Washington, Beijing, and New Delhi may all undertake major, high-risk adventures within the next year. Other powers will use the global chaos to chance their own defensive or offensive opportunism.
Periods of great dislocation always cause sudden, seemingly unpredictable decisions by national leaders, anxious to retrieve declining situations or to take advantage of opportunities.
The greater whirlwind of change began as the Cold War gave way to “the new total war of the 21st century.” Then, the U.S. 2020 election year’s “coincidence” with the COVID-19 global mass psychosis created an epicenter to that whirlwind.
The sudden loss of U.S. national prestige caused by the manner of the August 2021 withdrawal of U.S. troops and civilian personnel from Afghanistan caused President Joe Biden to begin initiatives domestically and internationally to recover the authority of the United States. Biden is being pressed to rebuild that authority before the November 2022 Congressional elections.
Biden on Aug. 31 declared “victory” in extracting “90 percent” of the Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan, and indeed it proved to be an unprecedented airlift exercise. However, his “victory” statement will likely haunt him in the same way George W. Bush’s May 2, 2003, “mission accomplished” statement on the Syrian war haunted the 43rd President.
Biden will take steps on the world stage to rebuild U.S. authority. And as the late CIA officer Miles Copeland said: “U.S. foreign policy is just domestic politics carried out abroad.” So it is.
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping equally seeks to take advantage of the collapse of U.S. prestige and Washington’s Central Asian presence. The U.S. collapse has given Xi a “victory” against the United States before he faces the 20th Party congress in October 2022. At this, Xi could be denied a third five-year term as chairman of communist China.
Xi in October 2017 was able to use the seeming success of his Belt and Road Initiative—the cash equivalent of Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book” to win worldwide converts to Maoism and the Chinese regime—to build momentum toward the 19th Party congress. He staved off pressures from former U.S. President Donald Trump until the congress was completed. But only just.
Then China began to show the profound structural weaknesses it faces today.
Xi recognizes that Russia has surged again into Central Asia with the U.S. withdrawal, giving Moscow the strength to resist and bargain with Beijing.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees the opportunity for India to return to the “Great Game” for Central Asia with the chance to win—for the first time for post-independence India—direct land access to Central Asia. While Xi looks to build pipelines across Afghanistan from Iran to China’s Xinjiang region, he simultaneously hopes to stop New Delhi from cutting off Beijing’s landbridge across Pakistan to the Indian Ocean.
Modi must act quickly to stop the Chinese communist regime and seize the opportunities for India. He must also cooperate and ultimately compete with Russia for trading and strategic influence in Central Asia.
So what could these leaders do?
Xi would rapidly and ruthlessly deal with any dissidence within China. The non-CCP private sector billionaires do not want the closure of the economy, which Xi and his ultra-Maoist team see as necessary as Beijing runs out of cash. So greater constraints on Xi’s main rivals are critical, to suppress growing urban popular discontent with the Party.
Watch, then, for a massive and deliberate tanking of the Chinese economy as part of Xi’s attempts to re-define the country on Maoist lines. He argues that returning to an “internal circulation” economy is the only way to save the CCP in the wake of rising economic, demographic, and food challenges.
Biden is moving ahead with initiatives outside Eurasia, such as a U.S. attempt to play a dominant role in the Nile dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia. This, however, could turn into a major war, destabilizing the Red Sea region, undermining global trade.
Modi may initiate war against Pakistan within a year—to isolate China from the Indian Ocean and Central Asia—cutting through Pakistan-controlled Azad Kashmir which abuts China. Modi did not put nearly a million troops into formerly autonomous Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 merely to suppress Islamist terrorism. He has been preparing for years for this strike to break India’s isolation from the rest of Eurasia. He has never had a more opportune time to strike at China’s interests and further India’s than this.
But it could result in a broader conflagration between India and China.
And these are only three of the possible scenarios evolving from the Afghanistan watershed of August 2021.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.