America’s Arrested Foreign Policy Development and its 21st Century Authoritarian Power Competitors

By Pippa Malmgren

For a moment, let’s step back from American politics and ask what the world looks like from a geopolitical perspective now that a former President has been arrested. Congress has ordered his former Vice President to testify against his former President.

The sitting President may be reeled into the legal investigation into his own son’s involvement with agents of foreign governments, especially China. Of course, the Democrats are leading the charge against Trump(s), and the Republicans are leading the charge against the Biden(s).

Most Americans have taken sides and cannot see that it is quite possible that both Republicans and Democrats might have broken the law. Meanwhile, the world is digesting the news that corruption may have also tainted a Justice on The Supreme Court. Obviously, any change of personnel at The Supreme Court now, given the delicate political balance there, will probably have implications for the two Presidential legal cases.

But, what is entirely overlooked by all the pundits, and what really matters now, is how Xi, Putin, MBS, and European leaders see all this.

While America’s leaders duke it out in their ongoing domestic barroom brawl, international observers are taking note as they scheme, plan and prepare for a world that Americans of any political persuasion will not be able to influence as they did in the past….

The high-profile media coverage around The Don, Hunter, and the Justice reinforces a view that all American politics is both corrupt and preoccupied. This plays into the hands of those offering an alternative world order. This is not just about de-dollarizing the world. Frankly, until China is willing to embrace convertibility, the attractiveness of a Yuan-led world has its limits.

The perception has shifted away from a Petro-Dollar world, where oil/hydrocarbon surpluses ended up in the US either as deposits, property purchases, or in the form of weapons or technology sales. The perception is growing that there is a new Petro-Yuan where oil/hydrocarbon surpluses will end up in technology alliances with China.

This is part of a bigger shift away from financial assets like Treasuries, where the US offered the most attractive options to a world where these nations are investing in real assets like physical infrastructure.

The world is increasingly buying into China’s effort to replace Treasuries with spending on The Belt and Road Initiative. Railway links beat Treasuries. Whether this will generate financial performance is not the primary concern.

These nations want the resources, technology, and physical connectivity needed to support an ambitious population, not 6% returns in a portfolio. Notice that China has just announced a global ticketing platform across 140 countries for the Belt and Road railway network. You can buy a ticket from March 15th. You’ll pay Swiss Francs until China’s new CBDC Digital Yuan rolls out globally….

The key point is that China and Russia are building out a global web of physical and geopolitical alliances while the U.S. has become increasingly entangled in its own sticky legal spider web at the very top of politics. This web is not principally military in nature. It is firmly in the grey zone, which militaries have a harder time responding to.

China and Russia are also empowering the “Middle Powers.” These are ambitious nations that can and do play a huge role in the world economy and in power politics. Saudi is the most important Middle Power now. They just reversed their policy on oil prices. In the past, they were aligned with the U.S., and Russia was the enemy. Now they are pursuing a higher oil price which helps Russia….

These nations are all aligning over global connectivity infrastructure as well. China has announced a new $500m subsea internet cable that will connect most of the globe but not reach the US. In light of the ongoing cable cuts, many nations are interested in alternative options and redundancy.

China is also launching 13,000 communications satellites which are the equivalent of Starlink. This armed mega-constellation will lessen dependence on Starlink and Western communications networks. The system may destroy the opponent’s satellites, armed with power, lasers, and “micro-wave cannons” that could fry Starlinks in a heartbeat….

There is a fascinating and quirky story of an Australian businessman, Ian Gowrie-Smith, who might sell a tiny island chain off Cairns (aptly called “The Conflict Islands”) to the Chinese for $25m. Leaving aside the biodiversity these 21 atolls represent (home to a turtle sanctuary), they also lie right along strategic shipping lanes and home to the main internet cables connecting Australia to the world.

Gowrie-Smith is clearly trying to get a better price from the U,S, or Australia, given the strategic location. It looks like the national security implications are now being looked at more closely. But, it just goes to show how China is scouring the global map and thinking through connectivity and sea cables, and shipping lanes….

This article is excerpted from Dr, Malmgren’s 7 April 2023 essay entitled: “Arrested Development: The Con, Hunter, The Justice and the Irony of Sticky Situations.”

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