Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Dhaka Tribune


Reality behind the headlines

Peeking behind the curtains and finding a new world order

Update : 29 Jan 2024, 10:03 AM

It’s commonplace for reality to be played out in cloistered corridors behind the not-so-thin veneers of headlines. After a wobbly hobnobbing with “transparency” organizations and politicians have reverted to the time trusted methods. While looking for a defining point of the u-turn, one example does spring to mind. In the lead up to his election as President, Donald Trump had made the caustic remark about a pre-declared surprise strike on Islamic State. 

The argumentation was strong. How does such a strike remain a surprise? In short there will always be decisions and information that can’t, shouldn’t be declared before they take effect. Since then a stream of leaders have travelled to foreign shores without any prior public notice creating a clear distinction between what should and should not be known in advance. Calculated moves, visits or otherwise are now kept under wraps, whereas the more routine ones are allowed the required publicity.

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn spilled the beans on the hitherto “quiet” discourse on  a new world order, world leaders bent backwards to camouflage such efforts suggesting the general public is more used to “economic” diplomacy. They haven’t done it very well. The frequent personal visits to Israel by President Joe Biden, Secretary Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin took arm twisting to new heights. Why modern technology had to be replaced by personal visits won’t be known anytime soon, as indeed will be the case with  the wave of leaders travelling to Ukraine.

Last year Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and China’s Defense Minister made whistlestop visits to Bangladesh. Little was publicly said by the government; lesser still by the ever speculative local media. What the public did know was it happened at various stages of geo-political twists and turns. Beyond the must-attend G7 and G20 summits Japan, Canada and France’s leaders haven’t been as public. Vladimir Putin has hardly left Russian shores and Xi Jin Ping has been prudently selective in his movements. Emerging from these apparently unconnected points is something more urgent.

China has now revealed its position, one achieved through a three-pronged strategy to stamp its claims for world leadership. Following decades of modernizing it boasts of an enviable manufacturing base, a strong stake in the US dollar-led world trading and a firm footprint through its one road, one belt initiative. It prepared for and split the developed world on the trading ban issue unleashed by Donald Trump buying up significant debts. From a recent count the country held nearly $3.5 trillion in reserves and liquidity. Added to that are strategic loans of $1.5tn to some 150 countries providing it cushion and influence-especially in Africa and South East Asia. 

By becoming Russia’s largest export destination of fuel and staunchly opposing any hard criticism of Russia’s sticky Ukraine adventure China has played its cards subtly. So much so that it made an emboldened statement of its version of the new order. She has called for restructuring of the world’s financial institutions (read IMF and World Bank) as well as the WTO. Nothing could have pleased her better than Antonio Guterres’s support wherein he stated outright the need for reform of the United Nations structure to the bargain. These statements at the Group77 meeting haven’t as of yet sparked any major debate pointing to the surprise it created. That will no doubt be forthcoming.

There were many indications that a counter proposal of the new order was in the works. The arrival, following true diplomacy, came as a whammy for the Western world. That the expanded BRICS is part of it is a fact. All of China’s work in forming the New Development Fund, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund has suddenly become very relevant, especially if the Global South gets together. The call is loud and clear. Better governance and reform of the key global institutions is just a broader step taken by Donald Trump getting NATO to pay their proper share and cutting the fat at the UN. It did work to an extent but the boot kicking the ball now seems to be on the other foot.

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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