Kimberly Daniels, a member of our Emerging Fellows program envisions a collapse scenario within Eurasia’s Heartland alternative futures through her seventh blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
A collapse scenario with respect to Eurasia’s Heartland in the year 2050 could play out as a future in which opposing forces break down the geopolitical positioning by which the U.S. and Russia have historically situated themselves. Reflective of disruptive changes that derail expectations of the future, it is a scenario largely driven by geo-economic commerce. Characterized by China’s commercialized approach to Heartland power and a unipolar world order, it is one alternative future that could unfold.
By 2050 in this scenario, China has successfully rolled out the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and dominates the commercial space in Eurasia’s Heartland and much of Afro-Eurasia. The owner of most BRI infrastructure and the regional leader along the BRI corridors, China fulfilled her dream of becoming the world’s economic superpower. Her path to victory stems from a geopolitical strategy of geo-economic commerce. As China rose in power, a domino effect of disruptive changes brought about the decline of the U.S. and Russia. They are no longer positioned to influence the Heartland, now under China’s control.
A weakened U.S., confronted by dysfunction and strong oppositional forces, has lost her superpower status and influence relative to the world order and the Heartland. Whether it involved failed policies against multiple pandemics, domestic social change, and an economic Cold War with China, or unvaried foreign policy towards the Middle East and terrorism, she remained resolute in her course. However, crippling retaliatory policies and sanctions imposed on the U.S. by Britain, the European Union, Japan, and India in response to an “America First” stance that adversely impacted them has left the U.S. floundering and lacking their support.
Drawn into costly military conflicts in the Persian Gulf over Iran’s nuclear activities, and in the Mediterranean over Russia and China’s endless pursuit of Israel’s energy resources, the U.S. and her strength are divided. Widespread American public opinion is that she prioritize recovery from a brutal economic depression. Accordingly, the U.S. has abandoned efforts to contain China’s commercialized dominance in the Heartland and throughout Afro-Eurasia.
Russia struggles against devastating instability and an oppositional force in the form of Chinese Eurasianism that has undermined her power and influence in the Heartland. Whether due to a longstanding closed economic system or the over-extension of aid to former Soviet States, Russia sought a Chinese bailout. She accepted lender/borrower terms more like those China imposed on Central Asian countries for BRI infrastructure development than Euro zone bailouts.
Russia’s inability to repay the debt resulted in China’s ownership of state-owned Russian enterprises in the telecommunications, media, energy, aerospace and defense, and engineering sectors. These industries employ significant numbers of Chinese workers. Substantial revenue outflows support China’s unbounded growth and have contributed to Russia’s economic destabilization. Russia remains a Chinese ally. Yet, she begrudges China for usurping her geopolitical influence in former Soviet states. Russia has surrendered regional control of the Heartland and Afro-Eurasia to China.
BRI success for China, leader of a new unipolar world order, has evolved as commercial colonialism in the Heartland. While Central Asia initially welcomed the growth spurred by connected trade, later the region protested against this New Silk Road. Having defaulted on BRI loans, Central Asian countries lost all hope of self-governance. China’s ownership of BRI infrastructure in Central Asia ensured her economic dominance and rule over the region. A larger percentage of trade revenues flow out to China.
The overwhelming point of contention for Central Asia has involved sharing their lands with countless numbers of Chinese workers. Not only do these workers hold the best-paying jobs in the region, but they also brought with them a diversity of religious practices. Their values threaten the religio-cultural identity of Central Asian Muslims, many of whom are part of a resistance movement against China’s BRI.
This 2050 future in terms of Eurasia’s Heartland could play out as a collapse scenario in which the U.S. and Russia, suppressed by disruptive oppositional forces, concede their geopolitical power in the region to China. Although geo-economic commerce is the driving force by which China has become the world’s superpower, her commercialized approach to Heartland power, while successful, is not without some regional opposition to the BRI. Distinct from this scenario alternative is a future that reflects a new equilibrium in U.S., Russian, and Chinese geopolitics.