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China looks set to derail Western hegemony

September 5, 2023 at 8:49 am

Chinese President Xi Jinping on August 24, 2023 [HandoutBRICS/Anadolu Agency]

Like quite a few of its presidential candidates and politicians, there is something decrepit and decaying about the American Empire that reflects its position in the world today. An old Scots term — a “shoogly peg” — just about sums up the terminal decline, precarious position and lack of credibility of the US and its allies perfectly.

A shoogly peg is something that is insecure and could topple at any moment. This could fit either of the expected US presidential candidates perfectly — Joe Biden is already 80, and Donald Trump is hardly a youngster at 77 — but what I’m really referring to is the new world order rolling out as gingerly as Biden’s uncertain footsteps over the bold, royal blue carpet in the Oval Office.

The fall of an empire as large and complex as America’s has become a rather long, drawn-out affair; it’s a slow road full of bumps and potholes created by lies, corruption, inhumanity, injustice and never-ending wars. There is no single cause. From Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan millions have been killed in ruthless, indiscriminate bombing campaigns and drone attacks, but the many innocent dead are coming back to haunt the global superpower.

This weekend I felt the full impact of that decline at a conference of Afghans who now live in exile in London bemoaning the fact that the country they still call home is failing badly. With not a Taliban supporter in sight, it was clear that those who turned up had lost their faith in the promises made by Washington and the West.

We were reminded of Biden’s statement on 8 July 2021 and the chaotic US retreat the following month when he urged Afghans to stand up and fight. “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build,” said the US president. “And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.”

Well, they did decide and, like the Palestinians in Gaza who voted for Hamas in the “full and fair” 2006 democratic election, their wishes were not respected. As a result, an entire population is suspended in the indefinite limbo of UN sanctions and trade restrictions which are crippling the country. 

With the exception of Germany after World War Two, America and its European allies have never become nation-builders or gone to war with countries that have subsequently benefitted from US and NATO invasions, illegal or otherwise.

It is a miracle and testimony to the strength of character of the Palestinians that Palestine still exists, although it is ignored and airbrushed from maps by some Western corporations, including Google. The tech giant admits that it doesn’t show Palestine’s borders because there isn’t an international consensus on where they are located. In other words, Israel has stolen so much land that it’s impossible to draw borders. Google could also have pointed out, but didn’t, that Israel is unique among UN member states in that it has never declared where its own borders are. It has been growing steadily with land grab after land grab for 75 years and isn’t finished yet. 

Furthermore, Israel must be watching the slow death of America as a superpower with growing dismay and wondering about its own future as the US and G7 countries decline in stature and status. The apartheid state has failed in its mission to have Iran blitzed despite cosying up to Saudi Arabia, although Tel Aviv needed very little persuasion to be one of the main cheerleaders of the 2003 US-led invasion and war in Iraq.

“For years,” wrote Ethan Bronner and Henry Meyer in a recent Time Magazine article, “Israel has considered a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat, and directed its energies to confront it and its regional proxies in Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian areas.” Some subtle propaganda is at play there, with “Palestinian areas” used, and not the internationally-recognised “Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

The coming together of an expanded BRICS, with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa joined by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina and Egypt was probably not well received in Tel Aviv. A bigger BRICS bloc is also a sign of the emerging superpower that is China, and a failing US and G7. Many in the US Congress apparently see this as the beginning of a New Cold War. The very notion that China’s economy is growing is viewed as a threat by Washington, so the obvious response is to “develop new weapons and stockpiles to project power, preserve our global influence, and protect our forces, including in space and cyberspace,” said Republican Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin.

Like Israel, America sees any good news about its perceived enemy as a threat to national security. It’s not hard to see that others around the world despair at this paranoia, much of which has been spawned by Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) brand. 

In my speech to the Afghan emigres in London, I mentioned  that the first Russian train carrying commercial goods had arrived in Iran, en route to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This journey was the first of its kind through Iranian territory, as reported in MEMO last week.

The huge significance of this seems to have largely bypassed most of the Western media. As the cargo train roared through the Incheh-Boroun border crossing with Turkmenistan, heading to the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas on the coast, journalists were silent. This sort of self-censorship — or perhaps it’s something more sinister — is not what good journalism should be about. They simply erase anything and everything that may have an ounce of good news for Russia and Iran.

I believe without any exaggeration that the train carrying a mere 36 containers through Iran dealt a massive blow to the last-gasp vestiges of Western hegemonic ambitions. I only wish that Tehran would ease the pressure on its young people, especially the women. Social instability in Iran is its biggest weakness, not the useless, US-driven sanctions.

By now that train will have passed through Iran as part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) presenting itself as a worthy rival to the Suez Canal following a historic deal between Russia and Iran. At a time when the British government is making front-page news signing minor and modest trade deals following Brexit, it is alarming that the major news operations in the UK have never even heard of the INSTC.

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Letting this particular train take the strain is probably greener and more environmentally friendly than sending goods via Egypt’s Suez Canal because delivery times are cut by several days. It will also allow Russia to export goods to Saudi Arabia while reducing customs tariffs to almost half the normal amount.

Tel Aviv must be extremely unhappy that Riyadh is dealing with Moscow in this way as well as the Zionist state’s sworn enemy, Iran. Frankly, I’m surprised that the train was not sabotaged, or worse, on its way to Saudi Arabia. However, with seismic political meddling in Pakistan to unseat and then jail Imran Khan; destabilising Africa where military coups are a contagion; and the usual interference in Latin American affairs, I guess that the US has overstretched itself too much to worry about a train.

Russia reckons that its trade with Saudi Arabia is worth $5 billion, and points out that bilateral trade and economic relations are characterised by positivity. The amount of investment and the expansion of the INSTC is nothing short of astonishing.

While both Russia and Iran are under crippling sanctions imposed by the US and its allies, a new Eurasian Century is opening up to Russia. And now that the BRICS economy is bigger than the whole of the G7, the balance of power is definitely changing.

The days of looking to the West as a standard for human rights, nation-building and military might have gone. If this brand of globalisation and economic regional integration continues then I humbly forecast that Eurasia and the Middle East are on schedule to become real economic contenders.

On the back of this, bearing in mind the geography and proximity to regional powers, Afghanistan is set to benefit. Powers like China, Brazil, India and the other BRICS members are no longer heading Westwards in the trade war.

If the US is to arrest its own decline then it needs a vibrant, strong, dynamic leader who doesn’t look for solutions down the barrel of a gun in the search for peace; and the people of America can do without a president whose main concern in office is to support the vicious Israeli war machine while more and more Americans fall into poverty.

The Russians are still simmering over the EU reaction in terms of sanctions over Ukraine, but now, it seems, anyone hooking up with Moscow can see a great economic future. Central Asia, including Iran, is determined not to be left behind; I believe that we shall soon see signs of rapid development there.

Of course, all of this dovetails nicely with China President Xi Jinping’s colossal Belt and Road Initiative. He visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, and the focus was, predictably, on Ukraine and Russia’s war. Beijing released a document titled “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis”. It contained 12 points for achieving a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia but, reading between the lines, it was clear that Xi was telling the West to ditch its Cold War mentality.

It was also clear that China is not happy about NATO expansion and called for “all countries” — code for the UN — to intervene and work for peace and stability in the Eurasian region.

The resumption of peace talks between Kiev and Moscow may seem like mission impossible, but when the head of the next emerging superpower promotes peace then it would be wise to listen. The UN must put on its Big Boy pants and be active in preparing the conditions for peace talks. China obviously does not see the US, Europe and NATO taking control of the dialogue on this as they have done so many times with other conflicts. They are part of the problem, not the solution.

In the Middle East, the Palestinians must be hoping and praying that President Xi rolls up his sleeves and starts to look for a solution to their long-running existential crisis. This is not inconceivable when you consider that both the late Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas enjoyed the red-carpet treatment in China; and Beijing does not believe that Hamas being in charge of the Gaza Strip — having won the 2006 Palestinian election — is something orchestrated by the Devil. China officially supports the creation of a “sovereign and independent Palestinian state” based on the 1967 border (in reality, the 1949 Armistice Line) with East Jerusalem as its capital.

While Tel Aviv clearly holds the White House in the tight grip of a Zionist political occupation, it has little to zero influence in Beijing which views the tiny occupation state as a major threat to world peace because of its war of words against Iran.

Arguably the most important issue to consider is China’s support for conflict resolution driven by the UN rather than the US, EU and NATO. Sadly, and rather predictably, the West’s response to China’s 12-point peace plan went down rather badly in Western corridors of power. Some have even accused Xi of trying to split Western unity, which simply illustrates the paranoia in Bonn, Paris, London, Brussels and Washington. 

Western unity is another word for Western hegemony, and it is increasingly clear from anti-war marches, climate and eco-warriors, and other global activists that we’ve all had enough of it. It’s time for real regime change, because the world is changing. This means that Iran also has to change; to make things easier for its people. 

It is regrettable that for this to happen so many people have had to die in Ukraine, but perhaps we still have time to salvage some semblance of justice and goodness from the barbarity of war. We need a world with more development and opportunity for everybody, not just the privileged few in the West. And we might just see that if China really does manage to get a seat at the global superpower table, and derail Western hegemony in the process.

READ: China to strengthen military cooperation with Iran

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.