New words for a new world

If they don’t exist, they have to be invented

Regular readers will be familiar with The Acorn’s distaste for hyphenation and conjugation of China and India. Sung Won Kim, David P Fidler, and Sumit Ganguly have come up with a better way to describe the emerging geopolitical salience of India and China—they call it the “Eastphalian geopolitical order”. Of course, you need to have a little bit of a background in history or international relations theory to get it.

Niall Ferguson, on the other hand, has invented a literally ghastly word to describe “the partnership between the big saver and the big spender”—“Chimerica” is a grotesque reminder of how the global financial crisis was born out of geo-economic imbalance.

8 thoughts on “New words for a new world”

  1. As an amateur linguist I think that’s rather weak from Forbes. I appreciate the sentiment, but Eastphalia?

    It would work if Westphalia was both the model of the nation-state and also included the prefix west- because of it comes under that category. Instead, the summit just so happened to be in the Westphalia region. And as I suspected and subsequently discovered, Eastphalia does actually exist, in Germany, which would make this term another in a line of misnomers that have little to do with the actual name. Those can be fun for etymologists, but only once the original mistake was discovered.

    On the other hand, Chimerica is a brilliant neologism because it’s easy to see the roots, and at the same time, the word suggests Chimera, which obviously makes the sum greater than the parts. Nice.

  2. Wasn’t Chindia around for about a decade? One wonders where Sri Ferguson got his word from.

    With regards to “Eastphalia”, I doubt there is such a thing. In fact, even if one agrees on defining a phrase, it applies to mostly Chinese way of thinking. We are inarticulate when it comes global order. Both agree on things that are common, issue by issue, such as WTO or the so-called global warming. Beyond that we have nothing in common when it comes to future global order – see the debate on UNSC or nuclear partnership or the strategic relationships developing in Asia. In fact, beyond nation states – a Westphalia theme – things may evolve very differently in the east. Makes a column though.

  3. Just read that Forbes piece and a distinctly unimpressed.

    In any case, its premature drag India’s name into some global influence game on par with China. We are not there yet and much could go wrong before we catch up.

  4. First of all, it’s the nations of the erstwhile “2nd-world” (communist bloc) — ie. Russia and China — which are the best claimants to a new global leadership, rather than the still 3rd-world India. The former communist giants have long had much firmer structures associated with the Westphalian state, as compared to India.

    When Russia was faced with a Kashmir-like rebellion in Chechnya, it recovered and clobbered the secessionists fairly quickly, as well as putting its external neighboring sponsors on the back foot. When an external puppet like Yeltsin was imposed, there was an internal power struggle and the nationalists ultimately came out on top. Now that’s effective leadership — even if you want to call them a mere shadow of their former Soviet selves.

    India by contrast shows none of that capability. We’re simply poor-quality pretenders putting on airs. If we mean to brandish our population size as some kind of claim to world leadership, I’d point out that anybody can breed like rabbits. That takes no special talent, and it comes with its own set of problems.

    Most of the national institutions were created by the British and/or inherited from them. Indians lack the national coherence or cohesion to solidify their society to the level required for world leadership.

  5. Sanjay,
    I hope that the Indian polity does not aspire to becoming “world leaders”, except in so far as such aspirations are required for the enrichment of its people. There is little to be gained by games of dominance, except when there
    are vital economic and developmental interests at stake. Also, I would rather not have a strong state like the communist countries you cited, thank you very much, where the same goons running the country now have more freedom to do as they choose.

  6. Krishna,

    I agree that only the sustained well-being of Indians is goal worthy enough to drive all of GoI policy. However, that effectively requires a strong state and a near-abroad ‘backyard’ where Indian influence is predominant.

    India has consistently lost its near-abroad to inimical influence (from Tibet to PRC in 1950 to Nepal to Maoist sponsors in 2006). And that militates against security – both physical and economic, of the Indian people.

    A ‘weak state’ by some law of nature invites phoren vultures to come and feast. And the good lord knows India has no shortage of ill-wishers, faultlines and tinderboxes.

    Just my 2 paisa. Have a nice day.

  7. sud,
    I don’t have any disagreement with you on this, and I have a very similar opinion on the conduct of India’s policy in its near abroad. However, there are two aspects to power projection-a public aspect where a nation creates a perception of strength and power (like the Chinese, and the Russians before them), and a more, for want of a better word, private aspect where a nation exerts its power quietly and directly where it is necessary. People often conflate these two aspects, and this was the context of my reaction. One could, of course, argue that a growth in power naturally brings with it increased attention, but I believe that, generally, one should not seek
    such attention.

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