The vehicle I use most of the time is in fact leased. Although I use it most of the time and refer to it loosely as “my car” because it is registered to me and is parked on my property, strictly speaking it actually belongs to the manufactuer’s UK financial services company. Yet that company has no interest in the car, only in ensuring it is paid for; I am the one with the interest in it. Who owns it in practice, therefore? And does the ownership have any practical relevance?
There is a section of the Russian Far East which is twice as large as India yet contains a population lower than that of the island of Ireland. Yet it has in recent years experienced notable immigration – number hundreds of thousands. These immigrants come not from elsewhere in Russia, but from China. They have come not to leave China, but in fact to set up a Chinese timber company which will send timber supplies back from this small corner of the world across the border for use in by Chinese industry, notably construction. Who owns that part of Asia, therefore?
Nominally, the territory referred to falls within the boundaries of Russia and is thus theoretically under the sovereignty of the institutions in Moscow. However, it is almost depopulated and has no functioning economy except for timber. That economy is entirely dependent on Chinese immigrants sending timber across the border into China. The territory, therefore, is only under Russian sovereignty in the same way my car is under a financial service’s company’s ownership – it is theoretical but has no current practical purpose (for as long as China needs timber and I keep up my payments, respectively). In effect, Chinese industry has “leased” this territory from Russia, and it is now solely within China’s interest for as long as it wants it and can make it economically functional.
China is of course “leasing” lots of the world, often in terms of maintaining or constructing infrastructure – building piers in Mozambique to cricket grounds in the Caribbean in return for “maintaining interests”. The UK, notably last week Scotland, has not escaped its attentions. This is a form of neo-colonialism – complete even with the partition of Sudan into a China-dominated North and a Western-dominated South.
In this context, what on earth is sovereignty?
The world consists of new mega-cities (often in the Far East) and major trading blocs. Sovereign states are no longer of particular relevance, other than as units of nominal, reactionary government.
Why on earth would we leave the economically largest such bloc?!