Talking About Growth Miracle And Emerging Quadripolar Economic Construct (Part – Two)

During the economic globalization period partnerships between the trading nations have resulted in collaboration across countries and enhanced opportunities in manufacturing, trade, innovation, creativity which created immense new wealth worldwide.

July 28, 2023, 12:49 p.m.

Continued…

Impact of Globalization and Access to International Market Economy:

The global economy in the past century was under the dominance of industrialized countries of the west. The emergence of new economic players in the level playing ground of world marketplaces is gradually transforming the scene. This has created a sense of fear and insecurity in the old establishments. This scenario has, without realization, shrunk the market play and dominant influence on economics and other global issues unconditionally.

On the other hand, it also has produced unlikely cooperation and alliances between the nations of diverse political ideologies of the past. This phenomenon will contribute to rebuilding beneficial collaboration in economic fields and enhance inter-dependency between the parties over time. This transformation can be sensed in shifting international relations which is working favorably for countries like China, India, and other emerging economies.

Experiences of the recent decades suggest economic pathways of developing economies may need to be re-configured their models and programs pragmatically rather than working on idealistic and dogmatized super nationalistic euphoric models of governance delivery. Emphasis on market expansion, innovation, creativity, automation, intra-regional collaboration and high-tech are gaining grounds for development and sustainability. This is a developing trend in economic diplomacy. China is a sparkling gold in Asia and has become attractive destination, being the largest global manufacturing hub and supplier of household goods globally. This glitter is enhanced by being a big lender under the Belt and Road Initiative strategy and AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank). Presently, China is the most influential economic partner of the ASEAN. Relationships will grow for it lends political stability, reassurance, and sense of economic sustainability despite political fissures emanating from external shocks.

During the economic globalization period partnerships between the trading nations have resulted in collaboration across countries and enhanced opportunities in manufacturing, trade, innovation, creativity which created immense new wealth worldwide. In this pathway, Nepal missed out avenues leading to economic growth synergies when both neighbors became dominant economic players by overhauling their past policy failures, adjusting to new reality, and working pragmatically. China and India are the magnets for investors, and both countries continue to maximize on opportunities and gaining economic growth. They are on their way forward, and unlikely to be deterred by hiccups ahead. Both neighbors have mobilized investments in manufacturing, global supply chain diversification, innovation, and comparative production efficiencies by taking advantage of technology, international market, and economies of scale. Unfortunately, policy and decision makers in Nepal appear blinded by political power play and unable to see the transformative changes which have been occurring in the neighborhoods.

China has created a broader space in the international arena and significant economic influence in Asia for it is a top trading partner of emerging markets of ASEAN. Simultaneously, recognizing market potentials in Africa, China quietly moved in the region to the annoyance of colonial powers for it is heavily investing in infrastructure and agriculture which were ignored by the west. In coming years, there is going to be fierce competition between the industrialized colonial powers of the west and China, to a lesser extent with India. The ‘Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)’ is China’s ‘softly-softly’ approach to economic diplomacy towards building trust and bonding relationship and ascending export market reach.

China’s successful creation of economic leverage and influence in the absence the western nation’s policy failures is paying the dividends in political domain. India is far behind in this due to its economic absenteeism in the region and inward-looking domestic political outlook. It is astonishing that within just over two decades some one billion people have been lifted out of the abject poverty in China. This is unprecedented in the economic history of human civilization. This success story of economic miracle has sparked an intense debate in academia and political domain influenced by laisser-faire geo-economic philosophy.

We must not forget the global growth and wealth creations have, however, failed to ensure fair and equitable distribution and sharing. It has widened the economic gulf between the needy people and the ruling elites and has created political fissures across the industrialized world contributing to the rise in political populism. The long term social and economic impact and the dimension of this phenomenon in politics are yet to be realized fully. This does not mean we ought to dump wealth creation and the creators, and their ingenuity otherwise the economy will go flat and remain stagnate or sink with the growth ebb and flow.

Changing Scenario and Emergence of Quadripolar Economic Construct

Since 1871 the USA has dominated the world economy. But, with the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the world became more interconnected and modern-day economic globalization shrouded in the doctrine of international free trading picked up. Over the past four decades, global economic growth from GDP of about US$ 23 trillion (1990) rose to US$ 96.5 trillion (2021). All regions have benefitted from this, although disproportionally.

Dominant economic powers of the 20th Century the USA, European Union, and the UK are currently growing slower than countries in Asia. Growth will be further compromised if Russo-Ukraine conflict were to prolong further, and economic ramifications appear uncertain. Economic growth, however, are shaky, unstable, and mired by stagflation. In this scenario, India has transformed into the largest benefactor of the western belligerent foreign policy chauvinism. India, the fourth largest global economy, has become a major political player without being permanent member of the UN Security Council or a formal member of G-7. India’s influence has grown significantly with its well-thought-out and pragmatic mainstream foreign policy of strategic autonomy, rather than clinging on to the outdated and defunct non-aligned bi-polar dogmatic world. It should be obvious that prosperity, creativity, innovation, quality, knowledge enhancement, productivity cannot flourish in the super-nationalistic compartmentalized environment. This means, there is no soft power’ dividends in the current geo-political complex.

In the changing global landscape, unprepared India is outmaneuvered by China’s unstoppable Silk Road myth popularized by One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative backed up by trillion of dollars of state funding for the program. It is no accident that India’s ‘Look East’ policy for expanding strategic influence in East Asia converged with ASEAN desire for creating reliable security umbrella at a time when ambivalent USA was retreating from pivot in Asia. India’s induction to ASEAN gambit as a strategic partner reflects alliance’s pragmatism for creating economic, political and security umbrella. The continued Russo-Ukraine conflict will have economic implications and uncertain political ramifications requiring regional structures and reconfiguration of existing compacts. This will have altered narrative and redefinition of relationships amongst the USA, EU, China, and India. This is leading to the emergence of a quadripolar global structure. By default, it turns in favor of India’s foreign policy alignment of strategic autonomy to have a stronger foothold globally and attain aspirations.

India’s economic strength is projected to surpass countries in the European Union in coming decades. This will re-confirm India’s place in the world stage as major player at the economic and military fronts. US Administration’s sudden withdrawal from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and desire to terminate NAFTA did not appear pragmatic in terms of global policy ramifications. The inclusion of India into the QUAD club created a sense of security in East-Asia at a time of China’s maritime muscle display in South-China Sea which appears overwhelming. Although India’s allure in the Indo-Pacific Alliance has created a tectonic shift in regional security frame and political calculus. It is difficult to speculate what role India would play if there were future military confrontations in the Taiwan Strait. This uncertainty has not altered the economic landscape in the region yet.

It is hard to speculate India’s future course of action at the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the largest trading block in the world, despite earlier in principle agreement of the concept. India’s ambivalent but cautious reluctance to sign up for this grouping is attributed to domestic political concerns and fear of overwhelming economic influence of China. RCEP is an important cooperation platform that could transform India’s ambition to become dominant power which is presently held by China for reason of its incomparable economic strengths and wealth. One cannot deny the fact that sustaining economic supremacy will also require display of military muscles for enforceability of its strategic goal.

The regional and sub-regional alliances between emerging and developing nations, including the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries, may produce new political construct and alter relationships involving the USA, EU, BRICS, Arab League, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the rest of the Global South. The wealthy Gulf and Middle East countries are looking east towards cooperation. This would reset regional compact with new narratives creating economic collaboration previously unthinkable. This compact with the Gulf and Middle East countries, led by Saudi Arabia’s ambition, the major player, is instrumental in forging partnerships with Asian economic power houses like China and India. This will be an important shift in the regional political calculus if it materializes and could alter the regional cooperation structure. This is in the direction of the emergence of a new quadripolar economic construct within the multi-polar framework.

Implications

One should not be surprised in this development because it is being projected that Asia Pacific and the Latin America’s GDP share would exceed by more than half of the total GDP of US$120 trillion (2022 estimates) of world economy. The quadripolar economic construct is comprised of the USA, China, European Union, and India. It is crucial for developing countries to re-configure economic strategies in the changing construct. Such alignment can help leverage opportunities presented by emerging development conundrum and may reduce economic vulnerabilities and external shocks. One way forward argument for Global South is to have constructive collaboration in regional economic construct keeping in view of new realism and pursue pragmatic steps capitalizing on growing market expansion. This will ensure access to larger markets, create growth opportunities for investments, and a sense of economic security and stability through trade and other benefits concomitant with development across the region and beyond. This can help economically poorer countries like Nepal and others’ integration into regional structure, attract fresh capital investment and benefit from global value chains which will spur economic development and job creation.

Developing countries must also be mindful of the potential risks which might come with political polarization and economic de-globalization possibilities, income disparity, social inequality, and environmental degradation. Countries need to implement policies that mitigate these ongoing challenges and ensure that the benefits of economic gains are shared equitably and pragmatically across all societies. The Global South should maximize growth potential to economic prosperity of the nation by aligning policy strategies in the reality of quadripolar economic construct. This will, nonetheless, require balancing trade relations between countries in the regions while being cognizant of fallout in the political domain. This means strictly adhering to pragmatic political economy strategies which are deliverable, by stopping building political castles in the air. Policy makers in developing economies should re-think and prepare for re-calibration of policy compatibility in the emerging ego-political quadripolar economic construct. This may be the beginning of a new World Economic Order. I leave it to the readers to re-thinking beyond this, and the best way forward.

(The author, Kedar Neupane is a board member of Nepal Policy Institute, an independent international think-tank, and a retiree United Nations staff. Observations, views, and comments expressed in this piece are the author’s personal. Neupanek1950@gmail.com)

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