A few days ago I quoted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore who, in his opening address to the Shangri-la 2019 Dialogue,* which is (self) described by the International Institute of Strategic Studies as “Asia’s premier defence summit … [which] … has built confidence and fostered practical security cooperation, by facilitating easy communication and fruitful contact among the region’s most important defence and security policymakers,” said that “there is no irreconcilable ideological divide between the US and China … [because, while] … China may be communist in political structure, but it has adopted market principles in many areas. The Soviets thought to overturn the world order, but China has benefited from and – by and large – worked within the framework of existing multilateral institutions. During the Cold War the communist bloc sought to export communism to the world, but China today is not attempting to turn other countries communist. Indeed, it is often criticised for being too willing to do business with countries and leaders regardless of their reputation or standing, citing non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries … [and] … China has extensive economic and trade links with the rest of the world. It is a major node in the world economy, unlike the USSR, whose economic links outside the Soviet Bloc were negligible … [but, he noted that] … all of the United States’ allies in Asia – including Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Australia – as well as many of its friends and partners, including Singapore, have China as their largest trading partner. They are all allies of the US, friends of the US, but their largest trading partner is China … [therefore] … They all hope … [as should all sane people] … that the US and China will resolve their differences. They want to be friends with both, to nurture security and economic ties with the US as they grow their business links with China … [and he warned that] … In a new cold war … [which I discussed about eight months ago] … there can be no clear division between friend and foe. Nor is it possible to create a NATO or Warsaw Pact equivalent with a hard line drawn through Asia or drawn down the middle of the Pacific Ocean” as was done, in Europe, during the first Cold War.
This is, I believe a key take away, and as I will discuss, tomorrow, it is something with which the small and medium (middle) powers like Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark and Singapore can help. They (we) can help to mitigate the impacts of Cold War 2.0. That there will be a Cold War 2.0 seems almost inevitable … it is not just the Trump Party that wants it; America appears, to me, to be looking for a ‘bogeyman,’ looking for someone to blame for the (according to e.g. Paul Kennedy and John Mearsheimer) equally inevitable “rise” of China** at America’s expense.
America, no matter who leads it, will not be able to “contain” China the way the US-led West contained the USSR from 1947 … the global trading regime and naked self-interest, especially on the part of America’s Asian allies, means that China cannot be pressured, economically, as the USSR was. Asia wants America to remain as a bulwark against Chinese expansion … at least, I suspect, until India is able to do that for its fellow Asians. Europe, as it grows larger and larger, becomes less and less integrated and a pan-European, even a Franco-German foreign policy seems impossible. America appears intent on pushing its traditional allies (Australia, Britain, Canada, etc) aside and “going it alone,” à la Gary Cooper facing down the bad guys, all alone. That was not how it was in the 1950s and ’60s … America was rich with firm friends, even France, until de Gaulle, was as pro-American as France can ever be “pro” anything that is not 100% French, and Italy, Germany and Japan, so recently bitter enemies were now trusted allies. The non-aligned world, while suspicious of both the great powers, was, broadly and generally, more open to America than to the USSR and communist China.
The small and middle powers are, increasingly, splitting into two camps: the liberal (and their friends the small handful of conservative) democracies, and the illiberal nations ~ some democracies, some not ~ like Argentina, Brazil, France, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico, Spain, South Africa, Thailand, Venezuela, etc, and this makes effective policy coordination more difficult.
I anticipate that China and Russia will be cautious collaborators in “attacking” the liberal West, which includes Japan and South Korea … not because they are, in any way, natural allies (in fact they are natural enemies) but rather because it suits their temporary, short term interests.
I also anticipate that affairs in the Middle East and Africa will go, continuously, from bad to worse ~ worse than even the pessimists expect. I am not certain that America and Iran can avoid conflict and my guess is that Russia and Turkey will support Iran just to make mischief. My second guess is that Saudi Arabia and Egypt amongst other Arab states, will ask Israel to “do something” about Iran’s nuclear programme and Israel will be sorely tempted, no matter who forms the next Israeli government …
… I can see nothing but turmoil and trouble from Algeria to Afghanistan.
Canada needs to find friends in a rough world. America is our first and most obvious friend, but America, not just Trumpian America, is (has been for several years) in a High Noonish sort of mood and shuns its friends and allies. Europe is, increasingly, too preoccupied with its own growing internal divisions to take a united stand for or against anything much.
But Canada has some traditional allies, too. First, the Government ~ hopefully a new Conservative government ~ should revisit Erin O’Toole’s idea of getting at least parts of the CANZUK proposal off the ground. Even more important, and this will, certainly, require a new government in Ottawa, a grownup government led by adults, Canada must repair and then strengthen strategic (trade and policy and defence) ties with India which is, or can be if it can lick some serious internal problems, a rising superpower in its own right. Canada must, as I have said, adopt a Pacific Strategy, but it must go a lot farther than I suggested a few years ago.
Canada should not join any ‘arrangements’ or groupings that aim to contain or counter-balance ( or “soft-balance” ~ about which more tomorrow) either China or America. The goal must be to bring both to their senses and to ensnare both in the web of agreements and organizations that people like Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, Louis St Laurent and Dwight Eisenhower set up in the 1940s and ’50s.
Cold War 2.0 cannot be, as Prime Mister Lee explains, anything like the first Cold War. China is not the USSR; it’s strategic aims are different; the West’s aims must be different too. The goal is not “defeat” or even to “contain” China, no matter what Donald Trump, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo might say. It is to accommodate China’s “rise” within the generally peaceful global system and to work with China to defuse tensions in other unstable regions … for the common good or all mankind.
Just 60 years ago, in 1959 China was a social and economic basket case and America and the Soviet Union were the most powerful nations the world had ever seen. Just 40 years later China’s rise was well established and it was on its way to being an economic (and military) giant. America was not in “decline” in 1999 but huge social and economic changes were occurring, spurred on by the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, and the amazing growth of the Internet and the information age which, coincidentally, started with the “invention” of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee also in 1989. The information age has made the world immeasurable
smaller more connected, distances and languages no longer separate us from the concerns of others. But words and images can be manipulated, too. A lot has changed since the last Cold War … the new one will not be the same. In 1959 President Eisenhower was fairly confident that his adaptation of the Truman strategy, to “grow” American prosperity while the USSR struggled to establish military dominance, would win the day. in 2019 it is not clear that President Trump’s strategy is going to achieve anything at all.
America does not have a grand alliance to face China in Cold War 2.0. In fact, Prime Minister Lee suggested that America’s friends in Asia ~ and it has lots ~ will be unwilling to jeopardize their trade with China just to satisfy the less than coherent Trump strategy. China does not have a grand alliance either. Russia is a fair-weather friend, at best. India is also “rising.” China can dominate East Asia but it is not clear that it can or even wants to be a global (military) superpower.
The task for the West, for the liberal West beyond the USA, is to do what can be done to restrain America, China and Russia as they punch wildly at one another. America is the guarantor of Canada’s security, sovereignty and prosperity. America has been, for almost a century Canada’s best friend. China and India offer HUGE markets for Canada’s goods and services. Europe, though highly protectionist, is still a reliable trading partner and competitor. Asia is where the big economic opportunities are, for now; Africa is where they will be for the next generations. Canada can and should play a constructive, even a leading role amongst the small and middle powers in restraining Cold War 2.0.
* Named for the gorgeous Shangri-la Hotel in Singapore, where the conference has been held since 2002.
** It is (perhaps) interesting to note that the greatest imperial European powers Greece, Rome, the Italian city-states, Spain, France and Britain did not “rise again,” while China was, (between 2,500 and 500) years ago, one of the globes greatest ever powers and then it fell and stagnated and is, now, rising again.