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By Jake Ramsamugh
On the 28th February, the Henry Jackson Society welcomed Gideon Rachman to host ‘Easternisation: Asia’s New Domination of the Global Order’ which discussed the findings from his book ‘Easternisation’. Rachman is the Foreign Affairs columnist for the Financial Times and argues that the West’s 500 year domination of the international order is coming to an end.
Rachman begun by explaining why he took an interest in Asian geopolitics. He recalled how, when posted in Bangkok for the Economist in the early 1990s, he was reporting on the economic “boom time” that was occurring the Asia-Pacific region when all eyes were trained on the geopolitical events happening in Eastern Europe. He was sure that with the rate that many Asian countries economies were growing that the geopolitical centre of the world would shift to this zone.
His book takes a look at the current situation. America for the moment is still the dominant power, Rachman states that Obama’s pivot of economic and military assets to the Asia-pacific region demonstrate a carefully orchestrated attempt to stay neutral in regional disputes such as in the South China Sea but at the same time to make sure that it maintains control over the situation and contain China’s growing power.
Rahman’s book not only concentrates on America’s China challenge but also how other states view the rise of China. The historic Chinese-Japanese rivalry threatens to grow and as China gets more assertive over the Senkaku islands, Japan had been hoping to anchor the US economically into the Pacific with the TPP trade deal. However as Trump torpedoed the deal on his first day in office many in Japan’s leadership are concerned for what the future holds in regard to American economic and military support (as are the Koreans). India is also debating it geostrategic future, on the one hand it has territorial disputes with China and is concerned for its growing friendship with Pakistan, and on the other the country has always been wary of allying itself too closely to the United States. With many nations deciding their geopolitical alignments for the next century, Rachman states we have reached the tipping point of the change of the international order.
Rachman concludes that the world is currently in the process of adapting to the new power order. In order to further understand the transition we must look to Africa. Centre of the imperial struggles of the 19th century, home to many Cold War proxy-conflicts in the 20th century and now the focus for much economic investment from not just China, but Japan and India as well. In Europe as well, there are other signs of a geopolitical shift as Turkey drifts away from the EU and looks eastward. In Latin America, Brazil’s largest trading partner has become China, replacing the US.
There are of course many qualifications that may yet stop the total Easternisation of global politics. Rachman notes that Asia is a very divided region with many rival countries that do not have aligned political systems or interests. In addition America’s pivot means that the superpower will have a larger presence in the coming decade and is not about to relinquish its hegemonic role just yet.
The final prediction of the evening was that with Trump’s isolationist but paradoxical desire for the ‘restoration’ of American power, international politics will be about the contest in the Asia-Pacific region and the hope that both powers would avoid falling into Thucydides Trap.
For a full transcript of this event click here