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Secret ‘spies’ Meeting in Singapore Discusses Conflicts in a Multilateral World

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With distrust in the world on the rise, mini-lateral initiatives flourish, with small groups coming together

The world is heading down a path of fragmentation, fierce competition and confrontation in which multilateralism based on shared rules seems to have been seriously undermined. The relationship between the two great powers — the United States and China —, key to all global progress, is conflictual. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken ‘s visit to Beijing brought some hope. In public statements, however, the horizon seems to have darkened immediately, with the words of the president of the United States, Joe Biden , on Tuesday, comparing his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping , with a dictator. Despite this belligerent discourse, episodes and credible perspectives of multilateral dialogue persist.

Notable among them is a forceful secret meeting that the leaders of the intelligence services of two dozen of the most relevant countries in the world held in early June, in Singapore, on the sidelines of the security conference that took place in those days, according to the Reuters. The meeting was attended, among others, by representatives of US intelligence — Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence —, India — Samant Goel, head of the foreign intelligence service — and China — whose name was not disclosed. — but not from Russia.

According to sources cited by the agency, the meeting addressed topics such as the war in Ukraine or issues related to international organized crime, and took place in a cooperative and non-confrontational tone. Reuters says this is not the first time that this conclave has taken place in conjunction with the Shangri-La forum, organized every year by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, but so far there has been no news about it. The meeting took place while, in the official forum, the Chinese Defense official refused to meet with his American counterpart due to the sanctions that Washington imposed on the country.

It is an example of multilateral dialogue, in an area of ​​maximum sensitivity, which survives in these times of brutal competition and distrust between powers, while a series of genuinely global challenges accumulate on the chessboard, from climate change to health risks, financial stability to the challenge of artificial intelligence, from migratory flows to organized crime.

Another sign to watch came from Berlin on Tuesday with a bilateral meeting between Germany and China . Significantly, at a time when there is talk of reducing the risks associated with excessive dependence on the Asian giant, the German statement after the summit stated that the countries want to “face global challenges together”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

One more opportunity for multilateralism opens up this Friday in Paris, where a major conference convened by the French government is scheduled with the intention of consolidating a new contract between the global North and South. The idea is to move forward on a path that facilitates access by developing countries to international financing — to combat climate change and its consequences, among other purposes — or obtain debt relief.

The conference also intends to give impetus to the reorganization of global economic and financial institutions, object of great complaints from emerging countries for having structures that reflect the post-1945 world (World War II), already overcome.

There are more events on the calendar that can boost multilateralism. In early September, the G20 summit is scheduled to take place. It is an annual event, but this year it is of special interest because India has the rotating presidency — a country of great weight, and also significant as a reference point for the global South and the non-aligned.

On the other hand, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, announced that his country will organize a summit this year to try to coordinate the regulation of artificial intelligence.

Mistrust in the world is on the rise. In this environment, mini-lateral initiatives flourish, with small groups coming together. The recent G7 summit in Hiroshima resulted in an extensive final declaration that represents a true worldview, something unprecedented for a long time. NATO is strengthening and expanding. The Aukus (Australia, UK and US) alliance has emerged and the Quad (US, India, Japan and Australia) is developing. On the other hand, the Brics forum (large emerging economies, of which Brazil is a part along with Russia, India, China and South Africa), although far from the degree of cohesion of the G7, seems to be gaining momentum, with requests for membership and new projects.

This is the core dynamic. Unlike the Cold War, everything indicates that it will not configure a bipolar scheme around the United States and China today as it was between the United States and the USSR then. This leads to greater fluidity.

The non-aligned group has greater economic and political weight today than it did then. Nothing indicates that they will abandon this aspiration of not choosing between sides, of navigating on their own, perhaps with specific alignments, but not systemic ones. They want their voice to be heard and they have more elements to do so. They begin to weigh enough to promote global agreements. At the G20 in Bali, China did not speak out against a final communiqué with language unfavorable to Russia, wanting not to be left alone on the other side in the face of the consensus it had been forging.

In the western sector, the situation is also different from the Iron Curtain era. The EU, despite having many limitations, is beginning to be a geopolitical actor with its own capabilities. And he has a natural vocation to be a protagonist in diplomatic circles.

Just recently, in the midst of unprecedented tensions in decades, multilateralism achieved some goals, such as the signing of a treaty on the oceans, negotiated for years, or an agreement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) which, although limited, was a change of heart. rhythm after years of paralysis.

Conflicts and competition complicate the way to a multilateral world, of international institutions within whose frameworks common rules can be established and solutions found. But there are elements that suggest that we are not moving towards a rigid bipolarity, but towards a liquid multipolarity, and in this difference lie possibilities of global conquests. The Singapore conclave shows the way.

Source : O Globo

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