by Najmul Ahsan Sheikh;
From the ashes of Soviet Union, we started to see the birth of a new uni-polar world. Then after 9/11, the true colour of uni-polar world becoming clearer with George Bush’s direct threat to the world ‘You are either with us, or against us’! We all know rest of the story, first Iraq invasion, killing millions of people, and then systematic destruction of Libya, and Syria. During these imperial re-colonization period’ rest of the world had no role but sitting idle and watching with utter frustration. Imperial hubris had grown so much, ‘self-declared genius’ US president Donald Trump started to introduce farce proposal like ‘Deal of the century’ for Palestinians and gifted Golan Heights to Israel? We all have learned one thing from history that, like all empires before’ it’s a matter of time US Empire will also collapse. But we didn’t know when!
Before, and after Americans’ have elected Donald Trump as president, I was a staunch supporter of this choice, ‘it’s all about me’ type autocratic president. My strong argument was, to make an empire to implode or collapse; there is a need for genuine incompetent leader. An incompetent leader can, and sooner or later will trigger some events which will make that empire weaker from inside. Empire will lose inner strength, moral high-ground and also will lose direction. In last four years, President Trump has been on the right course of doing deep-division, self-destruction, loosing friends in other side of the Atlantic, and as well as Pacific. Mainland-Europe is now very reluctant to follow US policy blindly in many issues. Traditional US allies like Philippines are getting closer to China. South Korea might be the next.
While US was busy with fighting endless so-called war against terror, it gave China ‘windows of opportunity’ as described in Asia Times after 911. According to the same source, ‘before 911 Washington was buzzing with anti-China rhetoric’. 911 have shifted focus from China to a new enemy. Neo-cons and Israel lobby have been waiting for such an issue. They grabbed that issue instantly. Privately owned media have started beating war-drums and new theory like ‘Clash of Civilization’ has emerged from the wreckage of 911. However, China didn’t waste any time, she knew sooner or later, she’ll have to face USA. In last two decades, China grew-up as world second largest economy and increased her influence around the globe, specially in Africa, Latin America and Asia, mostly through her financial might.
At the same time under skillful leadership of President Vladimir Putin, Russia was able to regain some of her prestige and strength back. Slowly but surely, Russia became a major player in international Geo-politics. Russia foiled US-Israel led and Saudi funded regime change attempt in Syria while making Turkey as an ally! Russia and China also agreed to squeeze out US from their backyard, such as from all former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Both countries have also signed long-term energy supply and military co-operation agreement. Foundation of their friendship and co-operation based on the old principle, ‘enemy’s enemy is my friend’.
Thucydides Trap which, according to Graham Allison, refers to the theory that “when one great power threatens to displace another, war is almost always the result”. Graham Allison is a former director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Interestingly, he didn’t mention anything about role of Russia in this developing Geo-political scenario! Now USA and China are in a collision course which has been fueled by factors/stimulus such as US-China Trade-War and Covid19 related issues. Upcoming Cold War 2 will be fought in two fronts, military and economic front. China already has started to sell US debt, and also started lending money to countries around the globe to increase her influence.
US war on China: According to Fransesco Sisci of Asia Times, ‘Is the world sleepwalking into a new war, be it hot or cold? And is the virus the oil to lubricate and fuel the clash that is centered on China and the US, but impacts the world?’ Besides Taiwan, China’s expansion and creating of few artificial islands in South-China sea, and US rejection of China’s maritime claim on South China sea is another flash point of confrontation.
China has been preparing for asymmetrical war against USA for sometimes. Such as China’s probable use of hypersonic anti-aircraft missile/aircraft killer against US aircraft carriers in and around Taiwan straits. As Michael Evans of The Australian also wrote ‘US would lose Pacific war with China’. As he elaborated as ‘America would be defeated in a sea war with China and would struggle to stop an invasion of Taiwan, according to a series of ‘eye-opening’ war games carried out by the Pentagon’. Now, there is a remote chance that China will back-down from her current course due to US intimidation.
Covid19 and supply chain relocation: According to World Economic Forum, ‘The corona virus crisis has revealed the fragility of the modern supply chain’. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit global trade and investment at an unprecedented speed and scale. Multinational companies faced an initial supply shock, then a demand shock as more and more countries ordered people to stay at home. Governments, businesses and each consumer suddenly struggled to procure basic products and materials, and were forced to face the fragility of the modern supply chain. The urgent need to design smarter, stronger and more diverse supply chains has been one of the main lessons of this crisis.
As companies across the world are forced to examine the cracks in their supply chains in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, they also have to reassess where they locate their on-the-ground operations. USA and her allies are already discussing with countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and India about relocating components of the supply chain. Bangladesh could take serious initiative to join in the bandwagon and could be profited by huge foreign direct investment.
Its’ not very difficult to predict that this Cold-War 2 will be hotter in coming days and months. Frontline countries in far east Asia like Korea’s, Japan and in south-east Asia like Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia will be dragged into this conflict. Australia for sure and New Zealand might be reluctantly get involved in this upcoming Cold-War 2. India and Pakistan definitely will be affected by this new Cold-War 2. This new Cold War will be a blessing to smaller players in the global arena. Their voice will be louder and position will be stronger. It won’t be a one-sided game anymore! Both USA and China will try to pursue above frontline countries to take her side. They will use both Carrot and Stick to lure each country.
What’s for Bangladesh: At the beginning of the USA-China trade war, I disagreed with some pundits that, it won’t be a Zero-sum game for Bangladesh; it will be a positive-sum game for Bangladesh. I was right then; we have seen Chinese and China based companies have started to relocate. Many such companies have already relocated to Syedpur and other places, and many are to follow. By relocating Chinese companies will be able to avoid US tariffs and other punitive measures while taking advantage to different incentives given by USA and Europe to Bangladesh.
Along with US-China trade-war, this looming Cold-War 2 fueled by Covid-19 crisis could be an economic and geo-political blessing for emerging tiger countries like Bangladesh. Bangladeshi exporters might get better incentives to enter US market as financial reward for not joining to Chinese camp. Bangladesh might be able to get more military hardware and financial support from USA in much better terms.
In last couple of years, we have seen there is a fundamental shift in the defense doctrine of Bangladesh. After China’s refusal to supply ammunitions to Bangladesh and veto from China and Russia during Rohingya crisis this doctrine has emerged. Bangladesh is now buying military hardware like Apache helicopters from USA and multiple rocket launchers (MRL) from Turkey to address this situation. Slowly but surely Bangladesh is turning to right.
So far, Bangladesh is one among the few countries able to keep a delicate balance and enjoying good relationship with all five super-powers. In coming days our policy makers should use this looming Cold-War 2 in our advantage and exploit the situation.
Najmul Ahsan Sheikh is a former faculty of International Business, BRAC Business School, he can be reached by e-mail [email protected]