A New World Order is Emerging and Not Before Time

The recent meeting in Samarkand of the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, both actual and prospective, received little coverage in the Western media. This was a great pity because this organisation is one of the most important groupings of nations in the world. The meeting was notable on a number of points. It clearly spelt out for example, that notwithstanding the present conflict in Ukraine, Russia remains an important force in the world and if anything, its position has strengthened in the seven months since it took action in Ukraine.

Despite desperate attempts by the Western media that bothered to report on the conference, the relationship between Russia and China remains very strong, and is, in fact, strengthening by the day. The Americans issued the expected threats that China was risking its position by its continued relationship with Russia, but those threats were ignored by the Chinese who refuse to be intimidated by United States’ threats.

The American position is not assisted by its frankly two-faced approach to Taiwan. On the one hand it professes to follow the one China policy which acknowledges that Taiwan is a legitimate part of China, but on the other hand by its words and actions treats Taiwan as a separate country. The Chinese do not bother to hide their frustration at this two-faced approach. By their every action, including sending fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace, the Chinese are making it increasingly clear that their patience with double standards pursued by the Americans is wearing very thin.

The United States, and its Australian ally, continue its provocative policy of sending their warships into the South China Sea. The ostensible reason for this is to preserve freedom of navigation although neither country can point to a single instance of civilian ships being impeded in any way at any time. The actions are clearly provocative.  Why Australia allows itself to be used in this way remains a mystery. China takes 40% of Australia’s exports and has been its largest trading partner for a number of decades. Its vital interests lie in maintaining a good relationship with China. The frankly provocative actions of successive Australian governments are not conducive to maintaining that relationship. The Chinese provided a clue as to their attitude when they froze the import of several Australian products worth billions of dollars. The new Labor government seems slow to grasp the message that has clearly been sent.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting also sent a number of other clear messages to the world. These included the warm reception given to the Saudi and Turkish delegations. The Turkish case is particularly interesting. Turkey has been a dialogue partner of the SCO for a number of years, but last Saturday the Turkish President Recep Erdogan announced that Turkey was planning to apply for full membership of the SCO in the immediate future.

Membership of the SCO, while clearly of benefit to Turkey, is hardly compatible with its membership of NATO for whom the existence of the SCO represents a challenge. Quite how the Turks plan to maintain their membership of both organisations remains a mystery. Although the SCO has no military component, it is difficult to see how the Turks can maintain membership of both organisations. This is especially true given the hostility shown by NATO to Russia in particular and barely concealed dislike of China and all its activities.

It is not just the SCO which poses a fundamental challenge to the West’s continuing position in the world. A far greater threat to the West’s role in the world is posed by the similarly Chinese inspired Belt and Road Initiative. This organisation now has more than 140 members with representation throughout the world including South America which the Americans have traditionally seen as an integral part of their sphere of influence. Indeed, the Americans have in the past not hesitated to interfere in internal South American politics in the interests of maintaining their hegemony in the region. China’s role in South America poses a fundamental threat to the United States view of “their” region.

The United States monopoly was decisively broken by Brazil’s membership of the BRICS group of nations. Very recently both Iran and Argentina filed official applications to become members of BRICS and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt have also begun the process of joining. Those latter three countries have a combined population of around 220 million people. The Saudis were the world’s largest exporters of crude oil in 2020 and hold around 15% of the world’s oil reserves. Turkey, among other claims, is also the world’s seventh largest exporter of cotton, a critical material in a range of products.

The five original members of BRICS have a combined population of over 3 billion people, which is just over 40% of the world’s population. They account for more than one quarter of the worlds GDP. A neat counterpoint to the BRICS was provided by Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova when she stated, last June, that “while the White House was thinking about what else to turn off in the world, ban or spoil, Argentina and Iran applied to join the BRICS.”

The Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi confirmed his country’s support for Argentina membership of BRICS, and his ministry stated that Argentina’s entry would “strengthen and broaden its voice in defence of the interests of the developing world.”

What we are witnessing is a major reorientation of the world in which the BRICS, SCO and BRI represent the vanguard of change. The old western countries have lost their previous pre-eminent role to this trio of groupings that represent a new way of doing things. The United States does not like the changes that are occurring and will fight tooth and nail to try and preserve its traditional position.

The bulk of the world’s nations have had enough of this old system in which they were ruthlessly exploited. A new world order has emerged and. frankly, is to be welcomed.

James O'Neill is a retired Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He can be contacted at joneill@qldbar.asn.au. Read other articles by James.