Who's Running the World These Days?


Last week, in a speech delivered at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, Pope Paul Keating held forth on geopolitics to a rapt audience: "The fact is we are again heading towards a bipolar world. Not one shaped by a balance of terror like the old one, but certainly not a multi-polar one. In fact, one heavily influenced by two countries: the United States and China."

I am glad we have cleared that up, Paul, because if you had been relying on the international pages of the major world dailies over the last seven years, you’d have the feeling that in fact terrorists were shaping the 21st Century with China relegated to the status of a bit player.

In an earlier interview for newmatilda.com, regarding the rise of China and India, PJK stated that while China was the emerging player: "We’re seeing the development of a multi-polar world, whether the American Republicans like it or not."

But now we are definitely in a bipolar world; "certainly not a multi-polar one."

So what has finally changed? Was it the Olympics? Have we decided to have a quiet burial for Osama bin Laden, and acknowledge the real power struggle going on in the world? Have the powers decided that we are now capable of dealing with a power struggle between the US (I’d prefer Western actually) and China? Are we allowed to discuss this openly without diplomats having heart seizures over what Chinese diplomats may or may not read into Western foreign policy? The history of Western imperialism in China was still apparently furnishing Chinese nightmares well into the late 20th century.

At least now all those high school text-books can be rewritten again with a little more historical accuracy and less phony garbage about fictitious Muslim insurgents. I not only look forward to the revision of the record, but to the apologies from journalists who have been paid thousands of dollars to write article after article. I’ll also keenly anticipate the turnarounds from those presenting current affairs programs discussing the "terrorist threat" as they acknowledge that they indeed have been part of a thorough and effective campaign to keep the public out of the China/US story over the last seven years.

That aside, if we are indeed in the middle of a China/US power struggle, can the former Prime Minister please tell us what this all means? Can you give us any more details as to how it might affect we little gnomes, sitting in the Garden of Eden? Can you tell the papers to lay off the recent Russia/US pavlova and write some really interesting stuff? Here’s one: how much money has the average CEO of a mining company made knowing that China is on the rise? How does this compare to the money the average bloke has made thinking that terrorists are ruling the world? I’d like to see that table on the front page of The Australian. Toffler was right in many ways: information is the 21st Century currency. There are those who know — and those who don’t.

Do you really believe, PJK, that George Bush has left the world in a terrible state? You and I both know that during his tenure both Australia and America have emerged as stronger and more powerful nations, ready to deal with any further rise in China’s power. You know, surely, that economically we are in a better state as a result of this, and this Bush-as-the-Evil-Monster line is easy rhetoric designed to camouflage the extraordinary consolidation of Western power early this century.

I am not convinced that Russia is emerging as a threat to the US in the region. And I am sure the Chinese are not convinced. Quite the contrary, Russia historically has always looked at China and understood that it must balance China and Western power. Certainly, there will be disagreements but common sense — not political rhetoric — tells us that they are as nervous about China as anyone else.

It is refreshing to see an Australian leader openly talk about the global "big picture", especially one that knows first hand the historical permutations of US and Australian foreign policy toward China and how this has fashioned relations with some of our Asian neighbours.

Nevertheless, there are not enough details emerging about the complexity and drama behind China’s rise and the response of Western powers. Let’s do away with the rhetoric and let people understand how well governments are managing this new environment around the globe. This is the far more interesting story. A continuation of the ‘We Are All Really Stupid and The Americans Really Dumb’ is about as interesting and improvised as an episode of Big Brother. There has been no US policy vacuum, quite the reverse. The "war on terror" signalled a fairly cohesive US foreign policy agenda, with support from many of its allies, including Australia. Geo-politically, it’s come out on top.

So c’mon and shake it up, PJK. We can handle the truth. Better yet, we deserve it — it’s history in the making.

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