The rise of Asia and the polarisation of global forces: western galaxy and Bandung constellation

Darwis Khudori, Indonesian Architect and Historian, Director of Master’s Degree in Exchanges with Asia, University Le Havre Normandy, France.

A sketch of ideas for a global future

By Darwis Khudori

“That Asia has ‘risen’ in the world economy since at least 1960, and especially since 2000, is a proposition that is widely accepted” (Immanuel Wallerstein, The Rise of Asia in the World Economy, GIS Réseau Asie – French Network for Asian Studies, September 2012). For Kishore Mahbubani “The rise of the West transformed the world. The rise of Asia will bring about an equally significant transformation. […] The rise of Asia will be good for the world” (Kishore Mahbubani, The Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East, USA, Public Affairs, 2008). However, Rehman Sobhan warned, “This transformation in the world economic order will not be painless either for the East or for the West. Indeed, the transition has the potential for causing much grief to the world as no established order is likely to cede its hegemony without challenge. […] The significant point of departure during this phase of transition lies in the fact that the receding economic power of the West (also more broadly classified as the North), dominated by the United States (US), remains and is likely to remain in the immediate future the dominant military power. […] This erosion of the economic power of the West while retaining military dominance with the US and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, does not bode well for an easy transition for the global order. […] How far the hitherto dominant West will go to preserve their hegemony over their economic order remains critical in determining whether the Asian century will evolve peacefully or through a process of turmoil” (Rehman Sobhan, ”The Political Economy of the Asian Century” in Manoranjan Mohanty, Vinod C. Khana, Biswajit Dhar (eds.) with a foreword by Boutros-Boutros Ghali, Building a Just World. Essays in Honour of Muchkund Dubey, India, New Delhi, Orient Black Swan, 2015).

We have been witnessing the symptoms of those statements through the offensive and defensive measures of the West, especially USA and their allies NATO members, in the forms of reproaches, denunciations, condemnations, criticisms, blames, black campaigns, threats, sanctions, blackmails, trials, embargo… towards rising countries not-allied to them, especially China. These symptoms raise questions: What else? Till when? What’s next?

 

The top ten largest economic entities in the world

Most, if not all, of the forecasts of global economic order until 2060, whatever the sources, private consultants (such as PwC) or interstate institutions (such as OECD and IMF), tell a similar story, such as: “six of the seven largest economies in the world are projected to be emerging economies in 2050 led by China (1st), India (2nd) and Indonesia (4th). The US could be down to third place in the global GDP rankings while the EU27’s share of world GDP could fall below 10% by 2050. UK could be down to 10th place by 2050, France out of the top 10 and Italy out of the top 20 as they are overtaken by faster growing emerging economies like Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam respectively…” (https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/economy/the-world-in-2050.html checked 25/04/2020)

The global order of the top 10 economic size till 2050 according to PwC is following:

2030: China, USA, India, Japan, Indonesia, Russia, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, UK

2050: China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Japan, Germany, UK

The IMF gives the following version:

2024: China, USA, India, Japan, Indonesia, Russia, Germany, Brazil, UK, France

(https://knoema.fr/tbocwag/gdp-forecast-by-country-statistics-from-imf-2020-2024 checked 25/04/2020)

The Economist offers the following forecast:

2050: China, USA, India, Indonesia, Japan, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, UK, France

(The Economist, Long-term macroeconomic forecasts Key trends to 2050, A special report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, https://espas.secure.europarl.europa.eu/orbis/sites/default/files/generated/document/en/Long-termMacroeconomicForecasts_KeyTrends.pdf checked 25/04/2020)

The World Economic Forum tells the following story:

2050: China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Japan, Germany, UK

(World Economic Forum, These will be the most powerful economies in the world by 2050, 2017, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/these-will-be-the-most-powerful-economies-in-the-world-by-2050 checked 25/04/2020)

While the OECD proposes the following order:

2060: China, India, USA, Indonesia, Japan, Turkey, Germany, Brazil, UK, Mexico

(OECD Data, GDP Long-term Forecast, 2018, OECD (2018), GDP long-term forecast (indicator), https://data.oecd.org/gdp/gdp-long-term-forecast.htm checked 25/04/2020)

Unpredictable pandemics do not seem to change fundamentally those forecasts. In the contrary, in the case of Covid-19, the pandemic seems to strengthen Asian economy vis-à-vis the West. According to Kishore Mahbubani, “The West’s incompetent response to the pandemic will hasten the power-shift to the East” (The Economist, April 20, 2020). He wrote even that “The pandemic could thus mark the start of the Asian century.” He put forward that “The crisis highlights the contrast between the competent responses of East Asian governments (notably China, South Korea and Singapore) and the incompetent responses of Western governments (such as Italy, Spain, France, Britain and America). The far lower death rates suffered by East Asian countries is a lesson to all. They reflect not just medical capabilities, but also the quality of governance and the cultural confidence of their societies.”

Those projected data and remarks raise questions: how will take place the process of growing together among the top ten largest economic entities in the world during the coming twenty, thirty or forty years? Will it be peaceful and calm, or in the contrary tense and full of turmoil? What is their respective wish for the global future? Do they share the same dream? Do they have the same aspiration, idea, project, or conception of the future global governance?

I want to play a role of Buddha’s mother who wished his son to be a great king so that what really happened was the contrary: he became a Buddha, a sage, an ascetic, who renounced the power, the property and the attachment to anything, and chose sufficiency. I wish the process to be tense and full of turmoil so that what will really happen be a sustainable world full of peace, justice and prosperity.

 

G7 and E7, OLDEFOS and NEFOS

Those forecasts reveal interesting points, at least two for the purpose of this essay:

1) The grouping of the global economic powers into two: G7 (US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy) and E7 (China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Mexico and Turkey). “G” for “Government” and “E” for “Emerging”. This indicates the primacy of bipolarity in global affairs despite the spreading discourses of multipolarity in world order following the end of the Cold War.

2) The term “Emerging”. It reminds me to the global geopolitical context formulated in the 1960s. It was Soekarno, the president of Indonesia, who proposed at the first time the word “emerging” in global geopolitics. According to him, the world was polarised between NEFOS (New Emerging Forces) and OLDEFOS (Old Established Forces). In his words, “New Emerging Forces are gigantic forces consisting of progressive nations and groups willing to build a New World full of justice and friendship among the nations, a New World full of peace and well-beings, a New World without imperialism, colonialism and exploitation de l’homme par l’homme et de nation par nation. New Emerging Forces consist of oppressed and progressive nations. New Emerging Forces consist of Asian, African and Latin American nations, socialist nations and progressive groups in capitalist states. New Emerging Forces consist of at least 2.000.000.000 human beings” (Soekarno, Genta Suara Revolusi Indonesia, speech celebrating Indonesian independence on August 17, 1963). Soekarno perceived the international order as an antagonism of two forces, not based on geographical boundaries or ideological stands (East-West or Capitalism-Communism), but more on the economic mode of production — which reminds us to Samir Amin’s theory of “Centre-Periphery” in global capitalism. In Soekarno’s view, the root cause of international tensions lay in imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, and not in the Cold War ideological enmity. The ideas of NEFOS and OLDEFOS became the doctrine of the Indonesian politic during the Soekarno years of 1960-1965. They were a part of the “grand design” of Indonesian socialism, together with other doctrines such as BERDIKARI (self reliance), TRISAKTI (political sovereignty, economic self-reliance, cultural self-assertion), NASAKOM (the united force of Nationalism, Religion and Communism), RESOPIM (Revolution, Socialism, National Leadership), etc. The radical stand of Soekarno led Indonesia away from the West, especially the USA and closer to the East, especially China. It is in this context that Indonesia organised GANEFO (Games of the New Emerging Forces) in 1963 as alternative to Olympic Games perceived by Soekarno as dominated by OLDEFOS. It involved 2700 athletes from 51 countries of Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. The most radical measure taken by Soekarno was the withdrawal of Indonesia from its UN membership in 1965 as a protest against the OLDEFOS perceived by Soekarno as dominating the UN. In its place, Soekarno founded the conference of New Emerging Forces (CONEFOS). However, before its realisation, the famous tragedy of September 30, 1965, happened: seven generals were kidnapped and assassinated, the Communist Party was accused to be the author, the Army under General Soeharto took over the power, Soekarno was put into a house arrest until his death, the Communist Party was dissolved, Communism, Marxism, Leninism were banned, hundreds of thousands of communists and their close relatives were massacred. The story of NEFOS ended together with the end of Soekarno’s rule. Later on many studies revealed the support of Western countries, especially the US and the UK, to the Indonesian military faction under the commandment of Soeharto in destroying Indonesian communism and overthrowing Soekarno.

It is interesting that the grouping proposed in the forecasts into G7 and E7 corresponds to Soekarno’s OLDEFOS and NEFOS. The difference may lay on the fact that E7 are not “oppressed and progressive nations” (any more) as they were formulated in the 1960s. Yet, the root question remains: do G7 et E7 share the same dream?

There is no exact and single answer to the question. However, there are discourses spread in the media worldwide about what the future organisation of the world should be. I think some discourses must correspond to the dream of one group or the other.

 

Global Rebalancing and Global Restructuring

I found the terms “Global Rebalancing” and “Global Restructuring” proposed by Manoranjan Mohanty fit very well with the questions.

On the first, Manoranjan Mohanty wrote: “When economies such as those of China, India and Brazil picked up momentum with high rates of economic growth while the western economies entered into one phase of crisis after another, the global agencies dominated by the World Bank talked of the need to rebalance the global economy and politics. It meant incorporating the fast developing countries into the existing international economic and political order. This process started with the industrialized countries G-7, for a time G-8, inviting a set of big economies from Asia, Africa and Latin America to an extended meeting whenever they met. In the wake of the 2008 sub-prime crisis in US and then globally, this took a new conceptual form with the coming of G-20. This meeting of the twenty largest economies of the world has since then met every year to address issues of international finance, trade and other global issues” (Manoranjan Mohanty, “Bandung spirit and the new Indian regime” in Latin America in Movement, ALAI, 03/06/2015, https://www.alainet.org/en/articulo/170099 checked 25/04/2020).

And on the second: “That vision aims at restructuring the world political economy and having a participatory, decentralized, self-governing, equitable world order take shape. The goal is to replace the Bretton Woods financial system and the ‘Cold War’ military bloc and alliance politics and the West-dominated cultural and educational order. The perspective of global restructuring aims at democratizing power relations at every level, grass-roots level, national and global levels to promote conditions of equality, dignity and fulfilment of material, cultural and political aspirations of all people and all regions” (Manoranjan Mohanty, ibid.).

So, what discourse must correspond to what dream of one group or the other?

It is clear that “Global Rebalancing” corresponds perfectly to the dream of G7. More than a dream, it was a project of G7 par excellence translated into different measures such as the formation of G20 and the call for “Global Rebalancing” by World Bank, IMF, Davos, business media and other tools of theirs. On the other hand, “Global Rebalancing” corresponds also to the dream of E7 since it does not bother their economic development and it increases their prestige of being among the greatest and powerful of the world. The dominant elites of E7 seem to enjoy their meeting with the dominant elites of G7 in the G20 gatherings.

As for “Global Restructuring” in the sense proposed by Manoranjan Mohanty, it must not correspond at all to the dream of G7 because it entails their lost of control over the global governance. Must it correspond to the dream of E7? I suppose it must be yes! Otherwise, the game is over and the thesis of Fukuyama “The End of History and the Last Man” is confirmed! So, if yes, what must be the consequence?

 

Western Galaxy and Bandung Constellation

The global bipolarity persists. However, E7 are not NEFOS (any more). So, we need another narrative.

I propose to borrow some terms from the Astronomy: “galaxy” and “constellation”.

G7 are like a galaxy: huge, consisting of stars, suns, planets, satellites, meteors, comets, dust, gas… turning around a mysterious core (black-hole?) at its orbit and expanding continuously, following a law of gravitation. In case of G7, I call its law “capitalism”, its motivation “material profit”, its doctrine “accumulation by dispossession” and its core the “West”. That is why I propose to name the galaxy “Western”. It is more symbolic and historical rather than geographical although it has some degrees of geography, the Western Europe being the cradle of capitalism. It does not matter whether its member is not situated geographically in Western Europe like Canada, USA, Australia or Japan. Like a galaxy, Western Galaxy has its history. Samir Amin proposed to present the history of capitalism into three periods: Gestation (around 11th-18th centuries: transition from Tributary System to Capitalism, from Chinese, Arabo-Persian, Ottoman Empire to European Mercantilism, European conquest of America, Europe-Africa-America slave trade, slavery in America, genocide of indigenous people of America); Maturity (around 18th-19th centuries: British Industrial Revolution, French Revolution, European conquest of Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania, genocide of indigenous people of Australia); and Decline (around 19th century up to the present: Monopoly Capitalism, WWI, 1929 Crisis, Nazism, Fascism, WWII, Cold War, Fall of East Block, Globalised-Generalised-Financialised Globalisation known as Neo-Liberal Globalisation, 2008 Crisis…) (Samir Amin, diverse books and articles, such as Eurocentrism, Global History, Trajectory of Historical Capitalism, etc.). It is this system that produced Western European conquest of the world, Genocide of indigenous peoples especially in America and Australia, Transatlantic Europe-Africa-America Slave Trade and Slavery in America, Colonialism of Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America, WWI, Great Depression of the 1930-s, Nazism, Fascism, WWII, Holocaust, NATO, Wall Street, Bretton Woods, World Bank, IMF, Apartheid, American War in Vietnam, Washington Consensus, American War in Iraq, Davos, Sub-prime-generated Crisis…

During the colonial period, Western Galaxy used five modes of domination for its development: 1) Territorial control over the colonies; 2) Exploitation of the people and the territory of the colonies for the benefit of the West; 3) Imposition of political, cultural, social and economic model to the colonies; 4) Racial discrimination in the colonies; 5) Peopling (occupying the colonial territory by people from the West). With the independence of the last Western colonies in Africa and Asia, these five modes of domination were not used any more, at least not directly.

After the colonial era, Western Galaxy tries to maintain its domination of the world by monopolising the control over five fields: 1) Sciences and Technology; 2) Information, Communication, Media; 3) Financial System and Institutions; 4) Weapons of Mass Destruction; 5) Control over access to natural resources. At present, Western Galaxy is still dominant in this matter but not absolutely. Significant progresses outside the control of Western Galaxy in one or the other of those five fields have been taking place and provoking hostile reactions from Western Galaxy. That is the reason behind the tensions around Chinese 5G and Huawei (against the Western monopoly control over Sciences and Technology, and over Information, Communication, Media), North Korean and Iranian Nuclear Technologies (against the Western monopoly control over Weapons of Mass Destruction), Russian presence in the Middle East (against the Western monopoly control over Access to natural resources).

As for E7, they resemble more a constellation rather than a galaxy: a group of stars that forms an imaginary profile in the sky (such as Andromeda/the Chained Maiden, Apus/The Bird of Paradise, etc.). While the existence of a galaxy is based on a system, that of a constellation is on an imagination. Moreover, a star alone cannot make a constellation. Only together with others, a star can contribute to the formation of a constellation. These characteristics seem to correspond to E7: a group of countries representing a diversity of political and economic systems, yet sharing at certain level a common history, that is being dominated by Western Galaxy and/or suffering from its behaviour. As for its name, I call it “Bandung”, which has multiple layers of meanings. It was a conference that took place in Bandung, Indonesia, on April 18-24, 1955, gathering 29 newly independent countries of Asia and Africa. It was the first time in history, the biggest international conference outside the UN, representing 2/3 of mankind, organised outside the Western world, outside the two blocs of superpowers. It was a crystallisation of five-century struggle for liberation from colonialism and imperialism, the birthday of the Non-Aligned Movement, the entering of the Third World into the international politic. It gave birth to a common conscience of humanity called “Bandung Spirit” that may be summarised in five keywords: 1) Peaceful coexistence (among nations, diverse political and economic systems, diversity of cultures, religions, living-beings, biodiversity); 2) Liberation (of the world and the people from any kind of domination); 3) Equality (among races, nations, ethnic groups, gender); 4) Solidarity (towards the poor, the colonised, the exploited, the oppressed, the dominated, the handicapped); and 5) Emancipation (based on people’s interests and sustainable perspective). It provoked multiple worldwide manifestations: conferences, cultural festivals, social and solidarity movements, associations/organisations/institutions, business fora, research institutes, study centres, academic periodicals, news magazines… in the spirit of Bandung, including the historical Belgrade Conference of Non-Aligned Nations and Havana Tricontinental Conference… All of these make what I call “Bandung Constellation”. Its contours are moving, but its core is stable, “Bandung Spirit” and its richness inexhaustible, “Imagination”. Its force is not neither economic nor military, but “moral”, as it was declared by its founders in Bandung. Remember, the American war in Vietnam and the Apartheid in South Africa were ended, not because of economic or military forces, but thanks to “global moral forces”.

The E7 countries are explicitly or implicitly a part of Bandung Constellation. Explicitly, China, India and Indonesia were key players of Bandung Conference. Turkey was participant. Russia (Soviet Union at that time) was not invited but Soviet Union supported the conference. Brazil and Mexico were not invited but joined the Non-Alignment Movement as observer. Implicitly, they were all colonies and/or suffering from the domination of Western Galaxy.

So, Western Galaxy and Bandung Constellation, could they grow together peacefully?

As I wrote above: I wish not! How? Are they ready to violent confrontations? What are their power bases, their forces?

 

Multipolar Conflicts in Bipolar World

An open global total planetary war will not likely happen, because Western Galaxy is not sure that it will win, neither materially nor morally. Moreover, an open world war will run a risk of destroying the whole human civilisation if not the whole planet itself. Despite multipolarity, in case of open global total planetary war, a bipolarisation of forces will happen, at least at the first step (remember the WWII and the Cold War: bipolarisation between Allies and Axis at the first step, then between West Bloc and East Bloc afterward). India and Pakistan, for example, despite their reciprocal distrust, will not likely join or help Western Galaxy to beat China. Similar case of Turkey, Iran, Russia. So, the belligerents will be Western Galaxy against Bandung Constellation. Every side will mobilise its war resources: technology (weapons of mass destruction, aviation, artilleries, submarines, aircraft carriers, TIC, AI, space army, cyber army…), people (regular army, voluntary army, common people, farmers, workers, civil society organisations, media, journalists, public opinion makers…), and raw materials (oil, gas, sun rays, uranium, food, water, money…).

By a simple calculation, in term of material and technology, hard-ware and soft-ware, the match will be unequal. The TIC developed by China, Russia and India, for example, will resist if not beat that of US, UK, France and other countries of Western Galaxy (moreover, there are many Chinese and Indian scientists and engineers in Western Galaxy who may take the side of their countries of origin in case of war). In the field of weapons of mass destruction, for example, the comparative number of nuclear warheads between the nuclear power countries of Western Galaxy (US, UK, France, Israel) and those of Bandung Constellation (China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Russia) is in favour Bandung Constellation: around 7425 against 7145 (2018 Estimated Global Nuclear Inventories, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat checked 01/05/2020). In term of number of mobilisable people between the two protagonists, the imbalance is obvious. By a simple glance at the demographic statistic (especially number and age) between the two belligerents, the number of mobilisable people of China alone will be more than enough to overtake that of the whole Western Galaxy. Without speaking of India, Indonesia and other Non-Aligned countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Without speaking of mentality, morality and spirit of those peoples to be engaged in a patriotic war: ageing, demoralised, spoiled, fragile, fearful of death in Western Galaxy; young, morally forceful, enthusiastic, energetic, resistant, full of sense of duty, of struggle and of sacrifice in Bandung Constellation. As for raw materials needed for war, most of them belong to the countries of Bandung Constellation.

So, an open total global planetary war will not happen. Yet, Western Galaxy does not want to loose its monopoly control over the world. That is why it adopted a concept “endless war”. It is not against a particular state even though it has and will target multiple governments. Endless war is to be conducted against any entity—organization, movement, or government. These endless wars will be limited in several ways. They will be one-sided wars, and the bombs will only fall on the lands of other peoples (Brian Becker, From inter-imperialist war to global class war: Understanding distinct stages of imperialism, online publication of Liberation School, July 20, 2018, https://liberationschool.org/from-inter-imperialist-war-to-global-class-war-understanding-distinct-stages-of-imperialism/ checked 03/05/2020). It uses all war strategies excepting open total global planetary war. Sometimes it will use the classical tac-tic of Roman Empire “divide et impera” (divide and rule), like what it did in the Middle East opposing Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran… or in Libya opposing three factions. Some other times it will invade a country, like what it did in Vietnam, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan… Other possibility is supporting separatist movements or even a military coup d’état like what it did successfully in Indonesia and in Chile, or still in process in Hong Kong and Taiwan… So, it is a kind of guerrilla wars led by Western Galaxy at different localities of the world to harass, hassle, disturb and destabilise Bandung Constellation.

All these are possible mainly because Western Galaxy is always united and Bandung Constellation diverse. In this way, the tensions between US and EU, the Brexit, and the discord among EU country members, may be a good signs for Bandung Constellation, for the people of Western Galaxy and for the whole world. It will confirm that Western Galaxy cannot be destroyed from outside. Western Galaxy will be dissolved from inside, by its own contradiction. And it is good for a global future, just like an egg, it is a catastrophe when it is broken from outside, but it gives birth to a new life when it is broken from inside. The new life will be post-capitalism.

And Bandung Constellation? It will continue to live because it is based on a spirit and on an imagination.

Will it be the end of the game?

 

Beyond two scenarios

Whatever the scenarios, peaceful growth or full of turmoil, the rise of Asia, if it continues on the way it grows as it is now, will lead the world to a planetary catastrophe. Because all the rising Asian countries follow exactly the same model of growth of Western Galaxy based on economism, productivism, consumerism, materialism. This model puts on the top of priorities material productivity and profit, transforms nature into commercial commodities, pushes people to be greedy consumers. Rural exodus and urbanisation will continue. People live more and more in urban than rural areas. Cities become centres of concentration of people, buildings, motorised vehicles, goods, gadgets… but also rubbish, garbage, trash, waste, pollution. The urban growth of Beijing, Shanghai, Calcutta, Bombay, Jakarta, Bangkok, Manila… show similar trend: more people, more buildings, more cars, more commercial centres… Consequently, this model threatens the survival of the planet, because it would need natural resources of several planets if the whole world follows the model.

So, what type of society and what model of growth for a global future? Will it be post-capitalist, post-productivist, post-consumerist global society?

It is another story to invent. And the Covid-19-generated global crisis may help us to do it. The pandemic has given us a lesson: it is possible to stop the capitalist-productivist-consumerist machinery. We have a cease-fire now and we have to use it intelligently!***

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here