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China, Russia And Iran: A New Axis Of Tyranny

A triad of powers is taking the world on a rocky ride to a new world (dis)order. Nobody quite knows where we're heading, but the ride is sure to be bumpy.

China, Russia And Iran: A New Axis Of Tyranny

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Russian leader Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, in September 2022

Marcos Peckel


BOGOTÁ — By now, it's clear that the old world order is ending, and making way for a new one — and like all beginnings, this moment is fraught with uncertainties.

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In this new order, or disorder, there is a power axis that includes China, Iran and Russia. They are not strictly an alliance, nor do their interests overlap entirely. The similarity is rather in their treatment of the current order we liked to view as free of inter-state wars, brazen attacks on weaker neighbors, or land grabs that violate Article 2 of the UN Charter.

These are three countries ruled by despots who mercilessly crush all opposition to them, whether it be the Uighurs of China locked up in communist reeducation camps, the girls and women of Iran murdered by the Supreme leader's Revolutionary guards, or the Russian opponents of the war in Ukraine who have conspicuously disappeared.

The three blame the West for all their ills and tragedies, issue threats by the dozen, and two of them use their veto at the UN Security Council to thwart the multilateral system.

A new world disorder

President Vladimir Putin's war of aggression on Ukraine is backed by the other two members of the triad. China is uncomfortable, but provides Russia with a diplomatic umbrella with its ambiguous verbiage. Iran has sent kamikaze drones and may soon send ballistic missiles to indiscriminately kill civilians. As the war worsens, it is difficult to see how it will evolve and end, and whether the world will see it spread like a plague. That and the shape of a new world order largely depend on Putin.

We're just entering the turbulence on our flight to the new order so sit tight

At the eastern end of the triad, the Chinese communist party held its 20th congress in which the country's president, Xi Jinping, was elected to an unprecedented third term. A tweak of the country's basic laws was all that was needed to make it happen. Xi has already told party colleagues he would never renounce the use of force to reunify the country, referring to communist China's ambitions on the island of Taiwan.

The man being dubbed the new Mao is evidently emboldened by the invasion of Ukraine and his own success in snuffing out Hong Kong's freedoms under the semi-liberal regime China had accepted when it regained the territory from Great Britain.

China's Xi Jinping and Iran's Ebrahim Raisi met for the first time face to face at The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan

Iranian Presidency/ZUMA

Fasten your seat belts

At the weaker end of the triangle, Iran has seen a month of protests against the regime, the fruit of public outrage at the "morality police" beating a young girl to death. The Chinese, smelling blood as they say, have exploited the situation by making massive purchases of Iranian oil. That was also to give the ayatollahs a helping hand, as the Russians do in multilateral agencies.

The triad has a posse of sorcerers' apprentices tied to its coattails and needing its support: Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Myanmar and the most experienced among them, North Korea, which has been flexing its ballistic muscles.
We're just entering the turbulence on our flight to the new order, so sit tight all and fasten your seat belts.

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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