The era of disorder is upon us, the post-Second World War order is fraying, and our “long holiday from history” is now over as Australia and the world settle into a “new normal”.
Throughout history, the geopolitical environment has been the story of the rise and fall of empires and the ensuing periods of order and disorder that characterised these ebbs and flows.
Whether it was the intense competition between Rome and Carthage, Britain’s struggle with Napoleonic France, and in lived memory, the economic, political, and strategic competition between the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War.
By far, the most common characteristic of this history is the utter dominance of a small number of nations, empires or kingdoms over others, which created what is often described as a lopsided approach to the geopolitical concept of polarity, making the world a tricky environment in which to operate, particularly for middle and emerging powers.
The reality of our modern world is no different, this is despite the post-Second World War dominance of the United States over the global leavers of power, institutions, and commons.
Indeed, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, in particular, established the world as a “multipolar” environment in spite of the widely-held belief that the United States was the global hegemon, particularly following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, which required considered and measured diplomacy by all parties involved, particularly the global hegemon.
However, in recent years, the post-Second World War global order has come under assault both directly and indirectly as emerging powers like China and India, backed by established powers, including a resurgent and increasingly belligerent Russia, are all combining to begin building a parallel network of economic, political, and strategic organisations and arrangements to challenge the post-war global order.
At the core of this push is the intent to directly undermine the legitimacy and reputation of the United States and the post-war order as an increasingly elitist, unjust, and “Western-centric” at the expense of the Global South.
Leading the charge for this new, increasingly contested multipolar world is Mao’s, and now Xi’s China, seeking to leverage its now immense economic, political, and strategic might to right the wrongs of the past, namely the “Century of Humiliation” at the hands of colonial empires, with its eyes firmly set on usurping the global status quo.