Trilateral Commission calls 2023 ‘Year One’ of new world order

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    by Ken Moriyasu, Asia Nikkei:

    NEW DELHI — As retired foreign ministers, ambassadors, CEOs, bankers and academics gathered at the secretive Trilateral Commission’s first global plenary meeting in India, perhaps the most influential individual sat quietly off to the side, listening.

    James Baker, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, was not even on the list of participants at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi. But his takeaways from the meeting could find their way into policies that shape the world.

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    Baker is the successor to legendary defense strategist Andrew Marshall, who headed the office for 42 years. He is responsible for providing the Secretary of Defense with an assessment of U.S. military capabilities relative to other actors 20 to 30 years down the road.

    One particular speech may have caught Baker’s attention, for it captured the essence of the three-day discussion, held from Friday through Sunday. “The Biden administration is trying to convince the world that there is this titanic struggle between autocracies and democracies. I am skeptical about that,” a speaker said. Instead, the world is fragmented, with countries — including the U.S. — looking out for their self-interests, the speaker added.

    The Trilateral Commission is a nongovernmental organization that seeks to deepen understanding between the U.S., Europe and Asia.

    Trilateral Commission members listen to Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi on March 12. (Photo by Patrick Ishiyama)

    The speaker, who cannot be identified according to commission rules, went on: “Three decades of globalization — defined as integrated, free-market based and deflationary — has been replaced by what will be a multidecade period of globalization defined as fragmented, not-free-market-based but industrial-policy based and structurally inflationary. This year, 2023, is Year One of this new global order.”

    At the core of this shift is the U.S. Instead of committing to a neoliberal, free-market economy, the U.S. government is driving the economy and key industries toward a set of objectives, such as domestic equity at home and competition with China, the speaker said.

    In such a world, middle powers like India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will carve their own paths, weighing the economic, strategic and defense interests, the speaker said.

    Ironically, as the Trilateral Commission convened, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to normalize relations, shattering Israel’s hopes for isolating Tehran. The deal was brokered by China, with the U.S. having no role in the handshake.

    Wang Yi, China’s most senior diplomat, center, presides over a closed meeting between Iran, led by Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, at right, and Saudi Arabia, led by Saudi national security adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban, at left, in Beijing on March 11.(Xinhua via AP)

    Created by philanthropist David Rockefeller in 1973, the commission sought to bring the rising economy of Japan firmly into the West. Today, the commission has expanded to include members from South Korea, India and Southeast Asia.

    Fresh from overtaking China as the world’s most populous country and with a new “appetite for the world,” in the words of one participant, India was a major focus of discussions. Representatives from the country engaged in a lively debate with their Chinese counterparts.

    When a former Chinese diplomat suggested that the two nations “meet halfway” over their Himalayan border problem and find a way to settle differences, an Indian government official categorically rejected how the Chinese were framing the issue.

    “The Chinese side must understand, you cannot undermine peace and tranquility and then say ‘let the rest of the relationship be normal,'” the Indian official said. “You can’t have violence on the boundary and business in the hinterland. It doesn’t work.”

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