The US-dominated world order is being challenged by a new spirit of independence in the global south
Wednesday March 15, 2006
The prospect that Europe and Asia might move towards greater independence has troubled US planners since the second world war. The concerns have only risen as the “tripolar order” – Europe, North America and Asia – has continued to evolve.
Every day Latin America, too, is becoming more independent. Now Asia and the Americas are strengthening their ties while the reigning superpower, the odd man out, consumes itself in misadventures in the Middle East.
Regional integration in Asia and Latin America is a crucial and increasingly important issue that, from Washington’s perspective, betokens a defiant world gone out of control. Energy, of course, remains a defining factor – the object of contention – everywhere.
China, unlike Europe, refuses to be intimidated by Washington, a primary reason for the fear of China by US planners, which presents a dilemma: steps toward confrontation are inhibited by US corporate reliance on China as an export platform and growing market, as well as by China’s financial reserves – reported to be approaching Japan’s in scale.
In January, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah visited Beijing, which is expected to lead to a Sino-Saudi memorandum of understanding calling for “increased cooperation and investment between the two countries in oil, natural gas and investment”, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Already much of Iran’s oil goes to China, and China is providing Iran with weapons that both states presumably regard as deterrent to US designs. India also has options. India may choose to be a US client, or it may prefer to join the more independent Asian bloc that is taking shape, with ever more ties to Middle East oil producers. Siddharth Varadarjan, the deputy editor of the Hindu, observes that “if the 21st century is to be an ‘Asian century,’ Asia’s passivity in the energy sector has to end”.
The key is India-China cooperation. In January, an agreement signed in Beijing “cleared the way for India and China to collaborate not only in technology but also in hydrocarbon exploration and production, a partnership that could eventually alter fundamental equations in the world’s oil and natural gas sector”, Varadarjan points out.