Keynote Speech by Vladimir Yakunin at the International Relations Sub-session
In 2007, in his speech at the Rhodes Forum, Immanuel Wallerstein, founder of world-systems theory, noted “We have moved into a truly multilateral world, in the sense that the real geopolitical power of relatively weaker states is suddenly much greater”. The new architecture of the multilateral world, which scientists predicted more than 10 years ago, has come into full force today.
There is a big disconnection between economic power and political power in today’s global political system. While emerging markets represent about 60% of the global economy, their “voice” is something closer to 30% in major international institutions. This is not sensible, and it is not sustainable. The basic concepts and institutions of international relations continue to follow outdated ideas about the processes that underlie global development. This is due to two factors. The first is the speed of ongoing processes driven by communication and information technology. Second, there is an ideological component based on the desire of individual countries and leaders to maintain a status of exclusivity and superiority in the face of changes in the geopolitical and geo-economic architecture of the world. Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo stated that China and the U.S. had been involved in a new “Cold War”. But the “Cold War” that he mentioned is fundamentally different from that between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in terms of the ideological system. As for the cause of the new “Cold War”, China has posed challenges to the dominant role of the U.S. in technology and economy, which greatly disturbed the U.S.
Over the past decades, the main driver of globalization and key participants in international processes have been the developed countries in the Western world. The social, economic and political structure of these countries was a model for the rest of the world. At the heart of the universal measurement of the well-being of countries was the economic indicator of GDP, which endorsed the advantages of the selected development models of Western countries relative to the rest of the world. As a result, the processes of globalization have been based on technologies, values and a way of life inherent in Western societies.
But for developing countries, the most important issues are their basic needs. Today, with the countries of Asia and Africa developing rapidly, we can observe the emergence of new leaders in the club of leading countries. This leads to a proportional decrease in Western representation among the leading countries. As a result, we can conclude that the current reality of international architecture is a transition from the dominance of a Western-centric model to a new model that should take into account the needs of the developing world and its cultural diversity. At the same time, an important element for the sustainable development of the new model is to ensure conditions for an equal dialogue between countries on key issues of international development, make concerted effort to overcome poverty and inequality, and master deep knowledge about the different cultures, mentalities and values that underlie the formation of state policies in different countries. It is a wrong and dangerous assumption to view the developing world through the standards of the Western world that was established during the Cold War. Incorrect views among political elites lead to dangerous and irreversible results, such as the dismantling of mechanisms for long-term cooperation, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. At the same time, restoring these tools and platforms or creating new ones will be much more difficult.
All civilizations should shoulder their own responsibilities. Western countries, in particular, must accept the reality that the world has entered a new era of modernized system of multilateral framework, and recognize the new paradigm of equality among civilizations. Ideal dialogues and cooperation should be based on equality, rather than turning every discussion of values into ideological disputes. The well-being of mankind depends on equal and extensive cooperation among civilizations, instead of treating countries differently according to their military or economic strength. To solve these problems, especially when it comes to China-U.S. and China-Europe relations, we must first pay attention to cultural relations between different parties, and hold more discussions at platforms such as the Taihe Civilizations Forum which strengthens the cooperation and development that help us to understand each other better.
This year we are celebrating the 75th end of the World War II. We should be aware of our responsibilities and bear in mind the cost that we have paid for a new life. The UN was created as a result of the end of the World War based on a consensus among the victorious countries regarding its outcomes, with the aim of avoiding future global conflicts and fostering sustainable socio-economic development. 75 years ago, countries were ready to put to the side any ideological differences for a higher purpose and jointly create a successful mechanism of global cooperation, as opposed to the highly ideologized approach to international relations that we see today. One of the most dangerous phenomena of our time is the global polarization of public and political views. International relations are viewed through a model of confrontation, with individual countries perceived as part of a game. In contrast to this bloc model, we must follow the principles of the paradigm of the dialogue of civilizations, which allows us to conduct an open dialogue and learn from each other.
The Coronavirus doesn’t see borders, ethnicity or culture. There are also many other questions in which humanity needs solidary answers. We have been reminded once again that we are living in a disintegrated world and the world needs to address it with a matter of urgency. I would also observe that we have seen a real lack of international leadership. Some countries who were supposed to take the responsibility in the pandemic, however, only focused on their own interest, abandoned the international rules and principles and completely neglected the interest of emerging countries in Asia and Africa as well as global interest. Many years ago, I mentioned that China might face two traps in the future: First, the U.S. may intentionally encourage China to take over its leadership in global politics, economy, and finance to become the strongest political power in the world. Second, the U.S. will lead the public opinion by saying China is ready to become the world’s largest geopolitical power, historically and culturally. China should follow the new paradigm of world civilization development, and respond to various challenges facing global development with multilateral and win-win cooperation. Transcultural discussion and inter-civilizational communication is a possible and viable alternative to overcome contemporary tensions and discord.
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- Kaddour Chelabi Head of teaching department at British Education Academy in Beijing.