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Modern history will record November 8, 2016 as the day when the United States of America officially decided to vote for a global retreat – from the heady rhetoric of ‘Let’s make the world a better place’ to “Let’s make America great again”.
Americans have voted for building a wall to protect what they have, against the dream of global dominance. This surely marks the end of the uni-polar world as we know it.
The tenor and assertions (of rebuilding American infrastructure, erecting border walls, keeping immigrants away, and dismantling Obamacare) during Republican candidate Donald Trump’s campaign trail followed by his massive victory on Tuesday completes this US retreat.
The resulting void comes at a time when no one nation is ready to fill this space which will be left empty – and this could fuel the rise of real multi-polarity.
At the moment, and surely for many years now, China remains America’s biggest economic rival. That juggernaut continues with Beijing’s ambitious new Silk Road (One Belt One Road) project across Asia and Europe.
China is the world’s second largest economy after the United States and the biggest trading partner for most Asian and African economies. With over 160 cities hosting 1 million+ inhabitants and new cities emerging, China continues to be one of the fastest growing consumer markets.
However, its biggest domestic challenge is to continue to guard against any slips in its politically conservative agenda and that internal social upheaval does not go out of those “iron hands”.
But there is no denying that China will continue as the centerpiece of the global economic discourse even as Trump takes stock of US economic health indicators.
The next biggest tension point on the global agenda is strategic geopolitics.
Unpalatable as it may be to many, President Vladimir Putin’s Russia – which is facing severe economic difficulties – is ready, willing and able to play an important role here.
Among the Republican leader’s most discussed campaign promises was that America would outsource the fight against ISIS to Putin in Syria.
For Putin, to manage public opinion at home, it’s important to be doing things which can divert attention from local to global affairs.
We are likely to hear more and more of Russia in the coming days, especially since Trump spoke about working with Putin “to wipe out shared enemies”.
They say establishment always resists change.
So it’s likely that Trump might continue on the path set by his predecessors on foreign policy in the short term. But it is quite clear that his focus would be inwards rather than outwards.
Trump might find friendly right-wing dispensations in India and Brazil that could be further persuaded to become Washington’s proxies in their struggle against economically-asserting China and strategically-defiant Russia. In turn, India and Brazil are likely to benefit from this dependence.
Rise of strategic blocs
But in order to understand the likelihood of an American retreat, one needs to look at the recent announcements of Asian countries like the Philippines and Malaysia that have openly rebuffed US meddling in the region vis-à-vis the South China Sea or of the eagerness of EU countries in joining the new China-led financial institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Now more than ever, strategic groupings are likely to wield more eminence – BRICS is one such group.
Former UK Vice Finance Minister, Jim O’Neill, who is the father of this acronym, has recently said that BRICS has outperformed his expectations and – as things stand today – it seems he is in for an even bigger surprise.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has already asked President-elect Trump to reassure US allies of his commitment to NATO following some bitter comments during his 2016 campaign.
The EU is another big grouping.
If it succeeds in fighting the growing right-wing onslaught and continues to work with other groups like BRICS and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the EU is likely to gain from this US retreat.
What Americans have done today is historic. They may not have made history by electing the first female president but they have, unintentionally, initiated steps towards a historic retreat.
They have sent an outsider to the White House with a mandate to look within.
The American Dream has opened its eyes to the new realities.
Welcome to the new world order.