Often we get the global-rivalry equations wrong

It happens very often that the equations regarding the global rivalries are misunderstood. Russia is often wrongly perceived as the U.S.’s “global” rival. Japan and India’s rivalry with China are also wrongly seen with a “global” magnitude. However, the U.S. has no rivalry with Russia in “global” level as such; rather what these two powers share between them is the rivalry in two particular “regions” and in some particular countries — that is that. Likewise, the Sino-India rivalry and the Sino-Japan rivalry have “regional” gravity – not “global”.

India and Russia exert their influence well within their respective regions, i.e. South Asia and Eurasia respectively. On the otherhand, the Asia Pacific country Japan can only roar like a tiger, but so far it failed to show the courage even by a cat’s standard. However, unlike these regional powers, China implements its plans and acts upon its policies in such a way that impacts not only the surrounding regions where China is positioned geographically, but also impacts other regions of the globe as well. At the same time, the global impacts of the U.S.’s actions are much well-known.

Economic rivalry

In terms of economy, Russia is not a threat to the U.S.’s global economic interests. Because, the economic interests of these two countries come into conflict only in two regions, Eurasia and Middle East. Such conflicts of interests, therefore, do not have a global magnitude. The Middle Eastern region still experiences a greater U.S.’s grip despite the Russian attempt to counter the U.S. influence in the region through its alliance with Iran, Syrian Bashar-al-Assad’s army and Hezbolla. The U.S.’s economic interests are faced with challenges from Russia only to the extent that the U.S. has failed so far to a large extent to get a good grip on the Eurasian region, where Russia is the regional spearhead. Other than these two regions, the U.S. has a greater grip on rest of the world than that of Russia. Therefore, the rivalry between the U.S. and Russia has never been of “global” magnitude “after the cold war era”, but has always been on “regional” level.

Japan, the world’s third largest economy, is a global economic competitor of China, the second largest economy. However, the difference of economic strength between these two economic powers is way too huge. On the otherhand, India’s economy has been giving China trouble in some countries in Asia and Africa, where Indian commercial products are doing well and giving other economic giants a hard time. But the extent of such a competition may, at best, be regarded as “regional”, but not “global”.

If the U.S. and China are compared head to head, it would appear that a very balanced proportion is there in the sense that individually both the economies are the largest trading partners of a good number of economies around the globe. On the otherhand, India and Russia, compared to the U.S. and China, are largest trading partners of very few economies. In this regard, India and Russia have long way to go in order to become a competitor of the U.S. and China.

Military rivalry

In terms of military capabilities, it may well be accepted that Russia is a military superpower. However, its military strategy is comparatively less matured than that of the U.S., which has the experience of several conventional wars in recent decades.  Moreover, Russia’s military presence (post-cold war era) around the globe is comparatively smaller than that of the U.S.

China, which had been lagging behind Russia and the U.S. militarily in the last century, has covered its way well to come closer to these two military superpowers. China is making up for the last century by proactively working to increase its military capabilities. This year, China’s victory day parade showcased that China is well equipped as our globe’s new superpower, both militarily and politically.

In terms of global military capability, Indian and Japanese military muscles have been less strong than those of China, Russia and the U.S. But, India has started working on increasing its military capabilities heavily. In line with this intension, India has been signing big deals to purchase defence hardware. India has signed a weapon purchase deal with the U.S., its new ally, shying away from its long standing weapon purchasing destination, Russia. And ofcourse, India is a nuclear state like those of China, Russia and the U.S.

Militarily, Japan has been a cat in tiger’s attire since the end of the Second World War. This is because, although Japan has well-equipped military hardware, the Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution had been preventing it to act militarily beyond defending the homeland from active foreign attacks. However, Article 9 has been reinterpreted by the Shinzo Abe’s administration, followed by passing of a legislation that has allowed Japan to exercise the right of “collective self defence” and exercise military action if one of its allies were to be attacked. In other words, it may well be said that seventy years after the Second World War, Japan took its most significant step away from the pacifist foreign policy. The Japanese military will now be able to play a broader role in East Asian regional geopolitics under this law. However, such possibility lies only in future, and as for now, Japan is neither a regional nor a global military rival for China.

Wrapping up

It may well be concluded that it is China that is standing upto the U.S. as its global rival in our ever changing globe. There is also a regional rivalry between these two global powers in regard to the Asia Pacific region. But Russia is no major rival to the U.S. It is a regional rivalry that exists between the U.S. and Russia, between China and India, and between China and Japan. However, if the European Union has been taken into consideration and would have been compared with all the powers mentioned above, it would have overwhelmingly surpassed all of them in terms of economy. All in all, there is nothing more or less to the global rivalry equations otherthan what have been already mentioned above.


Bahauddin Foizee is an international affairs analyst, and writes on Middle Eastern, greater Asia-Pacific & European geopolitics. Also a campaigner for environmental and social awareness, Bahauddin Foizee occasionally writes on environment and refugee issues.

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