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January 13, 2024

Anarchy In The World And In The Industrialized Countries

Anarchy In The World And In The Industrialized Countries
Former Ambassador of Japan in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan

The term that aptly describes the future of both the world at large and the developed nations is "anarchization."

In the October 12 issue of Foreign Affairs, two scholars, Michael Kimmage and Hanna Notte, jointly published an article titled "The Age of Great-Power Distraction". In a nutshell, here's what it means...

--In recent years, the world's discourse has focused exclusively on the major powers
such as China, Europe, Russia, and the U.S., as if the world is determined solely by
these powers. In reality, however, each of these major powers has its own internal and
external constraints that prevent it from being fully involved in overseas affairs.--

I totally agree. The word "anarchization" falls right into my heart. Many of the world's post-World War II frameworks have become obsolete. Typical is the United Nations, which has become an organization incapable of doing anything at the critical moment by granting veto power to the major powers, which the League of Nations did not provide.

The WTO, the successor to GATT, provides a valuable framework of common (low) tariff rates, but the WTO panels that arbitrate trade and investment disputes have been rendered impotent largely by the U.S. and have lost much of their function. The IMF was created to stabilize currency rates among member countries, but its financial resources are inadequate to deal with a major currency crisis. And now the U.S. has regressed in its ability and willingness to maintain the international order single-handedly.

But even though the world is becoming anarchic, trade and investment relations continue. Conflicts persist on land, but trade through the sea is still maintained. The Houthis are now blocking passage through the Red Sea, and it would be a disaster if such a movement were to spread throughout the world. The freedom of navigation may be a suitable starting point for creation of new international organizations and arrangements in the future.

And while it is said that countries are "moving away from the dollar," there is an exaggeration in that statement. In the case of the sanctions against Russia, it is more accurate to say that "the dollar has left Russia" rather than "Russia has left the dollar." Even China, which has a large trade surplus, has no intention of promoting the renminbi as an international currency; it continues to settle its accounts mostly in dollars. In other words, even in the face of political anarchy, the world's economies remain globally connected..

Loss of Governability in Developed Countries

Another thing that stands out in today's world is that the "state" in developed countries is losing more and more of its effectiveness. Too much manufacturing have been moved overseas, and domestic growth potential is declining. It widens inequalities in income levels and engenders frustration and indignation.

As the people are losing their leeway, democracy is degenerating into populism, and politicians are busy coming up with temporary policies or mere catch phrases that will be liked by the voters rather than persuading them.

This is not the way to tackle the above challenge of "protecting what is really needed in the international order with effective mechanisms". We should form an open group of experts in each field, select two or three Japanese representatives (the problem is how to select them), and have them work with the world for at least 10 years or more.