The world of tomorrow and existential threats

The world has witnessed both evolutions and revolutions to become what it is and where it stands today. It industrialised and it globalised and did that at such a rapid pace that it has already lived the greatest moments of its economic growth.

Many social scientists believe that those who have lived through the 80s up to the pre-Covid period have already witnessed the best period of time that the world is ever going to live. Those who lived during this period should consider themselves lucky as this period encompasses the fastest economic growth that humanity experienced.

The nation states that missed the opportunity to climb the industrialisation and globalisation buses during this period are now at the mercy of the IMF and World Bank. While the rest of the world thrives, all these left behind nations do is try to exist and survive. China made the most of this opportunity and it owes this turnaround to, amongst many other factors, the efforts of great diplomat and strategist Heny Kissinger who convinced the Nixon administration of the time to bring back China in the mainstream.

Today all Chinese domestic, regional and global achievements are reflective of four Kissingerian beliefs: belief in the importance of history; problem of conjecture; benefits of pre-emption; and cost of inaction.

The world today is clearly divided into two zones of nations states — one that lives and thrives; and one that is struggling to exist and survive. The US saw in democracy the medicine of all ills and the Democratic Peace Theory (DPT) states that no two democracies will ever engage in an armed conflict with each other. Liberal international order has propagated the benefits of this theory and the US has spent last few decades creating a democratic world but realist don’t accept this argument because they think that we live in a real world — one in which power is the true and actual currency because when you get in trouble as a nation state there is nobody out there to help you and rescue you.

There are four popular global assumptions I would like to share with the readers. One, today’s world that we know is eminently fragile. Two, the US is a declining power. Three, the current world order has made geography matter less. Four, mass production and consumption will reduce due to global demographic collapse. Now let’s see what makes the world fragile.

Strategic mindset as a cognitive activity produces thought, and bad readers of the situations are the creators of the bad circumstances. Leaders all over the world do everything they do based on two essential sets of thought — moral and strategic.

What President Vladimir Putin has done in Ukraine is morally wrong. Nobody can morally justify that it is permissible to invade and occupy the land of an independent sovereign state. But is Putin’s action strategically wrong? NATOs expansion began in 90s with Poland, Hungry and Czech Republic added as member states in 1999.

The Baltic states of Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia were added in 2004. But it was in 2008 Bucharest NATO Summitt when NATO gave the indication of adding Georgia and Ukraine as members that Russia objected to. Even European powers — Germany and France — disagreed with the idea and former German Chancellor Angela Markel called it a misguided act that would provoke Russia. After the Bucharest Summit, it took Russia 14 years to finally start special military operations in Ukraine. It is up to the Western world to continue to promote the idea of judging Putin’s actions on moral grounds but as long as he strategically acted correctly, his people and nation will stand behind him resolutely in what he has done and continues to do.

When it comes to national interests, strategic and not moral thoughts will guide the decision-making of global leadership. What Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done in Kashmir and what Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu has done in Gaza is reflective of the argument that I am making. So welcome to the fragile future world.

The US cannot be a declining power given two important essentialities — sound economy and suitable demography. Japan has the economy but not the required demography. Both economy and big population are necessary to create, maintain and sustain powerful militaries.

China is the rising power but its population in 2070 will be half of what it is today whereas the US population is likely to increase by more than half in the next two generations. There are many other factors but as an indicator of being a global hegemon, both economy and demographic scales are tilted in the favour of the US. The third assumption which states that order has made geography matter less is clearly attributed to the function of the world order.

The current world order would not have been possible without the transportation of oil around the world. The twin components of this order — globalisation and industrialisation — are massively oil dependent. Geography hardly matters because the order has converted the entire world into a single market.

Multipolarity may result in deglobalisation and regional markets may replace a single global market but for that the regional orders will have to defeat the strategic overwatch of the world order under the US watch, and that will take some geopolitical contestation. The last assumption is the Armageddon assumption of the collapse of mass production and consumption — this being the result of the world that is ageing.

Japan found an answer in resourcing — a concept of building where you sell. It is not just Japan but all the Europe-based companies are following the Japanese trend. It is not the production but the consumption that will stand out in the classic chicken and egg situation of supply and demand. What will the transition of this world look like which will fast depopulate by the end of the century? For 6 millennia the human history agonisingly crawled until it transitioned from carriage to railway to air as means of transportation. Will transport as a great enabler be able to operate in tomorrow’s fragile world? Will the world be able to maintain a production- consumer balance under changed circumstances? What kind of world would we be living in tomorrow? Would we be living in a secure world if strategic implica[1]tions continue to guide world leaders more than moral implications in their decision-making? Will the US and China drift from a high point of their relationship of engagement to a low point of their disengagement and ultimately to disconnect and conflict?

 And lastly, are we prepared to adapt to the coming global demographic change? Countries like Pakistan that missed the indus[1]trial and globalisation buses and are part of the zone of nations that are busy in surviving still have time to utilise both liberalisation and nationalism as great potential assets to recover and improve their political system and to adjust and adapt to the changing times. Else they face an existential threat.

The writer is postdoctoral scholar at the International Affairs Department of Kazan Federal University (KFU) Russia

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