AT the height of the Cold War, a web of competing ideological alliances crisscrossing the globe was the order of the day, with states allied either with the Western or Eastern blocs, or maintaining tenuous neutrality. With the end of bipolarity, the usefulness of these alliances appeared to wane. However, it seems that the US-China rivalry is helping forge new blocs aligned with either the sole superpower, or a rising China that Washington sees as a challenger. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, bringing together the US, Australia, Japan and India certainly seems to be aimed at containing the growth of China and countering the People’s Republic in its own backyard. The leaders of the four states recently held a virtual summit — the first since Joe Biden took office — to discuss the “China challenge”. Expectedly, Beijing has not taken kindly to the Quad discussions, issuing a hard-hitting statement in response. The Chinese foreign ministry has said the attempts to hem Beijing in “will not ... succeed” and that the states should “shake off their Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”.
The US sees China as a serious economic rival as well as a threat to its global interests, thereby explaining the formation of such blocs. However, it is difficult to see how such formations can contribute to global security. What is more, such security and ideological alliances force non-aligned states to choose sides on the global geopolitical chessboard. For example, American officials have subtly and not so subtly criticised CPEC, Pakistan’s landmark venture with China. Moreover, America’s support to India as a bulwark against China has also upset the balance of power in South Asia, with New Delhi harbouring superpower illusions. Instead of forming competing blocs with military dimensions, a much better option would be to integrate regional economies and promote trade and people-to-people exchanges. As for those states that want to form geopolitical blocs, they should not force sovereign nations to toe their line or face isolation for not bending to diktat.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2021