Rise and Fall of the Gods

After almost a hundred years under the whims and baton of the United States and Russia in the international arena with regard to the guardianship of conflicts and the promotion of alliances based on their influence, the mediating or hegemonic role of both blocs, in their case, has been diminishing to the point of disappearing in some areas such as the Middle East, and has been moving to new geostrategic scenarios to adapt to other threats. 

But, as happens with almost everything in life, the vacuum of power or permanence left by one body, gas, liquid or entity is immediately occupied by another similar one that is growing, expanding or believes that the time has come to change its role; and so, with it, they go from dominated to dominator, or at least to moderator or shaper. 

This is the case of China which, following the precepts set by Deng Xiaoping, has remained for decades in a conciliatory tone with its neighbours while growing in the two powers that make a nation strong, respectable and powerful: significant social and economic development and the combat and projection capacity of its armed forces.  

The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China, held last October, set the stage for Xi Jinping's recent National Assembly to become "sine die" an all-powerful and aggressive ruler, who will carry and put into effect the message of no longer being the victim of US oppression after decades of decadence, humiliation and rudeness on the part of neighbouring or Western powers, and mainly by the latter. 

China has spent years occupying and militarising natural or artificial islets in the South China Sea so that it can create a buffer zone around its natural territory by the sea; it has established itself as an economic partner of Russia and, in fact, is largely saving it from the international restrictions mounted against Putin by the US and the EU as a result of the invasion of Ukraine; and it has become the main investor and buyer of all kinds of products in Africa and is beginning to do so in South America. 

The renewal and revitalisation of its traditional Silk Road and the opening of new routes for the movement of its products and supplies provide it with significant and almost limitless economic capacity in the short and medium term. 

Advances and investments in domestically produced military hardware and its significant forays into space have given it a leading role in the world, making it the third largest country in the world in terms of military capabilities, although it is the first in terms of the number of troops in arms. 

Given its growing role in international importance, the agreement signed last week -under its tutelage- between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two of the biggest hydrocarbon powers and very famous -after Afghanistan- for their strict application of Quranic laws -according to their particular criteria- to resume the relations broken between them since 2016 is not surprising. 

Both are major Islamic theocratic dictatorships, and major religious and military powers, which have been involved in numerous recent regional conflicts to dominate the Middle East and pit their disparate faiths - Shia (Iran) and Sunni (Saudi Arabia) - against each other, leading the region into long wars or very bloody conflicts in an effort to create adherents for their religious tendencies and beat those who oppose them. Saudis and Persians have been the main source of conflict in the region since the triumph of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979.   

The bloody economic and religious competition between the two countries has dragged the region into its own 'cold war', with successive serious conflicts in Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen (currently and since 2014) where, directly or indirectly through non-state entities, they have competed for hegemony.   

It should not be forgotten that these two Islamic pearls are the ideological and even economic sponsors and supporters of terrorist factions of great international importance; Iran has promoted and sponsors terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while Saudi Arabia is involved with Salafi groups that have led to the creation of the most important and bloody jihadist terrorist groups, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.    

Bringing these two countries together, and provided the pact succeeds and is sustained over time, could lead not only to the United States being pushed aside and relieved of arbitration in the region, China securing its large hydrocarbon supplies and becoming internationally recognised as the architect of a 'Pax Regional' - already known by the nickname pax china - but also jeopardise Saudi Arabia's alliances with Uncle Sam and, more importantly, the incipient honeymoon with Israel, Iran's greatest enemy. 

The United States is aware that China's expansion is increasingly large and effective, which can bring them great benefits and, on the contrary, makes life difficult for the Americans in other scenarios where they still have allies or very good relations, such as with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, even India and others such as Australia and New Zealand. Hence the efforts to maximise the strategic pact - announced in September 2021 and christened AUKUS (an acronym for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States) - which aims to 'defend the shared interests' of the three Anglo-Saxon powers in the Indo-Pacific. A few hours ago, the pact announced that it would increase its naval capabilities through the creation of a new type of nuclear-powered submarine, for which the US will, for the first time, cede its technology to third countries.  

On the other hand, the frequency and intensity of combined and joint agreements, collaborations and exercises with South Korea and Japan have increased in recent years, in an effort to halt North Korea's military and nuclear development. Precisely as a consequence or reaction to one of them - currently being carried out, the "Freedom Shield" - last Sunday the North Koreans announced that they had launched, for the first time from a submarine, a strategic cruise missile - slower in speed than their usual ballistic missiles, but with greater precision. It is clear to no one that the conflicts in this area are increasing and that the Chinese-Russian black hand in support of various aspects is very important. 

In the meantime, the Russians and Americans continue their recently launched 'new cold war'. As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the encounter and shooting down of a US drone by two Russian fighter jets over territorial waters in the Black Sea was reported. This is an act of aggression against their means and therefore against them; although for the moment there will be no reaction from the US, it is a very important step towards escalation and, furthermore, if it continues to escalate, it will require more than a simple protest and a call to the ambassador to express their displeasure. 

The world is in turmoil and any setback - such as the recent failure of the Bank of Silicon Valley - sets off alarm bells and the whole world trembles with its stock markets in the lead; proof of the underlying insecurity, that tensions are on the rise and that international friction points occupy increasingly large and important scenarios, even if far from the European continent; but not all countries see things in the same way, some or even many, ignore everything and believe that they will not be affected. 

A very clear example of the latter is Spain, a country that has its governmental concerns in the creation of unnecessary and absurd laws such as sex change, the only yes is yes, abortion and animal welfare among others. He spends his time talking about Tito Berni, the Barcelona Gate, Vox's clown opera of a motion of censure or the unstoppable rise in the cost of living. Facts and acts that the Government is quick to find a way to throw sand on them to put out the fires or to look for old or new culprits; like the recently devised "bad weather of the last few months" to justify the excessive rise in the price of the shopping basket.  

Just listen to the news, the talk shows or open the newspapers. We continue to close our eyes to what is happening out there; we think that it does not affect our lives, even though we know that the "butterfly effect" reaches us as soon as we sneeze, no matter how far away we are.