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Foreign Policy

Will China and Russia Lead the ‘New World Order?’

May 06, 2022

The idea of a ‘new world order’ dates back to the 20th century when geopolitics and the world economy experienced constant change - two world wars, the birth of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the emergence of the Bretton Woods system.  

The term has been used to describe turbulent moments when certain politicians anticipate such significant change in the geopolitical arena that conflict could inevitably give birth to a new, reorganized international system.  

America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, longstanding political and economic divisions within the European Union, as well as the tragic war in Ukraine, have presented China and Russia with the opportunity to create a new version of a ‘new world order,’ which could rely and rest on foundations of multipolarity and a fundamental opposition to liberal democracy and the western financial system, which has become more weaponized via the U.S. dollar reserve system, trade wars, and sanctions.  

The Ukraine crisis and subsequent war, as predicted, led to an opportunity for China and Russia to advocate for multipolarity in opposition to the United States openly. As the war in Ukraine raged on, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited China. With his Chinese counterpart, Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin pledged to advance a new world order. Lavrov described the current period as a ‘severe stage in the history of international relations.’ China accepted the pledge and acted as a ‘sympathizer’ to move toward a ‘multipolar, just, and democratic world order.’ 

Ukraine is increasingly more significant because it serves as a prelude and teachable experience for Beijing. The narrative is important because of the West’s apparent persistence to arm and effectively encourage Kyiv to extend its war against Russia irrespective of its probable outcome. The war in Ukraine is a proxy war that the West is using to maim Russia. No one needs to ‘defend’ Moscow or make excuses for its invasion to point out that the West did everything to exacerbate the conflict while simultaneously ‘canceling’ Russia in all spheres of American and European life. The material aid, the weapons, the training, and the billions of dollars sent to Kyiv, a country that was recently described as corrupt and filled with right-wing radicals, are now a daily contribution to an existential battle against an evil empire run by Vladimir Putin. This same ‘template’ can be used for the Taiwan dilemma. China knows this and carefully takes notes while simultaneously reducing U.S. power as it promotes a multipolar world alongside Russia with the remaining BRICS nations.  

As perceived by China and Russia, Ukraine was and continues to be a Western excess in the sense that Western elites, NGOs, and corporations used the country as a playground to make money and engage in opportunities that would otherwise receive criticism elsewhere. Hunter Biden’s numerous scandals go back to Ukraine, where he enjoyed a ridiculous salary for sitting on the board of an energy company he likely knew little about. Even during the Ukrainian war, it has revealed that the West is increasingly concerned about someone or something encircled and trapped in besieged Mariupol. Half a dozen helicopters have desperately tried to remove someone from the Azov battalion’s nest, suggesting that there is something of importance in the burning city. Because of timing and competence, China is more capable of accurately preventing a future Western ‘excess’ which will jeopardize its national security. China can learn from Russia’s mistakes concerning NATO expansion and say no, alongside other countries, way before things ever get that bad.  

The Chinese and Russian declaration of new world order is also a response to an already developing U.S. push for its version of the same concept. The emergence of blocs like QUAD (U.S., UK, Japan, and India) and AUKUS (Australia, UK, and the U.S.) have already shaken up geopolitics. At the same time, Viktor Orban continues to destabilize the European Union from within with his latest victory in the Hungarian elections. Russia’s current demands for energy payments in rubles, which some countries have already accepted (Slovakia, Bulgaria, Moldova), have already threatened the preexisting norms of international trade. The U.S. is out of Afghanistan. These realities suggest that the old world is becoming something new, and the Chinese and Russia are actively attempting to mold it into something that favors Beijing and Moscow.  

Concerning energy, the roles of China and Russia have never been more significant. Europe will need to suffer to ‘give up’ or ‘ban’ Russian energy exports. While China controls, holds, and produces many of the minerals crucial to the green transition. Will the U.S. be able to dictate Europe’s tempo of green transition as its people experience price hikes and energy freezes? In short, the West’s version of the new world order will be painful for Europe, at least in the short term. Russia’s reputation in Europe will remain tarnished, but China will still have opportunities to engage with Europe economically. However, this will only be the case until the U.S. crosses a line concerning Taiwan. Should Washington go too far, the Ukraine template will likely be used for China, and Europe will again need to choose how to proceed. In many ways, the push for a ‘new world order’ is an attempt to defend against a future Western excess on the model of Ukraine in Asia. 

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