obvious when diplomatic letters used to travel manually from country to country in longer period. And, Telegraph invention had made long distance transfer of textual message easier rather than physical exchange of an object bearing the message. PD from the time of Telegraph to the time of Social Media; it has changed drastically. Before the audience was generally a specified person of foreign service but today PD has been targeted to pro-grassroots overseas. These grassroots are probably a university graduates, local entrepreneurs or veteran who get influenced and impressed by the specific country’s image and ultimately wants to visit, study, work, or migrate there.
Underlining these realities, today digital platforms are widely used to conduct PD. It is being used because it has a wider coverage and message can be transmitted within a second-minute than traditional PD method like meeting people, organizing cultural show, events. PD implementation via digital platforms is cheap and very less time consuming than traditional PD conduction method. In the case of Nepal, the US Embassy is using Social Media(Twitter & Facebook) widely comparing to any Embassies based in Kathmandu, Nepal to conduct PD.
PD by the US Embassy in Nepal via Twitter
The US Embassy in Nepal is forefront in conducting PD via use of digital tools. The US Embassy in Nepal regularly uses Embassy’s Facebook page, Twitter and Ambassador’s Twitter handle to conduct PD. The US Embassy in Nepal has around 4.1 Million Likes on Facebook (till date)whereas Indian Embassy in Nepal has around 100k likes(till date). Also, British Embassy in Nepal has around 76,000 likes(till date) on Facebook. Similarly, the US Embassy in Nepal has 402.5k(till date) followers on Twitter, and Indian Embassy in Nepal has 67.4K(till date) followers. The US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry personal Twitter handle has 187.8k(till date) followers whereas Chinese Ambassador to Nepal personal Twitter handle has 22.3k(till date) followers. Interestingly, the Facebook likes of Nepali Embassy USA has 4956 likes(till date) and 850 followers(till date) on Twitter. This shows, the US PD implementation via digital tools is very much effective comparing to Nepali Embassy in DC. The one who engages more on PD gets more chance to promote its national interest. And, in this front the US is getting more grounds than Nepali Embassy in DC. Despite the fact that, developing world like Nepal should have to engage more on digital platforms to promote its national interest in the Washington D.C(which is the apex location for formulating the US foreign policies affecting globally).
American Ambassador/Embassy in Nepal not only promoting PD via Twitter but also showing indirect symbol of proxy war in Nepali land between the US & China. After Chinese president Xi visit to Nepal on Oct 12, 2019; American Ambassador(Amb.) had Tweeted “It’s almost been a year since I’ve returned to Nepal, & along with amazing culture & natural beauty, Nepali food never disappoints! My two faves are momos in Boudha and DalBhat in Mustang! #WorldFoodDay.
Interestingly, Amb. Randy Berry rightly pointed the names of these two places which has a geopolitical importance for Nepal. These are the places where there is the strong secretive presence of China and America—whether it is a perceived CIA backed Khampas movement of Mustang in 1960’s or Free Tibet Movement protestors arrested in Boudha, Kathmandu. Both places are interest area of the US & Chinese foreign policies. Amb. Randy Berry had used Twitter in multiple occasions to conduct PD in Nepal. His Tweet is generally from promoting Nepali culture, festivals, Traditions, the US signature strategy known as Indo-Pacific Strategy(IPS) to the issue of women empowerment. He had even started communicating with general public in Twitter despite reservation from Nepal’s foreign ministry. He acts like a Nepali political leaders who visit places of Nepal and receives public warm welcome. Being a political man from Washington; he had hit the right nailed on PD to impress and influence Nepali public.
His few popular Tweets are as mentioned below:
What is the Indo-Pacific Strategy? It is our broad approach to economic, security & governance engagement in this region. In short, it’s our way of saying that we’re committed to this region & that we will always uphold & support a free, fair, & rules-based international order.
What was the best part of my Nepalgunj trip? Tough question! But the most delicious part was definitely my visit to Mubarak Biryani!
To support the #VisitNepal2020 campaign, I announce a month-long initiative across all @USEmbassyNepal social media platforms to promote tourism in Nepal through pics/stories of US staff & families traveling across the country, joining 78K Americans who visited during Jan-Oct 19.
I really enjoy interacting with you all on social media, but I realized that I will probably never meet all 4 million of our @USEmbassyNepal social media followers…so I am beginning “राजदूतसँग गफगाफ” to hear from & answer questions from you all. Stay tuned
I joined Nepali & American women from the US Mission family to experience the excitement of Teej festival celebrations! Wishes for an exciting, happy, colorful & empowering Teej to all of you! #HappyTeej
The US Embassy in Nepal has been using Twitter to promote its PD. Its Social Media presence in Twitter & Facebook is much more larger than UK, China or India. Even Foreign Ministry of Nepal(MOFA) Twitter handle has a 130.2k followers(till date), Nepali foreign Secretary has 1918 followers(till date) and Nepali Foreign Minister has a 248.9k followers(till date). This means, MOFA has been less engaging comparing to the US Embassy Twitter handle whereas Nepali Foreign Secretary is lagging behind in promoting Nepali diplomacy comparing to the US Ambassador. Nepali Foreign Minister has less Twitter followers than the US Embassy Twitter handle. This openly says, Nepal’s institutional and dignitaries Social Media presence is negligible comparing to the US. In this hyper digital age, Nepal is lagging behind to promote its diplomacy via digital platforms—which is not so much expensive and doesn’t require expert human resource. At this time, Nepali Foreign Ministry doesn’t need a radical shift but very simple renovation.
This simple renovation can be digitalizing Nepali foreign affairs. Overall these signifies that; the US wants to engage with Nepali public in much more comprehensive way. Pivotal Example is : The Amb. Randy Berry “ Chat with Ambassador” shows that, he is using the soft power to influence and impress Nepali public ultimately to promote the US vested interest in Nepal. Whether it is the case of Tweeting/posting on any Nepali festivals or promoting IPS—all proves that the US wants to counter influence of immediate neighbors of Nepal i.e. India & China. PD promotion(digitally) by super power countries in developing country like Nepal is not new. It is an enlarged strategies in the form of soft power to gain, retain and expand their influence. So, the key message is: Nepal need a win-win strategy by altering this perceive American zero-sum strategy conducted via digital platform.
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