Parag Khanna maps the future of countriesDo we live in a borderless world? Before you answer that, have a look at this map...
And there is another thing that you dont see on this map. Stalin, Khrushchev and otherSoviet leaders forced Russians out t...
example, is heavily dependent on exporting iron ore and natural gas to China. Forpoorer countries, China reduces tariffs s...
to behave. In order to profit from its oil it has to export it through Turkey or Syria, andother countries, and Iraq itsel...
Then there is Kazakhstan, which didnt even have a name before. It was moreconsidered South Siberia during the Soviet Union...
Lets not neglect the insurgency just to the south, Balochistan. Two weeks ago, Balochirebels attacked a Pakistani military...
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Transcript parag khanna maps the future of countries

  1. 1. Parag Khanna maps the future of countriesDo we live in a borderless world? Before you answer that, have a look at this map.Contemporary political map shows that we have over 200 countries in the world today.Thats probably more than at any time in centuries. Now, many of you will object. Foryou this would be a more appropriate map. You could call it TEDistan. In TEDistan,there are no borders, just connected spaces and unconnected spaces. Most of youprobably reside in one of the 40 dots on this screen, of the many more that represent 90percent of the world economy.But lets talk about the 90 percent of the world population that will never leave the placein which they were born. For them, nations, countries, boundaries, borders still matter agreat deal, and often violently. Now here at TED, were solving some of the greatriddles of science and mysteries of the universe. Well here is a fundamental problem wehave not solved: our basic political geography. How do we distribute ourselves aroundthe world?Now this is important, because border conflicts justify so much of the worlds military-industrial complex. Border conflicts can derail so much of the progress that we hope toachieve here. So I think we need a deeper understanding of how people, money, power,religion, culture, technology interact to change the map of the world. And we can try toanticipate those changes, and shape them in a more constructive direction.So were going to look at some maps of the past, the present and some maps you haventseen in order to get a sense of where things are going. Lets start with the world of 1945.1945 there were just 100 countries in the world. After World War II, Europe wasdevastated, but still held large overseas colonies: French West Africa, British EastAfrica, South Asia, and so forth. Then over the late 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, wavesof decolonization took place. Over 50 new countries were born. You can see that Africahas been fragmented. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South East Asian nations created.Then came the end of the Cold War. The end of the Cold War and the disintegration ofthe Soviet Union. You had the creation of new states in Eastern Europe, the formerYugoslav republics and the Balkans, and the stans of central Asia.Today we have 200 countries in the world. The entire planet is covered by sovereign,independent nation-states. Does that mean that someones gain has to be someone elsesloss? Lets zoom in on one of the most strategic areas of the world, Eastern Eurasia. Asyou can see on this map, Russia is still the largest country in the world. And as youknow, China is the most populous. And they share a lengthy land border.What you dont see on this map is that most of Russias 150 million people areconcentrated in its western provinces and areas that are close to Europe. And only 30million people are in its eastern areas. In fact, the World Bank predicts that Russiaspopulation is declining towards about 120 million people 1
  2. 2. And there is another thing that you dont see on this map. Stalin, Khrushchev and otherSoviet leaders forced Russians out to the far east to be in gulags, labor camps, nuclearcities, whatever the case was. But as oil prices rose, Russian governments have investedin infrastructure to unite the country, east and west. But nothing has more perverselyimpacted Russias demographic distribution, because the people in the east, who neverwanted to be there anyway, have gotten on those trains and roads and gone back to thewest. As a result, in the Russian far east today, which is twice the size of India, youhave exactly six million Russians.So lets get a sense of what is happening in this part of the world. We can start withMongolia, or as some call it, Mine-golia. Why do they call it that? Because in Mine-golia, Chinese firms operate and own most of the mines -- copper, zinc, gold -- and theytruck the resources south and east into mainland China. China isnt conqueringMongolia. Its buying it. Colonies were once conquered. Today countries are bought.So lets apply this principle to Siberia. Siberia most of you probably think of as a cold,desolate, unlivable place. But in fact, with global warming and rising temperatures, allof a sudden you have vast wheat fields and agribusiness, and grain being produced inSiberia. But who is it going to feed? Well, just on the other side of the Amo River, inthe Heilongjiang and Harbin provinces of China, you have over 100 million people.Thats larger than the entire population of Russia.Every single year, for at least a decade or more, [60,000] of them have been voting withtheir feet, crossing, moving north and inhabiting this desolate terrain. They set up theirown bazaars and medical clinics. Theyve taken over the timber industry and beenshipping the lumber east, back into China. Again, like Mongolia, China isnt conqueringRussia. Its just leasing it. Thats what I call globalization Chinese style.Now maybe this is what the map of the region might look like in 10 to 20 years. Buthold on. This map is 700 years old. This is the map of the Yuan Dynasty, led by KublaiKhan, the grandson of Genghis Khan. So history doesnt necessarily repeat itself, but itdoes rhyme.This is just to give you a taste of whats happening in this part of the world. Again,globalization Chinese style. Because globalization opens up all kinds of ways for us toundermine and change the way we think about political geography. So, the history ofEast Asia in fact, people dont think about nations and borders. They think more interms of empires and hierarchies, usually Chinese or Japanese.Well its Chinas turn again. So lets look at how China is re-establishing that hierarchyin the far East. It starts with the global hubs. Remember the 40 dots on the nighttimemap that show the hubs of the global economy? East Asia today has more of thoseglobal hubs than any other region in the world. Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, HongKong, Singapore and Sidney. These are the filters and funnels of global capital.Trillions of dollars a year are being brought into the region, so much of it being investedinto China.Then there is trade. These vectors and arrows represent ever stronger trade relationshipsthat China has with every country in the region. Specifically, it targets Japan and Koreaand Australia, countries that are strong allies of the United States. Australia, for 2
  3. 3. example, is heavily dependent on exporting iron ore and natural gas to China. Forpoorer countries, China reduces tariffs so that Laos and Cambodia can sell their goodsmore cheaply and become dependent on exporting to China as well.And now many of you have been reading in the news how people are looking to Chinato lead the rebound, the economic rebound, not just in Asia, but potentially for theworld. The Asian free trade zone, almost free trade zone, thats emerging now has agreater trade volume than trade across the Pacific. So China is becoming the anchor ofthe economy in the region.Another pillar of this strategy is diplomacy. China has signed military agreements withmany countries in the region. It has become the hub of diplomatic institutions such asthe East Asian Community. Some of these organizations dont even have the UnitedStates as a member. There is a treaty of nonaggression between countries, such that ifthere were a conflict between China and the United States, most countries vow to justsit it out, including American allies like Korea and Australia.Another pillar of the strategy, like Russia, is demographic. China exports businesspeople, nannies, students, teachers to teach Chinese around the region, to intermarry andto occupy ever greater commanding heights of the economies. Already ethnic Chinesepeople in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are the real key factors and drivers in theeconomies there. Chinese pride is resurgent in the region as a result. Singapore, forexample, used to ban Chinese language education. Now it encourages it.If you add it all up what do you get? Well, if you remember before World War II, Japanhad a vision for a greater Japanese co-prosperity sphere. Whats emerging today is whatyou might call a greater Chinese co-prosperity sphere. So no matter what the lines onthe map tell you in terms of nations and borders, what you really have emerging in thefar east are national cultures, but in a much more fluid, imperial zone. All of this ishappening without firing a shot.Thats most certainly not the case in the Middle East where countries are still veryuncomfortable in the borders left behind by European colonialists. So what can we do tothink about borders differently in this part of the world? What lines on the map shouldwe focus on? What I want to present to you is what I call state building, day by day.Lets start with Iraq. Six years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the country still existsmore on a map than it does in reality. Oil used to be one of the forces holding Iraqtogether; now it is the most significant cause of the countrys disintegration. The reasonis Kurdistan. The Kurds for 3,000 years have been waging a struggle for independence,and now is their chance to finally have it. These are pipeline routes, which emerge fromKurdistan, which is an oil-rich region.And today, if you go to Kurdistan, youll see that Kurdish Peshmerga guerillas aresquaring off against the Sunni Iraqi army. But what are they guarding? Is it really aborder on the map? No. Its the pipelines. If the Kurds can control their pipelines, theycan set the terms of their own statehood. Now should we be upset about this, about thepotential disintegration of Iraq? I dont believe we should. Iraq will still be the secondlargest oil producer in the world, behind Saudi Arabia. And well have a chance to solvea 3,000 year old dispute. Now remember Kurdistan is landlocked. It has no choice but 3
  4. 4. to behave. In order to profit from its oil it has to export it through Turkey or Syria, andother countries, and Iraq itself. And therefore it has to have amicable relations withthem.Now lets look at a perennial conflict in the region. That is, of course, in Palestine.Palestine is something of a cartographic anomaly because its two parts Palestinian, onepart Israel. 30 years of rose garden diplomacy have not delivered us peace in thisconflict. What might? I believe that what might solve the problem is infrastructure.Today donors are spending billions of dollars on this. These two arrows are an arc, anarc of commuter railroads and other infrastructure that link the West Bank and Gaza.If Gaza can have a functioning port and be linked to the West Bank, you can have aviable Palestinian state, Palestinian economy. That, I believe, is going to bring peace tothis particular conflict. The lesson from Kurdistan and from Palestine is thatindependence alone, without infrastructure, is futile.Now what might this entire region look like if in fact we focus on other lines on the mapbesides borders, when the insecurities might abate? The last time that was the case wasactually a century ago, during the Ottoman Empire. This is the Hejaz Railway. TheHejaz Railway ran from Istanbul to Medina via Damascus. It even had an offshootrunning to Haifa in what is today Israel, on the Mediterranean Sea. But today the HejazRailway lies in tatters, ruins. If we were to focus on reconstructing these curvy lines onthe map, infrastructure, that cross the straight lines, the borders, I believe the MiddleEast would be a far more peaceful region.Now lets look at another part of the world, the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia,the stans. These countries borders originate from Stalins decrees. He purposely did notwant these countries to make sense. He wanted ethnicities to mingle in ways that wouldallow him to divide and rule. Fortunately for them, most of their oil and gas resourceswere discovered after the Soviet Union collapsed.Now I know some of you may be thinking, "Oil, oil, oil. Why is it all hes talking aboutis oil?" Well, there is a big difference in the way we used to talk about oil and the waywere talking about it now. Before it was, how do we control their oil? Now its their oilfor their own purposes. And I assure you its every bit as important to them as it mighthave been to colonizers and imperialists. Here are just some of the pipeline projectionsand possibilities and scenarios and routes that are being mapped out for the next severaldecades. A great deal of them.For a number of countries in this part of the world, having pipelines is the ticket tobecoming part of the global economy and for having some meaning besides the bordersthat they are not loyal to themselves. Just take Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was a forgottencorner of the Caucuses, but now with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline into Turkey, ithas rebranded itself as the frontier of the west.Then there is Turkmenistan, which most people think of as a frozen basket case. Butnow its contributing gas across the Caspian Sea to provide for Europe, and even apotentially Turkmen- Afghan-Pakistan-India pipeline as well. 4
  5. 5. Then there is Kazakhstan, which didnt even have a name before. It was moreconsidered South Siberia during the Soviet Union. Today most people recognizeKazakhstan as an emerging geopolitical player. Why? Because it has shrewdly designedpipelines to flow across the Caspian, north through Russia, and even east to China.More pipelines means more silk roads, instead of the Great Game. The Great Gameconnotes dominance of one over the other. Silk road connotes independence and mutualtrust. The more pipelines we have, the more silk roads well have, and the less of adominant Great Game competition well have in the 21st century.Now lets look at the only part of the world that really has brought down its borders, andhow that has enhanced its strength. And that is, of course, Europe. The European Unionbegan as just the coal and steel community of six countries, and their main purpose wasreally to keep the rehabilitation of Germany to happen in a peaceful way. But theneventually it grew into 12 countries, and those are the 12 stars on the European flag.The E.U. also became a currency block, and is now the most powerful trade block in theentire world. On average, the E.U. has grown by one country per year since the end ofthe Cold War. In fact most of that happened on just one day. In 2004, 15 new countriesjoined the E.U. and now you have what most people consider a zone of peace spanning27 countries and 450 million people.So what is next? What is the future of the European Union? Well in light blue, you seethe zones or the regions that are at least two-thirds or more dependent on the EuropeanUnion for trade and investment. What does that tell us? Trade and investment tell usthat Europe is putting its money where its mouth is. Even if these regions arent part ofthe E.U., they are becoming part of its sphere of influence. Just take the Balkans.Croatia, Serbia Bosnia, theyre not members of the E.U. yet. But you can get on aGerman ICE train and make it almost to Albania. In Bosnia you use the Euro currencyalready, and thats the only currency theyre probably ever going to have.So, looking at other parts of Europes periphery, such as North Africa. On average,every year or two, a new oil or gas pipeline opens up under the Mediterranean,connecting North Africa to Europe. That not only helps Europe diminish its reliance onRussia for energy, but if you travel to North Africa today, youll hear more and morepeople saying that they dont really think of their region as the Middle East. So in otherwords, I believe that President Sarkozy of France is right when he talks about aMediterranean union.Now lets look at Turkey and the Caucasus. I mentioned Azerbaijan before. Thatcorridor of Turkey and the Caucasus has become the conduit for 20 percent of Europesenergy supply. So does Turkey really have to be a member of the European Union? Idont think it does. I think its already part of a Euro-Turkish superpower.So whats next? Where are we going to see borders change and new countries born?Well, South Central Asia, South West Asia is a very good place to start. Eight yearsafter the U.S. invaded Afghanistan there is still a tremendous amount of instability.Pakistan and Afghanistan are still so fragile that neither of them have dealtconstructively with the problem of Pashtun nationalism. This is the flag that flies in theminds of 20 million Pashtuns who live on both sides of the Afghan and Pakistan border. 5
  6. 6. Lets not neglect the insurgency just to the south, Balochistan. Two weeks ago, Balochirebels attacked a Pakistani military garrison, and this was the flag that they raised overit. The post-colonial entropy that is happening around the world is accelerating, and Iexpect more such changes to occur in the map as the states fragment.Of course, we cant forget Africa. 53 countries, and by far the most number ofsuspiciously straight lines on the map. If we were to look at all of Africa we could mostcertainly acknowledge far more, tribal divisions and so forth. But lets just look atSudan, the second-largest country in Africa. It has three ongoing civil wars, thegenocide in Darfur, which you all know about, the civil war in the east of the country,and south Sudan. South Sudan is going to be having a referendum in 2011 in which it isvery likely to vote itself independence.Now lets go up to the Arctic Circle. There is a great race on for energy resources underthe Arctic seabed. Who will win? Canada? Russia? The United States? ActuallyGreenland. Several weeks ago Greenlands [60,000] people voted themselves self-governance rights from Denmark. So Denmark is about to get a whole lot smaller.What is the lesson from all of this? Geopolitics is a very unsentimental discipline. Itsconstantly morphing and changing the world, like climate change. And like ourrelationship with the ecosystem were always searching for equilibrium in how wedivide ourselves across the planet. Now we fear changes on the map. We fear civil wars,death tolls, having to learn the names of new countries. But I believe that the inertia ofthe existing borders that we have today is far worse and far more violent.The question is how do we change those borders, and what lines do we focus on? Ibelieve we focus on the lines that cross borders, the infrastructure lines. Then well windup with the world we want, a borderless one. Thank you. (Applause) 6