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G-Zero the new buzzword as globalisation takes hold

Among analysts and others who seek to make sense of our crazy world, the new vogue term is “G-Zero”.

The New York Times called it “this year’s buzziest buzzword” and it was ubiquitous at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos.

On a swing through Malaysia and Singapore last week, it came up in several meetings

I had, largely because of its immediate relevance to this region.

Basically, it means that we are finally becoming truly globalised, and no nation or

group of nations – hence “zero governments” – can now drive the world’s agenda or even a particular region’s agenda.

Thus, for example, under the G-Zero concept, ASEAN can forget about trying to dictate what happens in Southeast Asia.

Yes, okay, that has already been the situation in a practical sense ever since the countries of this region became independent over the past half century or so.

Indeed, there have been numerous incidents proving it to be true, and none more so than the current skirmish over the land around the Preah Vihar temple.

To the consternation and mystification of neutral observers, two brother members of ASEA N, Cambodia and Thailand, have locked horns militarily over a smidette of worthless land in an isolated part of their shared border.

While most of the world is inclined to say a plague on both your houses, international

bodies like the United Nations and ASEA N have tried to mediate and have got precisely

nowhere.

ASEAN’s principles of informal consultation and consensual agreement have proved utterly useless when applied to a real-life conflict, thus giving startling credence to the

G-Zero concept.

Of course, ASEAN has often been accused of being all talk and no action, and now even its own members are realizing the group’s feebleness and groping for some way to give it

real backbone.

Bigger players are also groping with the new G-Zero world in which traditional Western

powers, notably the United States, are no longer able to set the global agenda.

From the Korean Peninsula to Southern Thailand, and from Myanmar to the South

China Sea, neither former superpowers nor any bloc of nations is able to enforce a resolution of long-term festering

disputes.

It is all rather frightening, yet it is an outcome that should hardly come as a surprise,

especially after watching the power of America and Europe diminish, while that of Asia

has soared.

When told that traditional power groupings like the G-7 and G-20 were already obsolete,

Laurence Parisot, a French business leader at Davos, accused the G-Zero advocates of

declaring “economic war”.

But while the new concept is clearly spooking some people, the dilution of the political and economic clout of past superpowers and the G-groupings they dominated is already a

fait accompli.

Aside from the farcical miniwar over Preah Vihar and the impotence of G-group sanctions on Myanmar, its ramifications are evident in the demand for root-and-branch

reform of the United Nations.

The inclusion of Britain and France as permanent members of the Security Council, while the likes of India, Japan and Indonesia are excluded, already appears bizarrely

anachronistic.

Likewise, the Old Boys’ Rule that the head of the World Bank must be an American and that of the International Monetary Fund a European is plain daft.

But while these overdue readjustments are being worked out, the immediate consequence

of G-Zero may be intensified conflict, especially over localised disputes like Preah Vihar, which will lack recourse to established international mediators.

On top of that, there is the Tunisia Effect, which is spreading virally and shows that inept autocratic regimes lacking support from their citizenry can no longer retain power by a mixture of fear and Western support.

Folks are no longer afraid, and that ol’ Western support – as well as that of various mushy G-groups, has proved a paper tiger.

Be warned, we may be facing a period of global volatility that will not spare this region. Meanwhile, talk among yourselves.

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