New Atlantis, the Greater Middle Kingdom, and Cold War II

New Atlantis, the Greater Middle Kingdom, and Cold War II

Two realms, New Atlantis and the Greater Middle Kingdom, are relatively evenly matched, in a geopolitical duel that has stayed mostly peaceful, albeit hostile.

 

Yet even as China “Chexited” from the world trading system, it found new opportunities in its newest province ... Siberia. The Russians realized only too late that the Chinese had been playing weiqi with them, patiently situating “workers’ barracks” and “security guards” all across the vast expanse—China’s once and future domain. Indeed, as China turned away from the Pacific, it looked elsewhere in Eurasia, to new satrapies in North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, and other countries on its extended periphery, such as Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.

By now it’s a cliche that the culmination of Xi Jinping thought—the Greater Middle Kingdom—was the reanimation of another old idea: the “World Island,” described in the previous century by the geographer Halford Mackinder. New Atlantis, of course, forms a part of Mackinder’s Crescent, the area surrounding the World Island. So whither the rest of the Crescent—and the rest of the world?

 

Atlantis: Open Platform for the Willing World 

In this dynamic planetary situation, the West knew it could be no Fortress Atlantis. So, a new great game was on: the struggle to gain allies. One alliance fell quickly into place: The Quad, namely, India, Japan, Australia, and the United States. India had been historically pro-Russia, but also anti-China, and as China loomed larger, India grew colder to its northern neighbors. Moreover, India was also a member of another creative geopolitical formation, I2U2: India, Israel, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates. That geopolitical commonality, as well as the commonality of English, sealed the deal with New Delhi.

Still, much of the world was not in any of these blocs. And thus, the scramble was on to entice the other parts of Asia, as well as Africa and Latin America, to join one bloc or the other. For a time, China thought it had the lead, thanks to its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Yet the PRC discovered that an investment in someone’s else country has a way of becoming the property of that country. That is, China was unable to enforce debt-trap arrangements in countries outside of easy reach. So, the farther-flung BRI projects proved to mostly be a write-off.

As for Atlantis, a passive-but-effective strategy emerged: Be the receptacle of the Greater Middle Kingdom’s brain-drain. The exodus from Russia that began in late 2022 was simultaneously easy and devastating. In response, all the countries of China’s Eurasian bloc—which Tolkien-minded critics soon dubbed Mordor—eventually built new iron curtains to restrict emigration.

In the meantime, Atlantis flourished as an open, Anglophone, API to the world. It was hard to do business—any kind of business, anywhere in the world—without someone in Atlantis getting a piece of it.

Moreover, as new frontiers have opened up—from Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse to Elon Musk’s Mars—Atlantis has been in the lead; freedom is the friend of innovation. Yet all the while, intellectual property thieves, thriving on Atlantis’ openness, have been able to relay our IP to their masters on the other side of the divide.

So today, the two realms, New Atlantis and the Greater Middle Kingdom, are relatively evenly matched, in a geopolitical duel that has stayed mostly peaceful, albeit hostile. Thoughtful observers recall John F. Kennedy’s characterization of Cold War One as a “long twilight struggle.” That resonant phrase speaks to difficulty, of course, but it also bespeaks uncertainty. That is, when Kennedy said it in his 1961 inaugural, nobody could know the outcome of the struggle. And so, it is with Cold War II. All we know is that we must “bear the burden,” as JFK said, “year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation.”

That’s the burden borne by New Atlantis. Wish us luck.

James P. Pinkerton served as a domestic policy aide in the White Houses of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He also worked in the 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, and 2008 presidential campaigns. From 1996 to 2016, he was a contributor to Fox News Channel.

Image: Reuters.