Archive for June 1st, 2012

Has Strengthened

By Lanxin Xiang

With the prospect of China’s GDP surpassing the United States’ in less than 20 years, a great debate has started in the West. But it is in the rhetorical framework first promoted by Edward Gibbon and Oswald Spengler and later revived by Arnold Toynbee and Paul Kennedy. Discourse on “rise and fall” is an Anglo-American penchant, as the concern is over whether or not China will integrate into the existing (i.e., West-dominated) liberal world order or seek to destroy it. Paul Kennedy in The Rise and Fall of Great Powers argued that the Chinese leadership “seems to be evolving a grand strategy altogether more coherent and forward-looking than that which prevails in Moscow, Washington, or Tokyo, not to mention western Europe.”

Kennedy’s insight at the early stage of the Chinese reform period was impressive, and it proves more enduring than the views of authors who are enjoying the advantage of observing China’s reform with hindsight. In the 1990s, predictions of China’s collapse abounded; titles such as “The Coming Collapse of China” became instant best-sellers, but none of these predictions has come to pass. Why? Because their teleological fantasy that all regimes will become liberal democracies proves to be wrong.

After the “China collapse” fashion wave in publications, the “China superior” fashion is taking over. Many intellectuals in the West, the Leftists in particular, have launched a feisty defence of the Chinese economic and even political system.  The Chinese are rather bemused to see a stream of hilarious titles such as “When China Rules the World,” “The Beijing Consensus,” or “Why Chinese Communists make better capitalists than the Westerners do.”

Neither approach seems relevant to Chinese realities. The truth is, China is not on the path of “rise,” but of restoration. China has seen the movie before: huge trade surplus and reserves. As late as the 1830s, Chinese GDP comprised 32% of the global total and the Chinese had sucked in most world silver reserves. The real challenge posed by China to the world is not what it does, but what it does not do during its restoration process.

China will not want wholesale Westernization, and it will not abide by some existing “rules of the game” originated from the West. But it is absurd to assume that the Chinese will establish a new “model” to replace the Western one. The Chinese never have urges to become missionaries and model-building is not part of the culture. A model requires either ontology or teleology. But the Chinese concern is neither. The key expression in Chinese tradition is “where is the way? (or Tao)”, but never the Cartesian ontological “What it is.” In other words, politics is by nature a contingent act, and one should not harbor any ambition for influencing the future — however “scientific” the prediction may seem.

The “Rise and Fall” rhetoric aims at discovering a universal pattern of behavior of the great powers, but China is not a typical one. China will not challenge the liberal order for ideological reasons, because of the belief that an order could only be brought down by its own faults. No doubt the liberal order has weakened. This does not mean the Chinese system has been strengthened as a result.

The paradox is that the Communist Party of China has engineered one of the greatest social and economic reforms in human history; but the population has become restless and angry about the regime itself. It is Confucian political logic, not Western democratic theory, that has undermined the party’s legitimacy. At the present stage, the failure in “rule by virtue” threatens the party’s Mandate of Heaven. China’s future will be determined by internal factors – as will that of the liberal order. If the West understands this, it will interact with China more effectively than following the “Rise and Fall” logic.

Lanxin Xiang is Fudan Chair of International Affairs at Fudan University in Shanghai and Professor of International History and Politics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

By Joshua Walker

Today the Eurozone crisis continues to threaten the concept of the “West” as people all around the world watch European economies pass the bottleneck. Crisis in Europe reinforces the idea of the “Fall of the West”– yet Turkey, a historic member of the West, is included in the discussions about the “Rise of the Rest.” Turkey’s strategic location is one explanation for why Turkey is seen as a part of “the Rest” as well as the “West,” yet the paradoxes inherent in this Muslim-majority, capitalist, secular democracy are precisely why Turkey is critical beyond its geography at the crossroads of civilization.

A key ally of the United States, long-standing member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and a candidate for membership in the European Union (EU), Turkey has strong ties to the West and to the East in a volatile but strategic region of the world. Ironically, only in the last decade has modern Turkey assumed the confidence and trappings of a geopolitically pivotal player. At no time since their days at the helm of the Ottoman Empire have the Turks been as actively involved as they are in the Middle East today. In return, the Middle East seems receptive to Turkish activism in the region. As a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council from 2008-2010, a G-20 founding member since 2008, and holder of the post of Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) since 2005, Turkey’s global rise is unprecedented. Turkey’s newly discovered role in global politics and its subsequent foreign policy has its benefits, but also challenges that need to be assessed.

No longer confined to being simply an American geostrategic “barrier,” “bridge,” or “bulwark,” Turkey represents an exemplary model of a Muslim-majority, secular, and democratic nation within its dynamic geopolitical neighborhood. The nation’s broadened awareness and appreciation for the positive role that it can play in Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Central Asia, and beyond has caused Turkish leaders to realize the country’s full potential as a versatile and increasingly powerful international actor. This newfound activism and confidence in Turkey’s own regional policies has directly impacted Turkey’s relationship with its traditional allies in the West and has significant implications for policymakers.

The “new” Turkey of the 21st century has far more tools at its disposal to push its agenda as a leading regional power. The tremendous success of Turkey’s private sector has opened a world of possibility not known to any previous generation of Turks. The spread of Turkish businesses, construction, hospitals, hotels, and schools throughout its neighborhood is part and parcel of its regional leverage. Having sought the role of regional mediator over the last decade, Turkey’s litmus test of leadership comes in its own neighborhood — beginning with how Ankara deals with authoritarian regimes like Assad’s in Syria, which still enjoys support from Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran. Ankara is not alone, however, since Washington shares almost all of Turkey’s long-term strategic interests when it comes to its immediate neighborhood.

Particularly in light of the events in the Middle East, where both Turkey and the West want to see stability, there are a host of possible areas for cooperation. Ankara’s emphasis on the importance of economic interdependency in the globalizing world, and the need to build strong linkages with all regional states regardless of former Cold War mentalities or hostile Western policies towards these neighbors, can be a guiding principle if taken as complimentary with and not competitive with the West. Ankara’s new foreign policy envisions a Turkey that would transform itself into a global actor — rather than a regional or junior partner to the West.

Turkey’s emergence in the 21st century has been in the making for the last century, but most significantly the last decade. Balancing Ankara’s historically close relationships with the West, both in its “strategic alliance” with Washington and its ongoing process with Brussels, amidst the realities of its neighborhood is no simple task.  Key to this is managing the interdependency between a democratizing and often polarized domestic political scene and Ankara’s ambitious foreign policy vision.

The changes in Turkish foreign policy cannot be attributed to a single factor; rather, a number of domestic and international considerations have propelled this phenomenon. Turkey has the economic and political potential to be a trans-regional actor that promotes peace, prosperity, and stability — or an inwardly focused state whose domestic turbulence inflames problems abroad. Therefore, understanding Turkey on its own terms, and assessing its potential impact globally and regionally as it determines its own future between the “rest” and the West, is of critical importance.

Joshua W. Walker is a Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

By Daniel Twining

At the end of this year, the U.S. National Intelligence Council will release Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, its latest report forecasting the future of an international system being remade by the ascendance of emerging powers and the erosion of the Western liberal order.  As with most exercises in strategic forecasting after the global financial crisis, the draft report’s focus on an emergent multipolarity and the “rise of the rest” obscures the continuing strengths and staying power of American leadership in the international system.  In fact, some of the key drivers of strategic change in the period through 2030 – including demography, access to energy resources, and leadership in innovation – actually reinforce rather than undermine American resilience in a changing world.

China may have the largest economy in 2030, given a population four times larger than that of the United States.  But even if China manages the daunting economic and political transitions that lie before it, the country will still not enjoy the basket of strengths the United States will continue to possess.  In 2030, these will include:

  • A geographical position in which the United States, uniquely among the great powers, is not threatened by any serious challenger in its neighborhood;
  • An abundance of natural resources: the United States has the most arable land of any country on earth, is rich in natural resources, and promises to emerge as a largely self-sufficient energy superpower thanks to both offshore oil and shale gas deposits;
  • A domestic economy that is best understood as North American in scale, given integrated capital, labor, and energy markets, and whose prowess in innovation, manufacturing, technology, and services may prove surprisingly resilient as emerging economies bump into developmental bottlenecks;
  • An economy which is more intimately tied to the economies of Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Persian Gulf than any of these centers of economic and financial power are to each other (taking into account not only trade but capital flows, international use of the dollar, and the role of the U.S. Treasury bond market as a haven for global savings);
  • An ethnically diverse, pluralistic society open to immigration, favorable demographics, a superior higher education system, and a culture of opportunity that should continue to attract talent from around the world in ways that maintain the United States’ innovation edge;
  • A large lead in comprehensive national power across the economic-military-technological-natural resources spectrum that will be difficult for rising powers to match, even if countries like China ultimately do surpass the United States in individual components of national power like gross domestic product or military spending;
  • A continuing ability to produce “followership”, without which there can be no leadership.  As the scholar David Kang notes, while many countries grudgingly admire China’s economic accomplishments, neither China nor any other potential U.S. rival has demonstrated the ability to produce the ranks of followers the United States takes for granted with its far-ranging set of global alliances and partnerships;
  • The central role in a liberal international order originally built around American power, interests, and beliefs, with substantial components of that order increasingly embraced by other established powers and rising powers like India. As journalist Pramit Pal Chaudhuri notes, “India wants to modify the present world order [to secure greater status within it] but never to overthrow it.”

Despite all the hype over their ascent, “the rest” are not a unified geopolitical bloc – they are riven by rivalries which will make competition among emerging powers more intense than that between the developed and developing worlds.  And even as power diffuses across the international system, it will also diffuse within societies as a middle class explosion in China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and elsewhere transforms politics within them, potentially reinforcing rather than undermining Western interests.

Finally, raw calculations of relative economic power mislead analysts to believe that the ascent of emerging powers is necessarily a zero-sum loss for the West.  In fact, the entrance of billions of new consumers into the world economy has enormously benefited the United States and Europe – through cheaper imports, growing markets for trade and investment, and a greater stake for aspiring economies in sustaining an open international economy.

Strategically, the West is arguably in a better – not worse – position as the capabilities and strategic horizons of emerging powers expand in ways that potentially empower them to help provide global public goods.  Washington certainly has high hopes for partnership with emerging giants like India and Brazil – to the point that European strategist Mark Leonard worries that the U.S. tilt toward these “post-colonial superpowers” undermines the transatlantic alliance.

In short, despite the fad for declinism, the United States is positioned to remain the pacesetter among the great powers through 2030 – if its leaders can get the country’s fiscal house in order.  America certainly has its problems.  But whose problems would Americans rather have – China’s?

By Claudio Lilienfeld

In the age of the Internet, key questions abound about how emerging powers such as India and China will affect and reflect the global rise in information availability and flows, and what impact that will have on commerce, politics, and culture. Most presume the battle lines are being drawn along the lines of democracy versus authority, but the reality is much more complicated.

All countries globally grapple with balancing the benefits of the Internet (vital commerce, inclusive economic opportunity, cultural vibrancy, and political expression) with global and local challenges (national security, privacy, protecting the vulnerable, and respecting cultural norms). The biggest question is whether the “rest” will favor the principles of openness as the best guarantors of national interest, seeing them as universal rather than simply as an imposition of the West.

One critical factor in the direction countries take will be whether they recognize and choose to harness the enormous economic benefits of open platforms and the free flow of information. New data are emerging regularly that show that when countries commit to unfettered movement of information across the Internet — except where necessary to achieve a legitimate, limited government objective – they are supporting increased exports, domestic jobs and innovation, and contributing to the strength of the entire global economic trading system.

A recent McKinsey report found that the Internet accounted for 3.4 percent of GDP in 13 countries examined.  And virtually every entity globally – business, government, university, cultural institution, or NGO – relies on the Internet to power its business, work, research, and communications, or aspires to do so.

Ultimately, global trends, including economic and geopolitical power shifts reflecting the “rise of the rest,” are poised to ride on the back of an open Internet — which can serve both as a catalyst and a vehicle for propelling these shifts.

Claudio Lilienfeld is Senior Policy Manager for the Asia-Pacific at Google.

By Andrew Phillips

Secretary of State Clinton’s recognition of the dawning ‘Indo-Pacific’ age and the U.S. Navy’s recalibration of its ‘two ocean’ focus (from a Pacific/Atlantic to an Indo-Pacific focus) together signify Washington’s growing appreciation of the Indian Ocean Region’s (IOR’s) rising strategic importance.  As the region commands greater attention from Washington down to 2030 and beyond, America may be tempted to pursue regional order-building practices comparable to those that earlier enabled it to integrate first its defeated Axis enemies and then later the Asian ‘tiger economies’ and (to a lesser extent) China into a global liberal order.  Nevertheless, the scope for doing so will be radically constrained in the IOR — not merely by America’s declining relative power, but also by the region’s distinct historical legacies, which differ fundamentally from those that have shaped America’s grand strategy elsewhere.

In both Western Europe and East Asia, the liberal international order has for decades been locally anchored through long-term alliance systems centered around U.S. partnerships with key regional powers (Germany and Japan respectively).  Conversely, in the IOR, regional enthusiasm for non-alignment retarded the development of an effective IOR collective security system in the immediate post-war decades. Undeniably, the Cold War and later the ‘war on terror’ spawned fragile alliances of convenience linking America to various regional partners, most notably Pakistan.

But American power within the IOR remains blunted to this day by the absence of a local client of comparable strategic weight to either Germany or Japan. This absence has in turn stymied the emergence of alliance systems comparable to those that have dampened local security rivalries elsewhere. The result has been to deny the IOR – home to 11 of the world’s 20 most fragile states – the geopolitical stability it needs to fully integrate into the global liberal order.

Comprising 36 littoral and 14 adjacent hinterland states (collective population: 2.6 billion) and now rapidly emerging as both an epicenter of both global trade and great power rivalry, the IOR’s successful integration into the liberal order constitutes a vital U.S. interest. The region’s distinctive historical legacies and contemporary material limits on U.S. power nevertheless preclude a simple replication of the practices that have undergirded liberal order-building efforts in Europe and East Asia since 1945. Instead, three imperatives must guide U.S. order-building in the IOR in an increasingly post-unipolar and post-Western world:

Cultivate Partners, Not Clients: As the world’s first and third most populous democracies, India and Indonesia (the latter also the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country) could potentially play a decisive role in consolidating a post-Western but still recognizably liberal global order in the 21st  century. The United States should therefore continue to pro-actively nurture their peaceful rise and seek out opportunities for bilateral and trilateral cooperation. At the same time, Washington must recognize that the legacy of non-alignment remains particularly firmly entrenched in New Delhi and Jakarta, and that aspirations to form a democratic entente to offset growing Chinese influence will almost certainly be disappointed.  A shared commitment to democracy will surely lubricate increased cooperation between the U.S., India and Indonesia. But any partnership between them will increasingly be one of equals, more negotiated, more ad hoc and less reliable as a foundation for regional order than the institutionalised patron-client ties with ‘pivot’ states that long underwrote U.S. grand strategy in Europe and East Asia.

Preserve and Extend Existing Friendships: Washington’s relationships with established allies including Japan and Australia (the last constituting a pivotal connector linking the Pacific and Indian Ocean theaters) must be recognized and more fully utilized as indispensably versatile assets for consolidating regional stability, not merely in the Asia-Pacific but also in the IOR.  On this point, the success of the Tsunami Core Group (comprising Australia, the U.S., Japan and also India) in coordinating humanitarian assistance and disaster relief following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami provides especially compelling evidence that existing ‘hub and spokes’ alliances can be leveraged to reach out to major local powers in the IOR for the purpose of strengthening regional order.

Encourage ‘Bottom-Up’ Regional Order-Building: The host of governance challenges now afflicting the IOR, ranging from transnational terrorism and piracy through to state failure, has already stimulated ‘bottom-up’ order-building through the formation of various sub-regional ad hoc ‘coalitions of the willing’ (e.g., the various multinational anti-piracy taskforces now deployed off the Horn of Africa). Given the region’s historical failure to develop coherent institutions for regional cooperation from the ‘top down,’ Washington should prioritize supporting and participating in these more modest initiatives wherever possible. This is not simply because of their intrinsic functional value in addressing regional challenges. Rather, it is also because in the absence of a decades-long history of institutionalized U.S. power and partnership with local ‘pivot states,’ encouraging informal and issue-specific practices of security cooperation may offer one of the few immediately viable means of stabilizing a region that will be increasingly critical for the maintenance of global order in the nascent post-Western century.

Andrew Phillips is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Strategy in the School of Political Science at the University of Queensland and the author of War, Religion and Empire – The Transformation of International Orders (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

As the draft Global Trends 2030 report points out, the United States’ relative economic decline vis-a-vis emerging powers is inevitable and already occurring.  The most likely scenario is an “economically restored” United States that is able to retain its global leadership role.  A weak and defensive US, on the other hand, would “increase the chances of a dysfunctional international system.”

But in either case, the role of the United States, and its ability to shape the future international order will depend in large part on the strategic orientation of other major powers, particularly China and Russia.  As the world’s remaining great power autocracies, these two nations share a foreign policy outlook that often places a higher priority on retaining traditional spheres of influence, protecting national sovereignty, and opposing the West than on implementing broadly accepted international norms, including non-proliferation and the protection of human rights.  If these great powers continue to be governed by authoritarian regimes, the United States and the West will face significant obstacles in their attempts to solidify a liberal international order.

The most dramatic factor impacting the future of the international system, however, could be the collapse of authoritarianism in China or Russia and an evolution toward more democratic and liberal models of governance.  A democratic China, for example, might see itself as a natural political and economic partner with the West, facilitating its ability to join in addressing collective concerns.  Similarly, a democratic Russia might find its interests on key issues converging with the West, leading it to cooperate on a more sustained basis — as was the case at times during the early years of Yeltsin era.

This could open the door to a potentially transformative and so far illusive “concert of powers.”  Even if American predominance over the international system recedes, its impact could be potentially far less significant, because their collective commitments to democratic values would allow other great powers to work cooperatively to adopt and enforce a set of globally-accepted rules and norms — reinforcing and expanding a liberal international order.