Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Do 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.

  • That's probably more than at any time in centuries.

  • Now, many of you will object.

  • For you 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 you probably reside in one of the 40 dots

  • on this screen, of the many more

  • that represent 90 percent of the world economy.

  • But let's talk about the 90 percent of the world population

  • that will never leave the place in which they were born.

  • For them, nations, countries, boundaries, borders still matter a great deal,

  • and often violently.

  • Now here at TED, we're solving some of the great

  • riddles of science and mysteries of the universe.

  • Well here is a fundamental problem we have not solved:

  • our basic political geography.

  • How do we distribute ourselves around the world?

  • Now this is important, because border conflicts

  • justify so much of the world's military-industrial complex.

  • Border conflicts can derail

  • so much of the progress that we hope to achieve 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 to anticipate those changes,

  • and shape them in a more constructive direction.

  • So we're going to look at some maps of the past,

  • the present and some maps you haven't seen

  • in order to get a sense of where things are going.

  • Let's start with the world of 1945.

  • 1945 there were just 100 countries in the world.

  • After World War II, Europe was devastated,

  • but still held large overseas colonies:

  • French West Africa, British East Africa, South Asia, and so forth.

  • Then over the late '40s,

  • '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s,

  • waves of decolonization took place.

  • Over 50 new countries were born.

  • You can see that Africa has 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 of the Soviet Union.

  • You had the creation of new states in Eastern Europe,

  • the former Yugoslav 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 someone's gain has to be someone else's loss?

  • Let's zoom in on one of the most strategic areas of the world,

  • Eastern Eurasia.

  • As you can see on this map,

  • Russia is still the largest country in the world.

  • And as you know, China is the most populous.

  • And they share a lengthy land border.

  • What you don't see on this map

  • is that most of Russia's 150 million people

  • are concentrated in its western provinces

  • and areas that are close to Europe.

  • And only 30 million people are in its eastern areas.

  • In fact, the World Bank predicts

  • that Russia's population is declining

  • towards about 120 million people

  • And there is another thing that you don't see on this map.

  • Stalin, Khrushchev and other Soviet leaders

  • forced Russians out to the far east

  • to be in gulags, labor camps,

  • nuclear cities, whatever the case was.

  • But as oil prices rose,

  • Russian governments have invested in infrastructure

  • to unite the country, east and west.

  • But nothing has more perversely impacted

  • Russia's demographic distribution,

  • because the people in the east, who never wanted to be there anyway,

  • have gotten on those trains and roads

  • and gone back to the west.

  • As a result, in the Russian far east today,

  • which is twice the size of India,

  • you have exactly six million Russians.

  • So let's get a sense of what is happening in this part of the world.

  • We can start with Mongolia, 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 they truck the resources south and east into mainland China.

  • China isn't conquering Mongolia.

  • It's buying it.

  • Colonies were once conquered. Today countries are bought.

  • So let's 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,

  • all of a sudden you have vast wheat fields

  • and agribusiness, and grain being produced in Siberia.

  • But who is it going to feed?

  • Well, just on the other side of the Amo River,

  • in the Heilongjiang and Harbin provinces of China,

  • you have over 100 million people.

  • That's larger than the entire population of Russia.

  • Every single year, for at least a decade or more,

  • [60,000] of them have been voting with their feet,

  • crossing, moving north and inhabiting this desolate terrain.

  • They set up their own bazaars and medical clinics.

  • They've taken over the timber industry

  • and been shipping the lumber east, back into China.

  • Again, like Mongolia,

  • China isn't conquering Russia. It's just leasing it.

  • That's what I call globalization Chinese style.

  • Now maybe this is what the map of the region

  • might look like in 10 to 20 years.

  • But hold on. This map is 700 years old.

  • This is the map of the Yuan Dynasty,

  • led by Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan.

  • So history doesn't necessarily repeat itself,

  • but it does rhyme.

  • This is just to give you a taste of what's happening in this part of the world.

  • Again, globalization Chinese style.

  • Because globalization opens up all kinds of ways for us to

  • undermine and change the way we think about political geography.

  • So, the history of East Asia in fact,

  • people don't think about nations and borders.

  • They think more in terms of empires and hierarchies,

  • usually Chinese or Japanese.

  • Well it's China's turn again.

  • So let's look at how China is re-establishing

  • that hierarchy in the far East.

  • It starts with the global hubs.

  • Remember the 40 dots on the nighttime map

  • that show the hubs of the global economy?

  • East Asia today has more of those global hubs

  • than any other region in the world.

  • Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai,

  • Hong Kong, 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 invested into China.

  • Then there is trade.

  • These vectors and arrows represent ever stronger

  • trade relationships that China has

  • with every country in the region.

  • Specifically, it targets Japan

  • and Korea and Australia,

  • countries that are strong allies of the United States.

  • Australia, for example, is heavily dependent

  • on exporting iron ore and natural gas to China.

  • For poorer countries, China reduces tariffs

  • so that Laos and Cambodia can sell their goods more 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 China

  • to lead the rebound, the economic rebound, not just in Asia, but potentially for the world.

  • The Asian free trade zone, almost free trade zone, that's emerging

  • now has a greater trade volume than trade across the Pacific.

  • So China is becoming the anchor of the economy in the region.

  • Another pillar of this strategy is diplomacy.

  • China has signed military agreements with many countries in the region.

  • It has become the hub of diplomatic institutions

  • such as the East Asian Community.

  • Some of these organizations don't even have

  • the United States as a member.

  • There is a treaty of nonaggression between countries,

  • such that if there were a conflict between China and the United States,

  • most countries vow to just sit it out,

  • including American allies like Korea and Australia.

  • Another pillar of the strategy,

  • like Russia, is demographic.

  • China exports business people, nannies, students,

  • teachers to teach Chinese around the region,

  • to intermarry and to occupy ever greater

  • commanding heights of the economies.

  • Already ethnic Chinese people

  • in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia

  • are the real key factors and drivers

  • in the economies there.

  • Chinese pride is resurgent in the region

  • as a result.

  • Singapore, for example, 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,

  • Japan had a vision

  • for a greater Japanese co-prosperity sphere.

  • What's emerging today is what you might call

  • a greater Chinese co-prosperity sphere.

  • So no matter what the lines on the map tell you

  • in terms of nations and borders,

  • what you really have emerging in the far east

  • are national cultures,

  • but in a much more fluid, imperial zone.

  • All of this is happening without firing a shot.

  • That's most certainly not the case in the Middle East

  • where countries are still very uncomfortable

  • in the borders left behind by European colonialists.

  • So what can we do to think about borders differently in this part of the world?

  • What lines on the map should we focus on?

  • What I want to present to you is what I call

  • state building, day by day.

  • Let's start with Iraq.

  • Six years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq,

  • the country still exists more on a map than it does in reality.

  • Oil used to be one of the forces holding Iraq together;

  • now it is the most significant cause of the country's disintegration.

  • The reason is 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 from Kurdistan,

  • which is an oil-rich region.

  • And today, if you go to Kurdistan,

  • you'll see that Kurdish Peshmerga guerillas

  • are squaring off against the Sunni Iraqi army.

  • But what are they guarding?

  • Is it really a border on the map?

  • No. It's the pipelines.

  • If the Kurds can control their pipelines, they can set the terms

  • of their own statehood.

  • Now should we be upset about this, about the potential disintegration of Iraq?

  • I don't believe we should.

  • Iraq will still be the second largest oil producer in the world,

  • behind Saudi Arabia.

  • And we'll have a chance to solve a 3,000 year old dispute.

  • Now remember Kurdistan is landlocked.

  • It has no choice but to behave.

  • In order to profit from its oil

  • it has to export it through Turkey or Syria,

  • and other countries, and Iraq itself.

  • And therefore it has to have amicable relations with them.

  • Now lets look at a perennial conflict in the region.

  • That is, of course, in Palestine.

  • Palestine is something of a cartographic anomaly

  • because it's two parts Palestinian, one part Israel.

  • 30 years of rose garden diplomacy

  • have not delivered us peace in this conflict.

  • 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,

  • an arc 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 a viable Palestinian state,

  • Palestinian economy.