Jousting with Hugh White on international structures is both fun and a deeply Anglospheric thing to do, but I make no concessions about the longevity of the Anglosphere. That’s because I see the term as largely synonymous with the accepted global international order. The term Anglosphere is no more about the English than the Panama Canal is about hats. Rather it points to the historic origins of many of the rules of the road that structure international society. One thinks of the Monty Python sketch asking ‘what have the Romans ever done for us’? The list of what the Anglosphere has delivered includes the UN, Bretton-Woods, NATO, ANZUS, the English language, international law, support for human rights, the internet, fast food and precision-guided munitions. Oh yes, and they brought peace after World War II, which is the basis for—among many other benefits—economic growth in Asia.
Hugh asks: ‘whether this grouping will do much for us in the future when wealth and power will no longer be so strongly concentrated in Anglo-Saxon hands,’ but the critical point is not ethnicity but rather the framework of international rules. The willingness of the group of nations that subscribe to those rules to intervene in conflicts to protect international order is, however, an important feature of the broader Anglospheric approach to international society. No other combination of states is likely to provide such an international order-setting orientation any time soon. This is a much broader point than simply acknowledging the military capabilities of the five eyes countries and their like-minded friends—as both Hugh and I do.
To the extent that China buys into the current international system, Anglospheric approaches to maintaining order will prevail. A China that pluralises, abides by international law, trades freely and respects human rights will be, to use Hugh’s term, a China that’s agreeably ‘just like us’. There are many indicators that China is precisely on this journey and few to suggest that it rejects the international order. But if it did, that would present more than just a threat to Washington’s position as a world leader; it would undermine many core ways of living that Australians, and indeed most people, are attached or aspire to.
In this sense we’re all Anglospherical now. Oh, and the Anglosphere with Chinese characteristics? How about Singapore—it’s not that hard to imagine.
Peter Jennings is executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Image courtesy of Flickr user akosihub.