• 28 July, 2021
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2021: The Year of Disruptive Technologies and New Blocks

Cdr Sandeep Dhawan
Sat, 02 Jan 2021   |  Reading Time: 9 minutes

If 2020 was the year of pandemic then 2021 will be the year of creation of new blocks and disruptive technologies. Countries like China will take advantage of a vulnerable world and strengthen their position. This year may go down in the history when disruptive technologies would be seriously employed without giving much thought to human values.

The top likely and desired strategic trends of 2021 could be:

  • China moves to the Americas
  • The South China Sea is passé watch out for the Indian Ocean Region
  • NATO: Turkey out and Russia in
  • Halting the Chinese bandwagon in the Middle East and the Mediterranean
  • Pakistan in Israeli Orbit
  • Technology that scares you

China Moves to Americas

When China does business in places like Latin America, it often injects corrosive capital into the economic bloodstream, giving life to corruption, and eroding good governance.” – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a visit to Latin America in April 2019.

In the post-Covid world, China has comfortably established its hegemony in Asia. It has further consolidated the position through RCEP. Having done that, it will make its move in the Western Hemisphere, before the new US President gets comfortable in his post. China has learned the trick from the United States. It observed that the US could freely roam all over the planet, intruding in the policies of countries, since it had clear cut superiority in the Western Hemisphere. China wants to remove that level of comfort for the US. If China could entangle the United States in the Americas, it will not have time and energy to pay attention to Chinese politics.

China has been working relentlessly on this policy for years. It has nurtured a relationship with Venezuela and Cuba. Next in line are Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. China has diligently exploited the grave situation created by the coronavirus in Latin America and made swift moves in the backyard of the USA. They provided equipment and expertise for the pandemic that originated from their own country. They also promised to provide $1bn loans for acquiring vaccine whenever it was available. The wolf warrior diplomats used social media to the hilt and embarked on a blitzkrieg of propaganda of good deeds China was doing.

In the name of help, China has created a huge space for itself along with business opportunities for its companies. Latinos were thrilled and never bothered to question China, that how has the virus reached remote corners of Patagonia, Santa Cruz, Argentina. Mexico’s foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard even tweeted “Gracias China!!!”.

Canada is another country that may spring surprises for the United States. Despite the relationships at their historic low, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau invited PLA to observe the Canadian military’s winter survival training on a Canadian military base in 2018. Canada also pusillanimously sent 171 soldiers to China to attend Military World Games in Oct 2019.

China is now the number one trade partner to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, and others. If Mexico is excluded, China’s trade with the region exceeded more than $223 billion versus U.S. trade of $198 billion in 2019. The U.S. needs to get back in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bloc to somewhat restore its prestige and position in Latin America.

In 2021, China will be further consolidating its position by taking the war to the American shores, nibbling, and poking at it from all directions. Applying Ostrich’s mentality when it comes to Chinese moves in the Americas would dent the United States’ image beyond repair.

South China Sea is Passé – Watch Out for Indian Ocean Region

There are over 120 warships of extra-regional forces deployed in the Indian Ocean Region in support of various missions.”- Indian Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat

The South China Sea was the hottest zone in 2020. That phase has passed. China has achieved two objectives that it had set for itself. Try and test the new Theatre Command structure and cohesiveness against the best navy in the world: the US Navy. The other objective was to get the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ratified by the battered Asia-Pacific economies. The agreement is heavily tilted in China’s favour.

The South China Sea was never a dilemma for China. It has had the edge in the region for a long time. Where China lacks strength, is the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Despite calling itself the largest navy in the world (numerically, with 350 ships), it doesn’t have the wherewithal to call shots in the Indian Ocean. So, 2021 will be China’s consolidation phase, in the IOR.

As per noted political scientist Minxin Pei, “China should heed the first rule of holes: when you are in one, stop digging”. The message is loud and clear, if China wants to utilize the IOR for its trade and energy requirements, it should stop needling India. The role of the IOR in the global economy is evident from the fact that three-quarters of the world-wide maritime trade and half of the world’s oil supplies pass through IOR. The Malacca Strait in the east and the Hormuz and the Bab el Mandeb straits in the west are not just the chokepoints but a nightmare for the Chinese naval planners.

Despite all this, India, cannot remain complacent. China is continuously forging partnerships with strategically located states in the Indian Ocean. Djibouti, Gwadar, and Hambantota are significant mentions. China is filling up security holes with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia in the Bay of Bengal/Eastern Indian Ocean.

To counter China, India is working relentlessly on India’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier”, the Andaman and Nicobar Island(ANI). The development of naval air station INS Kohassa at Shibpur in North ANI and Campbell strip in Nicobar into full-fledged fighter bases is an impetus in this direction. Conversion of the present naval detachment in Lakshadweep into a fully-fledged operational base and network of 26 radar stations deployed across the atolls of the Maldives, linked to the Indian Southern Command has PLAN worried.

China will come to the Indian Ocean with full force and India along with other Quad partners should not disappoint the PLA Navy.

NATO: Turkey Out and Russia In

This is a tall order though not completely out of place. Turkey has been in the cross-hair of most of the NATO members. Its military action in Syria, threatening behaviour in the Mediterranean against Greece and Cyprus, involvement in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, and hobnobbing with Iran, China, and Russia have put off almost all the NATO members.

The absence of a suspension and expulsion mechanism in the North Atlantic Treaty does not prohibit the North Atlantic Council from suspending or terminating the membership of an ally found to be in material breach of the treaty. A recent survey showed that 58% of Germans want Turkey expelled from NATO.

The Turkish dictator-style President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his desire to be the leader of the Muslim world has spoiled the country’s relationship with friendly countries beyond repair. It is becoming increasingly clear that Ankara is drawing heavily on its strategic geographic position instead of its value in support of NATO objectives.

On the other hand, getting Russia onboard would be highly beneficial to the NATO members. Especially the US would be more than interested in having Russia as an ally against China. That way China could be sandwiched between India and Russia. The biggest strategic blunder of western planners has been to push the Russians towards the Chinese. Russians are not too happy about going too far and getting completely in bed with Beijing.

China’s astronomic economic growth has Russia worried and that gives them reason good enough to ally with the West. There could be no better time than 2021 for Russia to join hands with the West and NATO.

Halting the Chinese Bandwagon in The Middle East and the Mediterranean

Ignoring Chinese activities in the Middle East and the Mediterranean could be dubbed as the mistake of the decade by the free world. Chinese SOEs had a free run in the region and the West had no answer. It is no surprise that the map of the Chinese game plan resembles a larger new-age Ottoman Empire.

 

Countries north of the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf have been systematically added to this undeclared empire one after the other. India is the only spoiler of the Chinese game-plan. Both India and Pakistan sit at the cusp of the gateway to the Middle East. China is gobbling up countries at breakneck speed. Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Greece, and Italy have already fallen for China laid trap(Italy is 3rd largest trading partner and 1st G7 nation in BRI partnership). The United States’ best bet in the Middle East, Israel also seems to be gravitating towards China (Chinese investment into Israel jumped more than tenfold to a record $16.5 billion in 2016).Map Courtesy: Google

China-Pakistan’s infrastructure projects CPEC’s bill has ballooned from $46 billion to an estimated $87 billion, pushing Pakistan further into the Chinese trap. China and Iran have entered into a 25-year $400 billion strategic partnership in trade and security. China and Iraq have also gotten into a five-year oil deal. Both Iran and Iraq have entered the inescapable Chinese orbit. Syria has been promised benefit from a $23 billion loan fund announced by Beijing to its partners in the Arab world. In Lebanon, China is targeting the Beirut-Tripoli railway as part of BRI. With $40 billion Chinese investment, Egypt’s Suez Canal is expected to become a pivotal part of the BRI connecting Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Without western pressures, Turkey is fast becoming a Chinese vassal state. At China’s behest, it has started arresting and deporting Uighur activists living in the country. Chinese investment in Turkey is likely to exceed $6 billion by the end of 2021. China is buying Turkish companies as if it is a Black Friday sale. Sixty-five percent stakes in Turkey’s third-largest strategic container terminal, Kumport in Istanbul, and 51 percent of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge connecting Europe and Asia across the Bosporus are some of the noteworthy mentions.

Greece and Italy have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China for joining BRI. China’s COSCO has taken stakes in at least 15 European ports in recent years. Rotterdam, Antwerp, Marseilles, and Piraeus are some of the prominent names. Greek port Piraeus has become the Mediterranean’s leading container handling port. China is gobbling up advanced technology and traditional industries in Italy at a fast pace. China’s next move would be to acquire strategically important Italian ports of Palermo and Trieste.

If the above-mentioned game plan works out, China would be the undisputed king of the new-age colonized world giving rise to many authoritarian regimes in the region.

Pakistan in Israeli Orbit

Recently Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry refuted reports on social and mainstream media that implied Islamabad was about to restore diplomatic relations with Israel, a move that would necessarily send shock waves across Pakistan’s many radical Islamic groups.

Despite the official rejections, observers and officials believe that there is some truth in the speculation. An ISI aircraft was seen parked in Amman, Jordan in November, while a meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister and Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed bin Salman was underway. Evaluating the changing winds in the Middle East and with soaring evidence that Saudi Arabia may soon follow the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in normalizing relations with Israel, Pakistan cannot stay aloof.

The speculation was further reinforced when Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an interview with a local TV channel, divulged that he was “under pressure” from some “friendly countries” to recognize Israel.

However, the biggest setback for Pakistan came from Turkey. The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said that Turkey would like to have better ties with Israel and that talks at intelligence level continue between the two sides.

Technology that Scares You

Last but one of the most devastating changes in the world would be the emergence of disruptive technologies. The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has brought to the fore, new lessons for the military planners across the globe. Azerbaijan won the war in 44 days against a superior Armenian army, effectively using such technologies.

Disruptive Technologies and how they are going to impact the emerging conflicts of the 21st century is something that every student of modern warfare is trying to understand. Results of The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has laid the foundation for modern warfare.

The coming year will see giant steps in the following fields:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Lethal Autonomous Weapons
  • Hypersonic Weapons
  • Directed Energy Weapons
  • Biotechnology
  • Quantum Technology

Conclusion

The year ahead is going to be very interesting for geopolitical watchers. It would also shape the next two to three decades for good or bad. Following are the portentous trends that emerge from the foregoing:

  • Pakistan is left with two options, recognize Israel or get further isolated.
  • China would be omnipresent in every deal as a direct or indirect party. It would be up to the free world to rise above greed and recognize that China is the real danger to humanity. It would also save countries from following the Chinese way of authoritarianism and disregard for human values.
  • India and not the United States would rise against Chinese designs. India has to step out of its comfort zone, understand its historic importance, and take the leadership role. India can achieve that only if it innovates rather than follow the beaten path.
  • The United States and the European Union, if do not get their acts together, their value would further diminish in the comity of nations.
  • Attracting Russia into the western fold would have a double impact. Chinese energy requirements would be completely in the control of the free world and sandwiched between India and Russia, China wouldn’t have much space to manoeuvre.
  • Failing on these fronts would make the world forget the principles of Norman Angell and the foundation for World War III would get further strengthened.

References:

  • stripes.com/news/us/pentagon-s-proposed-2021-budget-focuses-on-future-weapons-to-compete-with-russia-china-1.618244
  • asiatimes.com/2020/12/why-pakistan-will-be-next-to-normalize-with-israel/?mc_cid=5835ff00aa&mc_eid=8a5f995df9
  • ihsmarkit.com/research-analysis/geopolitics-in-a-postpandemic-world-a-fragmented-world.html
  • dodig.mil/In-the-Spotlight/Article/2420714/top-dod-management-challenges-fiscal-year-2021
  • heritage.org/military
  • nytimes.com/2020/12/02/opinion/biden-interview-mcconnell-china-iran.html
  • inss.org.il/publication/the-world-in-2021
  • ft.com/content/741e72ed-e1db-4609-b389-969318f170e8
  • news.cgtn.com/news/2020-10-28/Is-Turkey-on-the-verge-of-a-NATO-exit–UXDeCWGxc4/index.html
  • thearabweekly.com/chinas-rebuilding-role-iraq-could-serve-template-syria-after-years-conflict
  • business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/china-pakistan-economic-corridor-will-be-trillion-dollar-blunder-experts-120062200392_1.html
  • foreignpolicy.com/2020/09/16/erdogan-is-turning-turkey-into-a-chinese-client-state
  • eurasiantimes.com/india-or-china-whom-did-israel-support-during-the-intense-india-china-border-standoff
  • tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/25765949.2020.1808378?scroll=top&needAccess=true
  • mei.edu/publications/towering-ambitions-egypt-and-china-building-future
  • wfmj.com/story/42826417/bri-boosts-chinese-investments-in-egypt
  • thediplomat.com/2020/08/will-china-change-its-lebanon-strategy
  • seatrade-maritime.com/ports-logistics/china-and-greece-pledge-joint-work-belt-and-road-initiative
  • latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-02-07/greece-grants-thousands-of-chinese-millionaires-eu-citizenship
  • asiapowerwatch.com/how-covid-19-could-reshape-the-italy-china-relationship
  • defense.info/global-dynamics/2020/04/china-buying-italy-amid-the-covid-crisis
  • csis.org/analysis/air-and-missile-war-nagorno-karabakh-lessons-future-strike-and-defense
  • aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/25/erdogan-says-turkey-wants-better-ties-with-israel-talks-continue
  • rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR3176.html

 

 


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POST COMMENTS (28)

Webbeleah

Jun 16, 2021
Yeah.you are right.This year will be The Year of Disruptive Technologies and New Blocks.China will do many effort to increase in many areas but will not achieve successes.dear commander!! Have you read about US distress and attack on President house.this event inspire to China,but can not new.thanks for sharing informative post.??

Mayur Vyas

Feb 12, 2021
Very Nice Article

Simon Templar

Jan 12, 2021
Another great original post, Cdr. Nations need to follow Australia's lead and push back on all things ChiCom. China's Center of Gravity needs to be identified and destroyed by 1000 cuts from all right-minded noncommunist nations. I wonder how difficult it would be for China to assault and occupy ANI if things go full kinetic? Finally (and with America's November presidential election circus act in the rearview mirror), I agree that India is going to have to shoulder almost entirely alone the threat of tyrannical Chinese communists. Execlsior!

Atul Dewan

Jan 11, 2021
Lots to ponder in 2021, good pointers

Sanjeev

Jan 06, 2021
A great article with a perfection via thoughts on how 2021 can be a a year end of disruptive tech and how... While it's an article with thought projection but very well backed by tails of trend , evidence and data backup. Most interesting was few averse countries moving now close to Israel.. The article has quite a global touch and every global change will have cascading impact on India . A very thoughtful article penned by Author 🙏🇮🇳🙏

Shailender

Jan 04, 2021
Very well researched article . Very informative Thanks for sharing Regards

Sid Gupta

Jan 03, 2021
The Chinese aspiration and the China might is getting clear to people. EU is on the verge of signing a trade deal with China. The economic backbone of most of these countries are fragile, which makes easy for China to acquire them. US, Russia and Western world has to play a very critical role to ensure their economic and sovereign safety. US dollar weakening and crypto currencies taking a dominant position need to be taken more seriously. It is indeed a realignment of power. You have really touched all those aspects of changing world. Thank you for your great work, as always. Keep it up.

MCV Jose

Jan 03, 2021
A well articulated write up bringing China's long term master strategy to the fore! I feel that the dominance of the space and the capability of the satellites will also affect the future vis-a-vis land/ sea dominance. Iran, Turkey etc. can also create nuisances for US as well as China. The UN is a toothless organization and the control of West has deminished drastically. Great going Cdr Dhawan.

Bryan Wagner

Jan 03, 2021
It is apparent that China has developed some serious policies concerning world domination. it has become more serious since the U.S individual and business interests have started borrowing the capital to fund investments. China is making use of humankinds greatest area of vulnerability, our greediness. And, apparently, are going full bore in manipulating this area. Why use force when you can just buy the planet? Another great post. I am so glad that you are doing this work. Take care of you.

Wendell Bruges

Jan 03, 2021
This was the finest article on a futuristic topic I have read in the recent past. If you may permit, I would like to add that Iran will emerge as a very important link in this jigsaw puzzle. China is wooing Iran overtly. However, it is in Iran’s interest that it stays away from China to avoid further deterioration of the relationship with the West.

Madhu TP

Jan 03, 2021
Your views are radical and interesting. Of several paths which China can take, the article has outlined the most disruptive(to the current world order) and the fastest. In my opinion, China will only take new steps after consolidation of its existing gains and learning from it's losses. China is dependent on external markets for its sustenance. The RCEP has been recently concluded but countries like India are attempting to counter it by bilateral free trade agreements. Second, it is assumed that the US will be indifferent to the changing geopolitics. With the change of guard, the US is likely to return it's focus to European and world politics. Turkey seems to be acting against NATO interests by calculating US non involvement. However, the situation is still fluid, but one year is too short to make and major predictions. China seems to be overstretched. It needs to consolidate before making fresh inroads into this world country economics.

Sreenivas

Jan 03, 2021
Also, the EU - China deal which was due to a weak US relationship with EU has put China in the driver's seat. Huawei will be soon in Europe, China will breach all European security codes and the firms in EU which normally depend upon Arbitration and court of law will be surprised when they will have to take on Govt run Chinese companies who will care two hoots about any law. Biden needs to take Viagra to deal with China and Kamala has to be sensible and not laugh hysterically as she normally does to take on Xi. In any case let's get ready for a China lead World where Yuan could be the future world currency. Hum tho sadak mein strike karte rah jayenge!

RAdm Sudhir Pillai

Jan 03, 2021
Thanks for that insightful summary. For consideration. A big change in 2021 would be post Trump US! How would they strategise? When Iran has openly said that they will resume uranium enrichments to above ... we are set for many new geopolitical dynamics. Andamans and especially GNI as fully operational bases esp for fighter flying will take a lot more than lengthening of runways. While geography (position) is a huge plus the ecological vulnerability and even land availablility for large military forces can be tricky. In my view offshore mobile maritime bases (ships and carriers) for on call support can be crucial as against air support from mainland india albeit with air tanking. The distance between thanjavur and a&n and those between Argentine airbases and falklands makes an interesting comparison.

Ravinder Singh kahlon

Jan 03, 2021
Very well researched. Great analysis. An eye opener.

Sreenivas

Jan 03, 2021
Well, thanks to you I have been reading a lot about China. Looks like they are bullying just like how the West was perceived to be bullying weaker countries'. They seem to have a Master plan and are working towards it. If India has a plan then we need to consolidate on all spheres. First we have to be an economic power for which we need to either innovate technologically or copy and build the way china did. In India each state behaves like a foreign country. There is no National Spirit, this is very crucial to taking on China. By not joining RCEP we may be going with our MSME /small industries but we also need big markets of SE Asia. I think in the long run we have to recognise that China beat us in the Economic game and have grown in might. For us to stand up to them will take us Decades as we are a divided country. By the time we manufacture one Aircraft carrier to be positioned in Andaman, China would have made many more. For now we need to work diplomatically with China and rekindle the Modi- Xi Bonhomie. Two Asian giants can rock the world. Only that we will have to forever deal with them with suspicion. But when they too are dependent on us economically, I guess we limit the amount they can crush us. However, if we wish to have a No China policy, each state in India has to rise to the Occasion and every Indian should contribute to Nation building. If China can then India can but then stop dharnas, strikes and petty political fights if we need to take on the Dragon. Else, join forces by building economic strength.

Sanjay Saxena

Jan 03, 2021
Thanks sir for the well researched and well perceived article.

Col(Dr) Purna Patnaik

Jan 03, 2021
While the Dragon threat must be checkmated, militarily, economically and politically, India must take note of Canada's growing patronage to Anti India designs.

Judithann Campbell

Jan 03, 2021
Thank you, Commander Dhawan, for another great article on the dangers of China. Freedom loving people everywhere must unite and defeat Communist China.

Martina

Jan 02, 2021
I would like to thank you for having given us the possibility to get such an overview of international politics . Grazie mille:)

Major Ravi Joshi Veteran

Jan 02, 2021
Cursor moved so fast in 360 degrees around the World map so precisely,which did highlight both Hemispheres ,and made reader to grasp ' GRAVE THREAT posed by CHINA, both on Strategic & Economic front. Awaiting for more inputs on ' WUHAN MOVE on Chinese Checkmate ' Heartiest Congratulations for maintaining name of 'CHANAKYA ' in the highest esteem Sir ! Veteran Ravi Joshi , in Mumbai.

Capt Rammohan

Jan 02, 2021
Well researched and thought provoking

Aviott John

Jan 02, 2021
So many new insights here, even though I read a lot about global geopolitics. Insights, plus a wealth of defence spending and economic information is impressive. If I were a Chinese policy maker, I'd read your blog before plotting my next steps.

Joseph Sukumar

Jan 02, 2021
A realistic peep into the future.

2021: The Year of Disruptive Technologies and New Blocks - Insightful Geopolitics

Jan 02, 2021
[…] 2021: The Year of Disruptive Technologies and New Blocks […]

Raman

Jan 02, 2021
A succinct description of the world as it is and as it might be. Thanks for the description

sukhjit

Jan 02, 2021
A well researched and articulated article. Era of west is fast declining, it is time for asian giants to take their place

Captain TR Ravi

Jan 02, 2021
Excellent write up on the likely events in the coming year. Hope Canadian plans are no more pusillanimous. Hope Latin Americas understand the true motive of Chinese diplomatic expansionist steps. And finally the next generation catastrophic disruptive weapons will tilt the power arm. Fantastic write up

P K Misra

Jan 02, 2021
Beautifully researched article. Hope competent authorities take note and are prepared to deal with future challenges.

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