Multipolarity is gradually emerging as the future of world order

America’s and Europe’s dominance is quickly coming to an end while the next world’s superpower will be the countries in the Global South combined – where Russia, China, India, Iran and countries in the Middle East – particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar shall play key roles

BRICS, BRICS Investment Bank, China Infrastructure Investment Bank, Belt and Road Initiatives, Donald Trump, Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Muslim world, Antonio Guterres

The concept of multipolarity is steadily gaining ground as the potential blueprint for the future global order. Amidst discussions on alternatives to the prevailing world order and collective efforts to counter the dominance of the dollar, the notion of a burgeoning multipolar world order is increasingly resonating, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic. This shift is becoming a focal point in global geopolitical dialogues, with analysts, politicians, journalists, and business figures from diverse backgrounds acknowledging multipolarity as the inevitable trajectory for world affairs. Even prominent figures like UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres have acknowledged this transition, signaling an end to the post-Cold War era and a move towards a new global order characterized by multipolarity. Mr. Guterres said, “the post-Cold War period is over, and we are moving towards a new global order and a multipolar world”.

Leaders such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz echo this sentiment, recognizing the evolving global landscape with the emergence of new centers of power. The sentiments are reflected in joint statements from influential gatherings like BRICS+ and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, where countries like Russia and China assert the imminent arrival of a multipolar world order. These assertions are not limited to geopolitical heavyweights; leaders from diverse regions, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Lula Da Silva, are also proponents of a multipolar framework. The consensus among these influential voices, particularly from the Global South, emphasizes the imperative of reducing dependence on the dollar to mitigate Western hegemony.

In a joint statement from February 2022 and the deliberations at BRICS+ and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Russia and China have proclaimed the imminence of the multipolar world order. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are vigorously pushing-forward the concept of alternative world order for freeing the world from continuous hegemony and oppression of the Western world. Other protagonists of multipolar world order are Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Union representative Josep Borell, and Brazilian President Lula Da Silva. In the Middle East and Persian Gulf, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei are also now signaling their agreement to it. These influential leaders of the Global South agree to the fundamental policy of adopting de-dollarization of the economic activity for the sake of averting Western foul-play using its monopoly of a world greatly dependent on dollars. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who already has emerged as the most prominent female leader in the entire Muslim world, is also putting emphasis on walking-out of dollar dominance.

However, Western leaders remain skeptical, dismissing the notion of an alternative world order as a “myth”. Former Norwegian diplomat Jo Inge Bekkevold argues that the world is showing more signs of bipolarity rather than multipolarity, citing the overwhelming economic and military dominance of the United States and China. He highlights the disparity in defense spending and GDP among major powers, suggesting that true multipolarity remains elusive.

Mr. Bekkevold, using the matrix of military and economic indicators summarizes that only two powers – the United States and China have the “economic size, military might, and global leverage to constitute a pole”.

He said, the two powers account for about half of the world’s defense expenditure, and their combined GDP nearly “equals the 33-next largest economies of the world”.

According to the SPIRI database, although India was the third largest spender on defense in 2021, its total expenditure is only one-fourth of China’s. Japan has the third largest economy, but its GDP is less than one-fourth of China’s. Germany, India, France, and the UK’s shares are even smaller than that of Japan. Bekkevold said, of the challenges emanating from blocs like the EU, BRICS, and the RIC (Russia, India, and China) Forum, these organizations are not coherent. They are a divided lot and suffer from internal rivalries.

Contrary to Bekkevold’s perspective, scholars like Emma Ashford and Evan Cooper advocate for multipolarity, underscoring the diminishing dominance of the United States in both military and economic realms. They argue that contemporary geopolitical dynamics differ significantly from the Cold War era, with power distributed among several influential nations rather than concentrated in a few superpowers. This sentiment is echoed by former US diplomat Hugh De Santis, who observes a gradual shift towards a multipolar world characterized by diffused power dynamics.

The geopolitical landscape is further complicated by recent events such as the conflict in Ukraine, which has raised questions about America’s ability to maintain its leadership role. China emerges as a significant beneficiary, strengthening its strategic ties with Russia amidst geopolitical upheavals. The increasing modernization of China’s military capabilities and its expanding global influence underscore its ascent as a major player in the multipolar world order.

Western analysts say China, which is the main adversary of the US, emerged as the largest beneficiary as the war made Russia and Beijing’s close strategic partners, further weakening Washington’s position. Russia’s recent tremendous gains on the Ukrainian front seem to have convinced the US experts in the Republican camp that pushing Russia further into the Chinese camp will be a diplomatic disaster. A Trump victory could mean a new approach. But it may be too late if Russia secures its gains by November – which a very large portion of the American and European experts are seeing as inevitable.

According to Western analysts, China has been seriously working on modernizing its army at an “alarming pace”, expanding its nuclear arsenal, developing ICMMs, long-range sea-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), 350 new missile silos, and DF-17 medium-range missiles with hypersonic glide vehicles. Moreover, China has the world’s largest navy equipped with nuclear submarines and SLBMs that can target several states of the American mainland. Beijing is also building military bases in Africa, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific, while it is boosting strategic and military partnership with a number of nations in the Global South – including Bangladesh, a country which has already emerged geopolitically and geo-strategically extremely important.

Those analysts added, Russia being America’s traditional rival, with its anticipated growth rate of 2.6 percent in 2024 also is developing its arsenal, modernizing the Iskandar-M short-range ballistic missile, 9M729 cruise missile, and developing Sarmat ICBM and nuclear-powered drones releasable from the submarines. Meanwhile, Iran and North Korea are also getting access to high-end missile and satellite technology. It may be mentioned here that during the Cold War while the United States and Soviet Union controlled 40 percent of the global military and economic power; today, the share for China and the United States has come down to 30 percent. In economic terms, while in 1950 Moscow and Washington, with their allies, owned 88 percent of global GDP, today their share is just 57 percent. America’s share of the worldwide GDP today has slipped to roughly 25 percent from 57 percent it had in 1950, while it is anticipated that during the coming years, it will continue to further drop.

Similarly, Russia, with its anticipated economic growth, continues to enhance its military capabilities, contributing to the diversification of global power structures. Iran and North Korea, despite facing sanctions, are also bolstering their military capabilities, adding to the multipolar dynamic. The diminishing share of the US and China in global GDP, coupled with the rise of other economic powerhouses like India, further illustrates the shift towards multipolarity.

In addition to military and economic indicators, technological advancements play a crucial role in reshaping global power dynamics. China’s rapid progress in research and development, as well as its dominance in key sectors such as electric vehicles and rare earth minerals, poses a significant challenge to US technological supremacy. The rise of alternative multilateral institutions and strategic initiatives, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, further challenge the Western-led liberal world order, signaling the dawn of a multipolar era.

In PPP terms, America holds just 15 percent, whereas the Asia-Pacific nation’s share stands at 45 percent now, while China contributes 19 percent. Similarly, American universities and corporations are also facing challenges in top ten rankings following the emergence of China and India as economic heavyweights.

According to a recent survey, the number of American universities in the top 100 rankings declined from forty-three in 2018 to thirty-four in 2022. According to data released by Forbes, while there were eleven American and zero Chinese corporations in the top twenty rankings, in 2023, American firms in the top twenty numbered only nine, while China’s had risen to six. In today’s world, India, the fifth-largest economy and third-largest at PPP accounts for 7.5 percent of global GDP. Meanwhile, China is also chipping away at America’s technological dominance. In 1960, US investment in R&D was 69 percent of the global investment, which has shrunk to 25 percent in 2020. On the other hand, China’s share has increased from 5 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2020.

Moreover, China boasts the highest number of patents and the largest market for electric vehicles. China also maintains a lead as the largest trading partner for 120 countries and America’s third-largest export market.

China is also the largest purchaser of American bonds. Controlling 70 percent of the extraction and 90 percent of the processing of rare earth minerals, China also has overwhelming control over global supply chains.

Heavily sanctioned countries like Iran have increased uranium enrichment by up to 60 percent, which is close to weapons-grade level. Tehran also has signed a twenty-five-year comprehensive cooperation agreement with China. Meanwhile, Iran has emerged into a major player in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Iran is supplying sophisticated drones to Russia.

India, being an emerging middle power has refused to follow American dictation on Biden’s proxy war in Ukraine and refused to condemn Russia. Defying US pressure, India continues to buy Russian oil at a heavily discounted price and maintains strong trade relations with China. It may be mentioned here that, although New Delhi has joined the US-lead Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), President Joe Biden has failed in using India against Washington’s key-rivals such as China and Russia.

Similarly, Bangladesh, being one of the fastest growing economies in the world with geo-strategic importance has also refrained from echoing America’s rhetoric against Russia. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been consistently criticizing America and its European allies for imposing sanctions on Russia as these are causing severe sufferings to most of the nations in the world.

Meanwhile, there is rise of BRICS as well as alternative multilateral institutions like BRICS Investment Bank, China Infrastructure Investment Bank, and global China-led strategic connectivity projects like Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) challenging the Western-led so-called liberal world order.

There are strong apprehensions amongst the United States and its European allies about the future of NATO and America’s rivalry towards Russia and China once Donald Trump wins this November’s election and comes to power. European countries are looking to enhance their military budget and develop their own defense capabilities, including acquisition of nuclear capabilities against perceived Russian revisionism. As America does not hold the same military power, economic size and diplomatic advantages it enjoyed during the Cold War and throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Western nations combined may not be able to stop the emergence of multipolarity of the world order as it has already begun. Western analysts are now openly admitting – days of America’s and Europe’s dominance is quickly coming to an end while the next world’s superpower will be the countries in the Global South combined – where Russia, China, India, Iran and countries in the Middle East – particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar shall play key roles.


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