An extremely important piece of legislation moved forward in Congress at the end of last year but scarcely elicited any media attention, and that’s the so-called “Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act”. The outwardly noble mission of this law is to formally implement a policy aimed at comprehensively assisting the US’ “stabilization” efforts in “fragile states”, with the justification being that this could save lives, improve living standards, and prevent large-scale illegal migration, all of which are universally acceptable goals to pursue.
The issue, however, is that there’s more to this mission than initially meets the eye and that it’s impossible to separate the US’ planned efforts in this respect from its parallel objective of deepening its full-spectrum influence all across the “Global South” countries that currently form the primary battlegrounds in the New Cold War against China.
To bring the reader up to speed on global dynamics, most international events nowadays are driven in whole or in part (and whether explicitly or implicitly) by the American-Chinese competition for shaping the 21st-century world order, with the US struggling to retain its erstwhile unipolar hegemony (albeit with some much-needed strategic modifications such as the “Lead From Behind” policy) in the face of rising multipolar challenges from the People’s Republic.
While there are many dimensions to this global rivalry, the most important is economic because it forms the basis upon which these two superpowers intend to construct their envisaged world order, ergo the relevancy of the “Global South”. China is an export-driven economy that’s made enormous strides in the so-called “Third World” and especially Africa over the past few decades, and it’s here where most of the world’s “fragile states” are coincidentally located.
The People’s Republic needs reliable access to African resources and markets in order to sustain its evolving economic model and advance to the stage where it can more confidently take on the US’ global leadership position, which explains the game-changing importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in giving Beijing a direct corridor to the Afro-Asian (“Indian”) Ocean.
The Hybrid War on CPEC has thus far failed in its objective of offsetting the flagship project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and cutting off its non-Malacca access to Africa, which is why further “containment” means “downstream” are now being explored. Instead of attacking China’s corridor to Africa, the US begrudgingly accepts that it’s begun to slowly but surely enter into operation and is therefore attempting to displace Chinese influence in Africa as its fallback strategy.
The “Global Fragility Act” is expected to play an outsized role in all of this if it enters into law by virtue of the fact that it could function as a cover for embedding American influence all throughout the “Global South”, essentially “downloading” American “software” into African state “hardware” and doing many magnitudes more damage in spreading foreign tentacles of control over targeted countries than the “neo-imperial” strategy that Huawei’s enemies accuse it of masterminding.
Simply put, the US would be experimenting with modalities for simultaneously expanding its socio-economic influence over strategic “fragile states” with the intent of transforming this into political power that can be wielded from either the bottom-up (Color Revolutions) or top-down (standard unilateral demands) in order to coerce anti-Chinese strategic concessions from their governments.
The reason for this prognosis is that the US’ intended efforts to “stabilize” “fragile states” will involve every element of power available to it in the socio-economic spheres, including not only preferential trade agreements to chip away at China’s market dominance in many of those countries but also likely NGO and other “civil society outreach initiatives” as well.
No one should be under any impression that the “Global Fragility Act” will lead to an immediate expansion of American influence in these domains, but just that it’ll set the basis for doing so as part of a long-term strategy aimed at depriving China of the marketplaces that it’ll increasingly rely upon to uphold its own economic growth, therefore “slowing it down” and allowing America to “catch up” and “contain” the greatest challenge to ever arise to its global leadership.
It should be remembered that there’s nothing wrong in principle with stabilizing “fragile states” and working to ensure their sustainable development, but that even the most outwardly noble and supposedly selfless missions have underlying motives of strategic self-interest, which in this case is the US’ desire to take control of targeted states by weaponizing their America’s future influence in such a way as to more creatively “contain” China.
The best response to this emerging scenario is for China to proactively unveil what the author had previously called “BRI-Aid” in order to add a soft power dimension to its economic grand strategy by replicating the efforts of USAID but to multipolar ends, competing with the US dollar-for-dollar in the war to win over hearts and minds in Africa. Physical development of roads and ports isn’t enough in the era of Hybrid War, and China shouldn’t grow complacent with its current gains in the “Global South” when faced with such a serious threat.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.