We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

BRIC countries and South Africa

Looking beyond the size of its economy, it gets clearer why SA was asked to sit with the big players. Namely, key geostrategic port location and resources that allows BRIC to better compete with G7 in shaping planetary unification.

If one had to assemble a coalition of countries to serve as the backbone of an alternative future governing order, how would one go about it? Sure, the size of the economy and population would be a key initial criterion in selecting candidates but not the only one. Diversity of underlining reasons for economic strength would be a second one. Just like with humans in a group, a country coalition would function best if there were specializations among them (manufacture, IT, energy, agriculture, etc). A third criterion may be a country's ability to augment the coalition by serving as a strategic bridgehead between member states and others.

This is where Jacob Zuma comes in. Besides being an alleged rapist, he also rules a very resource rich country that also overlooks one of the 3 essential shipping lanes in the Eastern hemisphere. In fact, considering ship size limitations of the Suez Canal and the residual ice threat existing in the waters around Russia, South Africa's Cape Agulhas is likely to continue to witness many super shipping tankers in the future. One should keep in mind that some of the world's biggest tanker ship yards are now in China and that Suez Canal is not dependable since it could be closed down by hostile powers (a prospect all too real considering recent destabilizing foreign pressures on Egypt).

Here we see the 3 routes. Both South Africa and Brazil establish a sort of a beachhead in what Zbigniew Brzezinski called Eurasia's periphery. Each country opens up an entire continent to trade. In addition, both Jacob Zuma and Dilma Rousseff have independent minded socialist background and can link up other BRIC nations with similarly minded regional players like Angola, Bolivia, Uruguay, etc.

There is great symmetry to the timing. As Westerners are trying to reestablish imperial presence in Africa from the north (to counter China receiving 60%+ of the continent's resource exports), BRIC is beefing up its presence in the south. Perhaps leaders of Africa's large resource rich and multi-ethnic nations finally sense that some measure of protection is required. After all, Sudan and Libya have had their oil rich regions amputated in a very brief amount of time. Nigeria, Algeria, and SA thus have a couple things to worry about.

Additionally, Chinese military leadership is worried that NATO's divide and conquer resource grab in Africa may ultimately serve as a springboard to fan the fires already started in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan (China's ally being bombed as we speak). In other words, attempts at Balkanization in the soft underbelly of Eurasia (Central Asia) are more ominous than simple theft. Two of the BRICs have already created Shanghai Cooperation Organization (India, Pakistan, and Iran have observer status) to prevent the exactly the same thing now engulfing Libya.

It would be logical to create SCO affiliated regional security organizations with Brazil and South Africa at the helm (SA, Angola, and Nigeria for instance can unite to provide security that African Union is apparently incapable of doing). In effect, this would mirror the past practice of United States picking a local power and subcontracting regional security to it (see Indonesia and Shah's Iran during the cold war).

The strategic position of South Africa demonstrates the rapid transformation of mentality within the BRIC coalition. Many Western observers scoffed at any meaningful cooperation within this coalition due to diversity of political systems and economic strengths. Now they seem puzzled why a much smaller economy was allowed to join. However, the mere fact that a countries like Nigeria or Indonesia (fast growing, populous, adds a Muslim bridgehead for BRIC) were not invited, shows that there is a degree of consolidated forward looking geopolitical thinking within BRIC leadership. SA has the gold that China and India have been accumulating recently (Russia as well although it buys from its own mining sector) and it got the docks for mega ships.
The existence of such strategic movement is most likely explained by prior SCO cooperation. One should keep in mind that SCO was created to put out the foreign made fires in Central Asia (once Operation Enduring Freedom a.k.a. welfare for NATO wraps up, SCO will be doing serious clean up/overspill prevention duties). It is not surprising then that some blurring of SCO's geostrategy and BRIC trade centric strategy should happen. The two are not mutually exclusive and it stands to reason that safety and trade should go hand in hand. China, Russia, India would want to not only ultimately expel Western influence from their neighborhood but move on to peripheral areas of American empire where Washington DC is losing ground. This means Africa first (US never overcommitted itself there even during the Cold War, leaving the dirty dictator prop up work to Europeans) and Latin America second (we'll know the Imperial mortal coil is about to be shrugged off when Mexico is cooperating with BRICS).

Ultimately, if the current Washington backed revolutionary wave in the Middle East is stopped/reversed, Iran will be asked to join. If Iran is successful at forcing out US from Iraq (right now DC and Tehran appear to have an odd couple joint imperial rule over that long suffering country), then the Indian ocean and the coasts of Africa/South America will be seeing more ships resembling this, possibly protected by SCO/SCO affiliated convoys:

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