The term “Imperialism” defines a policy or ideology by an empire of extending its rule over other people and other countries, for the purpose of extending its own geo-political gain, economic access, power and control, through employing hard power (military action) or soft power (financial, cultural, political influence). Historically this term has been used to define the acts of empires such as the British or French empire during the age of colonialization (17th 18th 19th and 20th century) where European powers started annexing lands all over the world via military force. Come the 21st century most countries have had given up direct control over their overseas territories and switched to a democratic system ending monarch control hence ending imperialist ambitions but the thirst for power was never truly gone and as the world became more interconnected and reliant on international trade it was apparent that whoever held influence in geo strategic regions around the world would be the dominating power bloc giving birth to modern-day imperialism.
Modern imperialism is not that different from that of imperialism as at its core, it is a policy of a foreign nation to extend its sphere of influence over another country or region for the purpose of gaining its own geo strategic objectives, economic access, power and control via use of hard power (military action) or soft power (financial, cultural and political influence). The main differences between this and old imperialism are that of context where the foreign nation will not term its actions as annexation, rather an effort to protect democracy or help local people/countries. The nations involved would spare no expense in creating a believable justification to present towards the world. No matter what the foreign powers true objective is, either protecting/dictating its supply chain for oil, hydrocarbons and other natural resources, creating buffer states, installing a puppet government in other nations or placing a region under their direct jurisdiction through use of military force, they would try to justify their actions to gain support from the international community. That is the modern-day game of chess nations play when competing against one another, trying to exert their own influence, and gaining the upper hand. A few relevant examples of modern-day imperialism imposed upon developing countries are the US war on Iraq/Afghanistan, French hold in central African countries, Russian influence over Armenia, Chinese loan debt influence on Africa, etc.
US war on Iraq/Afghanistan
In 2003 the US along with its allies (US coalition) launched an invasion of Iraq which resulted in the decisive defeat of Iraqi forces and collapse of Ba’athist government (Saddam Hussain). On paper this act was done for the purpose of “Saving” the Iraqi people from an authoritarian dictatorship and install democracy. As a result, the region became highly unstable for years as various insurgency groups formed in mist of the power vacuum beginning the state of “Iraq war.” In response the US kept a sizable military presence deployed in Iraq and install a democratic government (its puppet government). By the point Iraq had to depend on US military and follow US policy bringing it under US hard power and soft power. US interests in the region were disposing of a hostile government, establishment of US influence in the middle east (Next to Iran) and protect the flow of oil under US terms. Similar is the case with Afghanistan where the US invaded with the intention of removing a hostile government, securing a sphere of influence in South Asia next to Pakistan/former Soviet states (Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, etc.) and gain access to the vast Afghan heartlands natural resources. This was done by forcibly entering Afghanistan and deposing the Taliban government under the justification of war on terror and revenge
against Al Qaeda (9/11 attacks). While these reasons hold some truth, the actions of Washington also held different objectives which were attempted to be achieved by installing a US friendly government (current Afghan government).The US wanted to retain its influence within Afghanistan, build military bases and secure the transit of precious natural resources and exports from within Afghanistan and central Asian states under US super vision.
French hold on Central Africa
Despite gaining independence from France in the early 20th century, many African nations remain under the strong grip of the French hold which is a complex web of extortion, exploitation and neo colonialism. When the French granted independence to 14 Africa countries previously under the French colonial control it did so under terms of cooperation and maintaining strong ties with Paris. The African states signed CFA pact which granted them a stable currency and French financial expertise. But this pact also legally obliged them to put 50% of their foreign currency reserves into the French treasury and 20% for financial liabilities. This meant that the African nations could only retain control over 30% of their money while the currency was printed under super vision of the French national bank. Even worse if those African states wanted to gain access to their own funds which they deposited they had to borrow it under fixed commercial rates from France. This policy has continued up to present day and has fixed French control over these African nations. What this means is that the French economy gets boasted by the inflow of African funds and the African states cannot freely acquire their own money. Furthermore, the African states do not have the freedom to dictate their own currency which limits GDP growth and gets in the way of (raw materials) Exports which is their only real source of income. Furthermore, to cement French influence France has deployed its Foreign legion military into Central Africa under the justification of combating terrorism or insurgency. These forces are also there to grant France a hard power chess piece if ever needed and keep the African governments aligned. Overall, this is a perfect example of modern-day colonialism.
Russian influence over Armenia
Ever since gaining autonomy from the Soviet Union, the republic of Armenia had fixed strong ties with Russia. The supply chain infrastructure and political cooperation between the two was kept running and on the surface both nations are allies. However, there was a deeper Russian interest for keeping these relations which were to always have a buffer between NATO influenced nations and its international border. We can see this as Russia struggles to keep Georgia out of NATO via use of insurgency and diplomatic pressure, forced annexation of Crimea and silent war against Ukraine. It is no different when it comes to Armenia and this was proven by Russian policy of inaction during the recent Azerbaijan and Armenian conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In recent years, the new Armenian government had begun siding with the western block little by little which set alarm bells in the kremlin (Russia). In response Russia started to exert diplomatic pressure to force Armenian leadership back into Russian influence. This recent in action by not assisting Armenia (its ally) proves how Russia used Armenian weakness and dependence on Russian military equipment to display the consequences of not abiding by the Russian will. More over-under, the pretext of peace and ending, the conflict Russia acting as mediator has not deployed a sizable force of Russian troops in Armenia as “Peacekeepers” which insures Russian hard power and soft power.
Chinese entry into Africa
Just round 50 years ago within the United Nations general assembly a voting was passed where it would be decided whom will represent China within the UN, the Peoples republic of China or the republic of Taiwan as both claimed to be all of China. The voting passed with majority in favor of Peoples republic of China but what is important here is that most nations who voted against China were African. This trend has now changed as most nations presently align themselves with China in any similar voting calls. This change in allegiance is a result of China expanding their influence in Africa via use of soft power tactics. China has pumped billions into the African continent in form of loans and mutually beneficial agreements, basically buying allies and power. These loans and credit deposits are being sued to finance and build hundreds of large much needed infrastructure projects such as Dams, railroad lines, motors ways, factories, hospitals, etc. China is doing this knowing full well that those Africa nations are likely to default on their loan repayments but still hands out more credit via its national bank. The reason behind this is to gain political influence in those countries and gain access to the natural resources legally and by mutual consent. Furthermore, China hopes to utilize the large poor labor force in Africa to gain cheap labor as its own labor force has begun shifting into the middle-income class. Hence by investing into the African region China gains much needed foreign political influence that reflects its rise as the next super power, access to African cheap labor to stimulate its slowing down growth and legally gain access to unprocessed raw material resources. All this is being done via soft power tactics as China tries to keep its actions perception under the umbrella of “Joint prosperity” and “Mutual cooperation.”
In conclusion the game of chess revolving around geostrategic interests, conflict and wealth is still dictated by military action and diplomatic pressure in a somewhat similar way at with during the age of colonization and imperialism. The differences lie in method of execution and acquiring international support and the effects are varying depending upon the policy adopted. Whatever the case regardless of how much progress is made in science, technology, political thinking and international integration, humanity still revolves around the chains of imperialism.