China's Rise, Global Rivalries And Pakistan's Realignment

China's Rise, Global Rivalries And Pakistan's Realignment
Although presently the contours are specifically not clear, it is now etched on the horizon that the unipolar international political order is facing some serious challenges. And it seems that this order can no longer resist the challenges to maintaining the status quo.

Naturally, in the face of complex international politics and relations, as well as the convergence and divergence of states’ and their ruling elites’ interests, the response – particularly by weaker states – in the formative phase of the emerging international order is not a simple and easy task.

As to what shape the emerging order can take in the future: whether it will be bipolar or multipolar, that is also an open question. But currently it is evident that China is in the forefront of this contestation.

Obviously, China, after competing for decades under the slogan of ‘peaceful rise’ and ‘peaceful development,’ is now in a position to contest the status quo.

So far, in the competition phase, China has played well, by focusing on growth, economic development and maintaining internal stability. Besides, its silent but effective diplomacy is also paying dividends. The recent thaw between the two Middle Eastern arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran is a shining feather in the Chinese diplomatic cap, which not only boasted China’s image as a honest reconciler and influencer, but also can lead to the stabilisation of an important region of the Middle East, with its ripple effects on Central and South Asia.

However, the contestation may lead to conflict and confrontation. And in such situations, while keeping in mind the reach and power (both hard and soft) of the West, China may face challenges in the form of both subtle and crude tactics.

Though there might be some divergence between the national interests of the USA and other Western powers – and between various European states themselves – but their core interest to contest and prevent the rising of an Asian power on the world stage is convergent.

Just to problematise the point, they are the main architects of the existing international geopolitical and financial system, which disproportionally goes in their favour. After the Second World War, the Western powers physically abandoned their erstwhile colonies but left political and economic booby traps and landmines behind, which can be activated whenever they feel a threat to their hegemony.

Thus, China’s real test ahead lies in the choice of model and methods that it will follow in the future.

One possibility from the past is the USSR’s model, which, instead of liberating the international political and financial system, was constructing a parallel world or system that was euphemistically described as a ‘building forever under construction.’ More or less, the goal was to replace a hegemon with another hegemon in the name abstract ideology. Unlike the west, the Soviet leadership erred in applying a uniformity approach on its allies. Disregarding the unique social conditions, political structure, requirements and national interests of allied states, the main thrust was following the Soviet centralised model of governance and economic system that reduced its allies to the status of mere camp followers.
So far, in the competition phase, China has played well, by focusing on growth, economic development and maintaining internal stability. Besides, its silent but effective diplomacy is also paying dividends

The foremost challenge for China is to prove and maintain its positive world image as an economic liberator, particularly of the weak states of the Global South. China has to be seen as a power striving for a just political and economic order while adhering to the principles of neither interfering and intervening in the internal affairs of the weak states nor allowing rival powers to do so.

Presently, it seems an uphill task in the face of the immense soft and hard power in the hands of Western powers.

Apart from military power, the Western states still have dominance over international financial institutions and propaganda outlets. The vested interests of the majority of Global South power elites are tied with the West. They amassed their ill-gotten wealth in the Western banks and own properties there. Their children go to Western educational institutions and most of them hold or strive to get nationalities of Western states. Besides, the Western elites have strong cultural bonds and affinities with the rest of the world, particularly with the power elites of the so called Third World.

The only edge China can have to is to play the role of breaking the Western monopoly on resource exploitation which takes place under a cliental model, that benefits the few at the cost of the teeming majority. Poverty is the outcome of their exploitative and cliental model. China would be expected to liberate regional and international trade for the benefit and well-being of the majority who is rolling in poverty.

However, as a citizen of a hard (not strong) state, which came into being at a time when the world had been divided into two blocs in confrontation, and ultimately had been turned into a battleground of the so called Cold War (which was not necessarily so cold for us), I am worried as to whether history is again repeating itself. That is to say: one wonders whether our land is once again going to be the clash point wherein others will reap the benefits of confrontation, but Pashtuns and Afghans will pay its cost through their blood and future. Since the ‘Forward Policy’ and ‘Great Game,’ Pashtun lands had been dehumanised, their social fabrics destroyed, and their political, social and cultural evolution had been capped only for the sake of vested interests of world powers and their local clients.

Subjecting Afghanistan and the Pashtun belt on this side of the Durand Line once again to such inhuman violence and using them as gunpowder by the world powers in their great contestation is not only a slap on the face of the humanity and civilisation but, this time, can also produce unintended but drastic political and geographical consequences for regional states. The fresh wave of violence and terrorism, particularly in the Pashtun and Baloch belts of south-west Pakistan, seems to be the harbinger of a new phase of proxy war between the world powers. Therefore, the regional states, particularly Pakistan, should be very careful. They should refrain from becoming part of this new phase of proxy war. Moreover, the regional states should form new organisations or activate the existing regional blocs to deny safe havens for launching proxy wars. They should stop interfering in each other’s internal affairs and help each other to defuse the fault lines in their respective states.

It is important to understand that if Pakistan’s security establishment really wants to switch from West to East, then they would have to change the existing state paradigm. The existing garrison nature of the state is inherently unable to defuse its various political, socio-economic and ethnic fault lines and chasms to cope with the shocks of switching our international alignment. Pakistan is an even more plural state than China or Iran, with diverse socio-political currents that require a genuine federal-democratic system to sail through the challenges and cope with the present ‘poly-crisis.’