Multipolarity is a distribution of power in which more than two states have similar amounts of power. In the first place, the question is whether multipolarity is practicable in a world full of diversity, both natural and man-made.
Secondly, are the advocates of this socio-political phenomenon serious about leading the contemporary world to multipolarity? Because the cliche has found entry into the leftist lexicon, modern society will want a comprehensive definition rather than cling to its Marxist undertone.
Of late, China has become its ardent advocate. The Chinese leadership is thinking in terms of three-power polarity to manage contemporary society’s affairs. But how China struggles to establish its hegemony over Asia and Africa gives rise to the doubt whether Beijing is fondling with the conviction of treating other nations at par.
We can cite the example of Mongolia, a sovereign and independent state, to show the double standard China adopts in the context of the concept of multipolarity.
Recently. Mongolia decided to adopt Space X’s Starlink internet services. On July 6, the Communication Regulatory Commission of Mongolia issued a special license for SpaceX, founded by American billionaire tycoon Elon Musk, to operate as a service provider using low-orbit satellites and for Starlink to provide internet services in the country.
This decision is part of Mongolia’s ongoing digital transformation, and the New Recovery Policy was announced ahead of the annual Mongolian Economic Forum 2023 on July 9-10.
“A network of fiber optic cables already provides wide-reaching access to high-speed internet across Mongolia,” said Uchral Nyam-Osor, the Minister for Digital Development and Communication in Mongolia.
Justifying acquiring Starlink’s technology, the Minister added that this technology would provide greater access to hard-to-reach areas of the country. The Mongol minister observed that herders, businesses, and miners living and working across our vast country could access and use information worldwide to improve their lives.
China Raises Objection
But the foremost advocator of multipolarity has raised objections to Mongolia’s digitalization program and requisitioning Starlink’s services. China says the Mongolian decision has stirred security concerns across the border, both as a potential military threat and a possible way around Beijing’s strict censorship regime on perceived as “harmful” foreign websites.
People in China cannot access foreign websites blocked by the Golden Shield Project, also known as the “Great Firewall of China,” unless they use a virtual personal network [VPN]. China has not adopted Starlink’s internet services due to national security concerns.
Chinese sources argue that Starlink’s double-use satellites could threaten China’s information and national security, especially during wartime.
In May last year, the Peoples Liberation Army Daily, a Chinese military-run newspaper, published an article entitled, “Beware of Starlink’s barbaric expansion and military application.”
The paper said Starlink’s satellites could boost the US military’s combat power through satellite-enabled remote sensing, communication, navigation, and positioning capabilities.
Generally, Mongolia has maintained cordial relations with China. But it has sound arguments to justify its decision to sign an agreement with Starlink.
It is not an isolated decision but part of Mongolia’s New Recovery Policy to modernize its information industry. Mongolia already has a network of fiber optic cables providing high-speed internet access, and Starlink will provide greater access to otherwise inaccessible regions.
People in China cannot access foreign websites blocked by the Golden Shield Project. How come, despite the foolproof blocking of foreign websites, the Chinese do not have trust that it can deter Starlink?
Even if Starlink promises not to cross the line, it has already planned to provide services in Mongolia and Pakistan, neighbors of China’s Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang regions, respectively. With Starlink’s autonomous services, countries that use its benefits cannot opt to shut down internet services in such situations.
However, the Mongolian Ministry of Digital Development and Communication spokesperson asserted that using Starlink’s services would not affect Mongolia’s relations with the neighboring states.
“Cross-border communications infrastructure and connectivity are governed by international treaties that have been mutually agreed upon by all countries, including Mongolia and its neighboring states,” the spokesperson said. “These treaties serve as a foundation for fostering cooperation and understanding among the nations involved,” he added.
It is one thing to wax eloquent on the theory of multipolarity and another thing to translate it into practice. The doubts and objections raised by China about Mongolia deciding to requisition the service of Starlink is part of its national program for digital development.
It is not only Mongolia that is pursuing the development ideology.
Secondly, some clear international rules and practices have to be observed by international community members, and Mongolia is conscious of its responsibilities. What China is doing is looking at its security concerns.
At the same time, it does not have any concern for the legitimate effort of developing its digital connectivity to bring more facilities to its people.
If the ultimate target of multipolarity is the welfare of the people, then Mongolia is doing the right thing. As far as China’s gambits for multipolarity are concerned, these do not reflect its conviction in multipolarity. The old axiom is ‘charity begins at home.’
- KN Pandita (Padma Shri) is the former Director of the Center of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University. Views expressed here are of the author’s.
- Mail EurAsian Times at etdesk(at)eurasiantimes.com