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Thread: Anglosphere redux must confront an infuriated China

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    Default Anglosphere redux must confront an infuriated China

    Anglosphere redux must confront an infuriated China

    Arms race or no, it will reconfigure international relations and at least end the notion that the global power of America and its allies is in terminal decline.

    Sep 21, 2021

    Asad Latif
    The writer is a Singapore journalist

    WRITING in these pages just three months ago, I argued that cultural, political, economic and strategic affinities among the English-speaking nations of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand created the basis for the robust public declaration of a global strategic identity today.

    I had not imagined that that declaration would arrive so soon or take the radically transformative shape of Aukus, the historic security agreement reached by Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States on their common role in the Indo-Pacific.

    Canada and New Zealand are not party to Aukus, which therefore is not a truly Anglospheric project, but its three founding partners nevertheless represent the bulk of the Anglosphere's economic and strategic heft. Its cutting edge will be apparent in Australia possessing the technology and capability necessary to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, among other areas of Anglospheric cooperation.

    For the United States, Aukus reiterates its desire to remain the chief offshore balancer in the Indo-Pacific, particularly after its miserable withdrawal from Afghanistan last month that raised doubts about the remit of the hegemonic stability it could produce and sustain.

    For the United Kingdom, the agreement marks the return of post-Brexit Britain to East of Suez. In 1968, Whitehall declared that it would withdraw troops permanently from east of the Suez Canal. The decision marked late-imperial Britain's military retrenchment from South-east Asia and affected its base in Singapore viscerally.

    Although there is no indication of British military bases re-emerging in the Indo-Pacific, Aukus combines Britain's special relationship with America across the Atlantic and its special ties with Australia in the Pacific.

    Britain is back in post-imperial action, having thrown in its lot decisively with America to shore up Australia as a member of a rejuvenated Anglosphere in all but name.

    Contemporary Australia, which has been torn always between its Pacific geography and its European provenance, has moved now to reaffirm its global identity as an essential pillar of the Anglospheric effort to structure world affairs.

    FRENCH FURY

    So strong is this Anglospheric impulse that it risks undermining relations with the Eurosphere, that triumvirate of power whose political capital is Brussels, economic capital Berlin and military capital Paris.

    Velina Tchakarova of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy fears a split between the Anglosphere and the European Union in dealing with the "Dragonbear" nations of China and Russia. If so, the Anglosphere has broken loose of its strategic ties with the Eurosphere in confronting the Sinosphere and the Slavosphere amid the "emerging bifurcation of the global system".

    "The fact that the US is willing to spend more political capital and invest in security and defence ties with the UK and Australia before reaching out to EU powers is quite revealing," she writes.

    "Reaching out" is an understatement given the extent of French fury at losing a lucrative conventional submarine-building contract with Australia as a result of Canberra's choice of nuclear-powered submarines promised by the Aukus deal. Clearly, once the Anglosphere comes into view, the Eurosphere begins to recede into the strategic distance.

    Of course, to recede is not to disappear. The expansive energies of Russia and its Slavosphere will keep the United States and the United Kingdom engaged in Europe in foreseeable time.

    The American diplomat George F Kennan argued that there are five centres of industrial and military power that are crucial to the national security of the United States: the US itself; the UK; Germany and Central Europe; the Soviet Union; and Japan. Asia is not everything: Asia's place in a shifting world order is. Europe, too, is a key player in that order.

    For Britain, likewise, there is an abiding concern inherited from the geographer Halford Mackinder's warning of the formation of a hostile Eurasian heartland, the geographical pivot of world history which survives periodic readjustments in inter-state relations. Britain must remain a Eurasian player if it has to possess any credibility in the Indo-Pacific.

    For Australia, which fears both strategic abandonment by the rest of the West (read America and Britain) and strategic entanglement with imperious Anglo-American adventurism (as in the illegal invasion of Iraq), the choice between the two evils has been resolved by Aukus. Geographically prodigal Australia has returned to its historical home in Anglo-American time.

    Aukus - Anglosphere redux - now contends with China as the next global hegemon, beginning with Asia.

    CHINESE IRE

    The Anglosphere must confront an infuriated China. Some commentators have warned that Australia will become a target of Chinese nuclear retribution since its nuclear-powered submarines could serve to mount a second nuclear strike on China in the event of a Sino-American war over Taiwan.

    Canberra's reaction appears to be: So be it. There was no guarantee in any case that China would not attack even non-Aukus Australia in such a war, given the presence of the Anzus treaty that ties together the strategic destinies of Australia, New Zealand and the United States. That treaty, like America's treaties with Japan and South Korea, is a source of perpetual ire to China.

    What Aukus does is give Australia a greater stake in its Anglospheric identity than before by giving the Anglo-American axis a greater stake in Australian security. All in all, the Anglosphere has re-entered the Indo-Pacific theatre as a major actor. Whether or not Aukus sparks a major arms race in the region, it will reconfigure international relations at least to the point of destroying the narrative that the global power of America and its allies is in terminal decline.

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    Default Re: Anglosphere redux must confront an infuriated China

    Revive the Anglosphere as a countervailing force

    It would hold a ring of containment around global powers and ensure that other blocs do not set the terms of global history by default.

    Jun 11, 2021

    Asad Latif
    The writer is a Singapore journalist

    IN spite of the massive economic globalisation that followed the end of the Cold War three decades ago, a fragmenting world today faces the possible formation of several power blocs. Such blocs reflect the return of multipolarity to international relations after the bipolar world of the Cold War gave way to a historically unnatural moment of unipolarity belonging to the United States. Emergent power blocs are the reality of today.

    Among the nascent power blocs are the Sinosphere, the Slavosphere and the Eurosphere. What is missing is the Anglosphere.

    The Anglosphere is a potential bloc (which used to exist once) produced by cultural, political, economic and strategic affinity among English-speaking nations. It would consist of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

    It is time to revive the Anglosphere to provide a countervailing force in the global politics of this day.

    The times demand change. Resurgent China and Russia are seeking to reclaim the strategic space that they have ceded to others - China since the end of its rapprochement with the West in the opening years of this century, and Russia even earlier, since the implosion of the Soviet Union in the closing years of the last century.

    Revisionist (that is, anti-status quo) actions undertaken by China in the South China Sea and by Russia in Ukraine in recent years signal their determination to be back on the fractious international stage with a vengeance.

    There is nothing alarming about all this. Great powers such as China and Russia do not retreat to the backwaters of history for long. They seek new streams of power projection. That is what they are doing, quite expectedly.

    Caught between the Sinosphere and the Slavosphere, the Eurosphere is an example of approaching global irrelevance. The European Union has neither the will nor the ability to confront China or Russia to preserve a global balance of power. Europe is a supranational entity which would rather leave the ugly business of containing or fighting off rivals to others (in this case the United States) so as to concentrate on pooling sovereignty ever more closely among its members. That integration might be good for Europe but it means little for the rest of the world.

    NO PUSHOVER

    In these circumstances, a revived Anglosphere would introduce into global politics a countervailing force that it lacks today.

    The Anglosphere would not be a pushover. It would consist of the United States, the pre-eminent economic and nuclear power in the world; Britain (the fifth largest economy which possesses a nuclear deterrent as well); Canada (the ninth largest); Australia (a continental nation that is the 13th largest economy); and New Zealand (the 50th largest economy).

    Geographically and militarily, the United States and Canada oversee the centrality of North America in Atlantic affairs through Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and Australasia represents the Anglospheric presence in Pacific affairs through Anzus, the Australia-New Zealand-United States pact.

    The idea of a revived Anglosphere is so attractive to some that the British historian Andrew Roberts last year floated the notion of shaping the shared social values of the Anglosphere into strategic coherence by forming a kind of federation among the four "Canzuk" countries of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Federation would involve free trade, the free movement of people, a mutual defence organisation and combined military capabilities, and create "a new global superpower" allied to America, "the great anchor of the Anglosphere".

    That would have been a dream with Britain enmeshed in Europe, and with the United States ruled by a viscerally isolationist president. Brexit and the arrival of a redemptive presidency in America offer hope that the two nations might come closer in bringing Canada, Australia and New Zealand on board a new adventure.

    It will not be easy.

    According to the scholar Andrew Mycock, the Anglosphere as it exists nascently now consists primarily of the Five Eyes, a secret intelligence and military network that connects the global dots among Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

    Expanding that network into a public declaration of global strategic identity would not come about easily. The remaining lure of Europe on the one hand and the fear of China on the other would make it difficult to forge an exclusive Anglospheric identity among its constituent nations.

    However, Brexit has taken Britain out of Europe's immensely jealous orbit, and Australia is trying to keep itself out of the even more demanding Chinese one. Canada and New Zealand might not take too long to understand that they cannot defer making choices indefinitely. Those choices have to be anchored in America holding the default balance in shifting international equations.

    A DETERMINING ROLE

    True, pacifists would ask whether the reappearance of the Anglosphere would not amount to the containment of China and Russia. Of course it would, but containment is not a bad strategy. It signifies a wise middle way between appeasement and war. Appeasement feeds the growing appetite of contrarian powers, as Nazi Germany was fed once. War is what it took to stop an insatiable Germany ultimately. When successful, containment avoids war without appeasement. That is a great blessing in a nuclear age.

    The Anglosphere, if revised, would help to hold a ring of containment around revanchist global powers. It would not bring back the unipolar moment in world history when American ascendancy after the Cold War proved to be short-lived. It would not recreate the bipolar world order. All it would do would be to try and ensure that the Sinosphere and the Slavosphere, with a pliant Eurosphere lying between them, do not set the terms of global history by default.

    If, in time to come, today's spheres expand to encompass the Islamosphere (led by whichever power emerges victorious in the Iranian-Saudi Arabian contest) and the Indosphere, the Anglosphere would contribute to ensuring that the world remains recognisably secular and democratic.

    The lessons of two world wars in the last century, in which the Anglosphere played a determining role, are a reminder of its possible agency in avoiding a global war in this century.

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    Default Re: Anglosphere redux must confront an infuriated China

    China and the Asian peace

    In the ongoing US-China contest for influence, one question is of utmost importance to third countries: Which system is more likely to produce peace?

    Asad Latif

    Jul 27, 2021

    The intensifying Sino-US contest is being fought on many fronts.

    The prospects of warfare, for instance, are the preoccupation of those in the military. But there is a broader question that needs to be asked, one that goes beyond the rivalry played out in gross domestic product figures and the number of missiles: Which system is more likely to produce peace? It is a question of the utmost importance to third countries, particularly those that are small.

    One way to answer that question is to consider the clues provided by history.

    It has been argued that relations in East Asia were more peaceful and stable historically than those in the West because a strong China presided over a hierarchical order marked by the tributary system.

    Violence was not absent from the Sinic state system, but it was not created by the constant rivalry of powers without a centre. China provided that centre, from which hegemonic stability radiated outwards.

    The idea of "tianxia", or the harmonious coexistence of all under heaven, was developed during the Zhou dynasty (1045-221BC).

    In that spirit, China dealt with the Nanyang, the lands lying adjacent to the South China Sea that are today's South-east Asia. The great trans-oceanic voyages of Zheng He during the Ming dynasty (1368- 1644) extended China's maritime and commercial footprint far beyond its shores, indeed, all the way to Africa.

    Zheng He commanded seven expeditions almost a hundred years before the Portuguese reached India. On his return to China from one of the voyages, he brought the envoys of over 30 states of South and South-east Asia to pay homage to the Chinese emperor. When Emperor Yongle died in 1424, his successor had other priorities. The fleet was disbanded. However, the tributary system carried on for hundreds of years after.

    Then came Europe. When European powers colonised Asia, they brought with them a different sense of world order. It was based on the absence of a recognised hegemon, a fact that had led to nearly constant conflict on the home continent.

    Colonialism transferred the historical experience of Europe abroad. Colonial wars in Asia reflected the struggle to preserve the balance of power in Europe by using imperial possessions as pawns in extended theatres of conflict generated within Europe.

    Western imperialism and colonialism disrupted the Chinese hierarchic order. Not only that, the Middle Kingdom itself was pushed to the periphery of Asian affairs during the century of its humiliation by Western powers and Japan between 1839 and 1949.

    Key to the evolution of the Western order in Asia was the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648. It created the basis of an international society consisting of the formal equality of sovereign states independent of any external, higher authority. Unfortunately, the sovereign equality of states in the Westphalian system has come to be associated also with ceaseless conflict and periodic war.

    China has re-emerged as a great power today. Its ambitious blueprint for a new world economic and strategic system is mapped by the intercontinental Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Its largesse is distributed through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and myriad bilateral deals with countries throughout the developing world.

    The question now is: Given the tumultuous, warring record of the Westphalian system, why not a Pax Sinica in the form of a contemporary tianxia?

    There is a problem. Unlike during the Zhou and Ming dynasties, the global system today is Westphalian. In fact, China itself invokes Westphalian principles to defend its sovereign prerogatives.

    How then can it employ the benevolent promise of hegemonic peace to prevent smaller states from using the Westphalian principle of equal sovereignty if they feel threatened by the power of a mighty China?

    Faced with a far more powerful actor than themselves, it would be rational for smaller nations to fall back on the balance of power mechanism, a key feature of the Westphalian system, by drawing on the countervailing agency of other great powers to throw a cordon sanitaire around China's hierarchic ambitions.

    Indeed, any Chinese attempt to recreate a pre-Westphalian order by using the existing currencies of statecraft and force would invite a militant response from the West and its global partners, including those in Asia.

    China would serve its own and wider international interests better by proving that the BRI, the AIIB and the SCO offer a better alternative model of global governance than the Western Bretton Woods institutions of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

    The post-World War II system erected by the US is not perfect by any means, but China has not proved its case well either. It has yet to fight off accusations that the BRI represents a form of predatory economics that entraps weaker countries through debt and makes them subservient ultimately to the strategic interests of China. Leftists once thought the same about Bretton Woods and its attendant military systems, but how is the Sinic answer better?

    China has wooed Asean member states with soothing words and vaccines and yet has been muscular in taking control of maritime features and fishing grounds despite rival claims from smaller states in the region. Fishermen from Vietnam and the Philippines have reported being rammed or blasted with water cannon by Chinese vessels. China assured Manila in the 1990s that it was merely erecting a fishermen's shelter on Mischief Reef, located within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. The place now bristles with Chinese bombers and other military planes.

    How to explain that disconnect?

    Perhaps it all boils down to the underlying premise of the hierarchic system. As pithily expressed by then Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the Asean Regional Forum meeting in Hanoi in 2010, "China is a big country and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact".

    As a guiding principle of foreign policy, those words would suggest that the strong do what they will, rather than do what is promised by the official formula of a "community of common destiny".

    Some believe that Mr Yang's remarks acted as a trigger for the American military pivot to the Asia-Pacific region. If China's power is justified by its size, then America's "size", too, should justify the trust that smaller Asian nations invest in it.

    No country desires to be ruled by hegemonic stability based on size, no matter how frayed the Westphalian order might be because of the tensions that prevail among the US and its global partners.

    Instead, China would do well to reject any interest in creating a vertical, hierarchic order and to deploy its vast energies in establishing a horizontal system that would appeal to smaller countries and their peoples. There might be takers for tianxia then, even within the extant realm of Westphalia.

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