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Asia Rallies Against China’s Imperialist Aspirations; Will These Efforts Succeed?

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The major difference between the previous Cold War and the current one would be economic in nature: China achieved a role in international trade and finance that Soviet power never achieved.

For years now we have been in the second Cold War, a global geostrategic conflict that has as little in common with the First Cold War as World War II had little in common with World War I. In our times two super superpowers are once again emerging.

In our times, two superpowers are once again emerging for global hegemony: on the one hand, the People’s Republic of China, a one-party techno-totalitarianism that has adopted the indispensable elements of a market economy to becoming the second-largest economy on the planet, but without renouncing the social control and dictatorial power of a Marxist totalitarianism.

On the other side, we find what we have to call again “the free world” and at its head the first economic and military power of the planet: the United States of America.

The major difference between the previous Cold War and the current one would be of an economic nature: China achieved a role in international trade and finance that the Soviet power never reached.

Beijing forces, through laws, Chinese “private” corporations to operate as agents of its internal and external intelligence apparatus. Business with China is not “just business,” but something much darker and more dangerous.

The key region of this confrontation is Asia, and its most important front is the Indo-Pacific. In that light we must analyze the votes of Asian nations in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations. The UN General Assembly condemned Russia for invading Ukraine with 141 votes in favor, 4 against, 35 abstentions and 12 countries not voting. From Asia abstained — in addition to China and India — Armenia, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Pakistan and Vietnam, and among those who did not vote were Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Russia remains a hegemonic power in Central Asia, so almost the entire region abstained from condemning the Kremlin. Many of those who abstained are members of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Association (CSTO), a military pact between the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and Moscow, but the uneven alliance between Russia and China points to an increasingly Beijing-dependent Kremlin in the future.

The bulk of Southeast Asia condemned the Russian invasion in defiance of Beijing. China claims sovereignty over the sea of those nations and is increasing its military presence in the South China Sea to achieve hegemony over Southeast Asia and extend it to the entire Indo-Pacific. Vietnam abstained because Russia is its main arms supplier.

But Hanoi sees the danger of depending on a Russia that is increasingly close to China, and like New Delhi, is moving closer to the West. Taiwan does not vote in the UN, but Taipei placed forces on high alert fearing that Xi Jinping will invade Taiwan as Putin invaded Ukraine, after Beijing increased its aggressiveness in the South China Sea. AUKUS countries have not yet mobilized in the South China Sea and no one is preemptively supporting Taiwan.

New Delhi is still dependent on Russian weaponry and fears that the close relationship between Russia and China will turn against it in the midst of a border conflict with a China that supports Pakistan against India. That is why they have approached Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

But in Washington, the Biden administration refuses to seriously confront Beijing’s challenge and in New Delhi Prime Minister Modi clings to the dream of a multipolar world, where secondary powers like Japan, Australia and India would have carried more weight.

In Moscow, Dugin dreams of a geopolitical block equivalent to the defunct Soviet Union, projecting Russian power over the whole of Eurasia. Putin sells these imperial dreams to Russian nationalists to justify his growing authoritarianism, but the economy is no longer even a tenth of what China is today. Moscow cannot finance a new imperial dream. Beijing can and is betting everything on achieving it.

Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros

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