Leaderless world creating an unprecedented political shift

Long gone are the days when America and Western Europe could credibly claim to set the international agenda and lead the way as leaders of the world. Since the financial market meltdown of 2008, it has become clear that nothing can be resolved without substantive support from China, India, Brazil, Russia and other emerging powers. As the recent G8 gathering showed, the so-called most powerful nations of the world can no longer exert enough influence to make a real change on the international arena. One reason for this is that voters in developed countries such as the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Japan expect their elected leaders to focus on domestic challenges rather than problems abroad. The US will remain the world’s most powerful and influential country for the foreseeable future, but Washington is now fully occupied with domestic battles over budget, debt, immigration reform and how best to create jobs. European leaders are locked in a multi-year struggle to bolster the Eurozone.

The result is a lack of global leadership, one that has developed just as growing numbers of transitional problems- Middle East turmoil intensified territorial disputes in Asia, climate change, conflicts in cyberspace and poorly regulate cross-border financial flows are gathering momentum. Two examples that specifically illustrate the lack of leadership and influence ability from the West is the case of Syria and whistle-blower Edward Snowden. With the former, it is clear that America and the West want to see Assad removed from power in Syria, however due to rising influence and strength of Russia and China in the international arena, they are unable to do so. In regards to Snowden, it is extraordinary to see a mammoth power like America struggle to coerce China and Russia into handing over Snowden to them. The same could be said about Wikileak’s Julian Assange who continues to reside in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. One would have assumed that America would have been able to pull some strings and use its soft and hard power to get their hands on both of the whistle-blowers; however, that has not been the case.

Apart from America, no other country is willing to put itself forward as a potential global leader. Due to major economic problems, no country is willing and able to become a global leader that can bring about lasting positive change. Because of the expanding global leadership vacuum, the world is becoming even more volatile. In addition, the risk of confrontation in Asia has grown- between China and Japan in the East China Sea and between China and several south-east Asian countries in the South China Sea.

Some governments will adapt more effectively than others to the leaderless world and the instability it creates. Because global leadership is lacking and international cooperation has become all but impossible to co-ordinate, some governments are turning to regional solutions that are more likely to produce results. For instance, because the World Trade Organisation’s Doha round of global trade talks essentially has ground to a halt, China and the US are looking to extend their influence and expand their trade ties by turning to regional agreements that are easier both to negotiate and to dominate. China has completed more than a dozen deals in recent years and hopes to form a commercial bloc that includes the ten members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations.  The US has responded with finalising the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Diversification has always been an essential tool for managing risk, but in a world lacking clear leadership, one in which shocks have become all too common, governments must avoid over-reliance not simply on pone export product, but also on security and commercial relations with a single dominant ally. There are three big unfolding stories in an international politics and the global economy: China’s rise, Middle East turmoil and the redesign of Europe. The three countries with the most lose from these trends are, respectively, Japan, Israel and Britain. These three also happen to be America’s most reliable allies in the world’s there most important regions, yet self-involved Washington can’t protect them from the worst effects of these sweeping changes. China’s rise leaves Japan in a tight spot. Access to China’s expanding consumer market is critical for Japanese companies, yet Beijing’s new foreign policy assertiveness, is fuelling patriotic fury inside both countries. China and Japan are not sliding towards war, but the growing antagonism between them is reversing progress in their commercial relationship- a problem that will hurt Japan much worse than China. Israel’s anxieties bear more directly on its national security. Arab states, those than have new governments following the region’s recent upheavals and those that resisted demanded for change, are eager to safeguard their popularity at home and will try to satisfy public demand for a hard line on Israel. And although Washington will continue to act as the ultimate guarantor of Israel’s security, an Obama administration focused on domestic priorities and an expanding its presence in Asia will have fewer resourced to spend on helping to resolve the various conflicts taking shape along Israel’s borders. Finally, if Britain were to leave the European Union, Washington will no longer with the special relationship with the UKL as important as it is now.

Overall, the shift toward a world without clear cut nation leaders is truly changing the balance of power. Indeed Asia seems to be becoming one of the most important regions in the world. This is exemplified by the recent $250 billion deal that Russia signed with China to provide the Asian country will oil for the next 25 years. It seems Russia has made a conscious decision that the faltering Europe is no longer that important in terms of cooperation regarding energy matters. Finally with America not being able to exert as much influence as in the past, it could mean nations that were previously feared the wrath of the US if they stepped out of line, could become more daring. We have already seen how Iran, China, Russia and North Korea defy demands by the US. It will be interesting to see if more nations start to act tough in the near future.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: International politics

Subscribe & Connect

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: