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Why Principles — and not Players — Should Determine the Nature of the Emerging International Order
by Dhruva Jaishankar and Joshua W. Walker
The world today is unrecognizable from the one that emerged at the end of the Cold War in 1991. While some point to the protests and revolutions in the Arab world as being the most recent examples of the crumbling vestiges of the Cold War, the more significant longterm global trend is the remarkable arrival of several new players to the game of great-power politics. The international system, which until the 1990s saw power disproportionally concentrated in North America, Europe, and Japan, has since witnessed a dynamic change in distribution to other players, most — but not all — of whom are in the Asia-Pacific region. Brazil, once a poster child for income inequality, has seen its economy bounce back following a prolonged lull. Indonesia, although still manacled by corruption, has evolved from an insular military dictatorship into a politically stable democracy with a promising economy. India has gone from an aid-dependent regional power to a hotbed of entrepreneurship, with its economy more than doubling in size between 2002 and 2008. In that same period, Turkey’s has more than tripled, accompanied by a strong sense of identity and a brash self-confidence. Last, and certainly not least, is the dramatic rise of China, which in 1990 had a gross domestic product per capita less than India’s, but is today almost four times as wealthy. The remarkable global growth story of the past two decades — often overlooked today in the aftermath of the global financial crisis — is not just relegated to a handful of emerging powers and city-states such as Dubai and Singapore. Countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania are among those seeing rapid reductions in poverty and, with it, the creation of new employment opportunities.1 The Economist even coined the acronym CIVETS to designate Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa as members of a second tier of emerging big markets, beyond the better-known BRICs identified by Goldman Sachs (comprising Brazil, Russia, India, and China).2 The economic awakening of longdormant powers has already manifested itself geopolitically. Brazil
1 Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz, “Poverty in Numbers: The Changing State of Global Poverty from 2005 to 2015,” Policy Brief 2011-01, The Brookings Institution, January 2011. 2 The Economist, “BRICS and BICIS,” The World in 2010, November 26, 2009, http://www.economist. com/blogs/theworldin2010/2009/11/acronyms_4
Summary: The remarkable global growth story of the past two decades is already beginning to manifest itself geopolitically. The arrival of new global powers presents the West with a dilemma: whether to prioritize players or principles in creating a new international architecture that contributes to the continuity and efficacy of international norms. If the West fails to do either, there is every likelihood that a competing global system may emerge with ruinous consequences for all. Truly empowering new players will require sacrificing privileges, reaffirming principles, consolidating space, and privileging and engaging emerging democracies.
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under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkey under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan chose to play a more active diplomatic role on the Iran nuclear standoff — much to the consternation of the United States and Europe — and Erdoğan has boldly suggested establishing a more equal relationship between Europe and Turkey.3 India has become a critical player in global negotiations related to climate change, nuclear disarmament, and world trade, if only as a potent veto wielder, and it has joined eight other developing countries as members of the G20. China, meanwhile, has been most active in its bilateral dealings in its neighborhood and beyond, with its convening of 48 African heads of state at the 2006 China-Africa summit in Beijing and recent reports that it had surpassed the World Bank as a lender to developing states being but two examples of its now considerable diplomatic clout.4 This so-called “rise of the rest” presents the United States and its allies in the West with a troublesome dilemma.5 On one hand, an institutional focus would suggest immediately incorporating these new players into extant systems of global governance so as to more accurately reflect the distribution of power and strengthen international cooperative mechanisms. To a certain degree, this has been done on the economic side. The G20 now largely overshadows the G8 as the primary international economic summit, while at last year’s spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the voting shares of China, India, and Brazil — among others — were increased. The challenge on the political side, however, is to ensure that the inclusion of new actors will, in fact, contribute to the continuity and efficacy of international norms. Jorge Castañeda, the former foreign minister of Mexico, has voiced concerns on this score, pointing to the poor human rights records of several emerging powers and their close relations with unsavory regimes as reasons to exclude them from various international high tables for the time being.6 But if the West were to continue to resist or deny these new global players a place at the high table on the grounds of maintaining the purported sanctity of institutions, there is every likelihood that the entire global system — which the West created and carefully nurtured over the past half century
— may be jeopardized. The West now faces a choice: should it let players or principles determine the world order of the 21st century? “Do Not Pass Go”: New Rules or a New Game? It might help to compare the international system to the board game Monopoly. Both are characterized by multiple players, limited resources and influence, and friendly but intense competition. In both cases, there are variants, but as long as the rules are agreed to at the outset, the game can be played to everyone’s satisfaction (if not always to their benefit). The international system today is a long-running game whose main players are the United States, the major member states of the European Union, and Japan, and to a certain degree China and Russia. India, Brazil, Turkey, and others want to join, but their inclusion would necessitate a consolidation of weaker players to make room for new ones and flexible redistributions of power, but ultimately the same set of
The challenge is to ensure that the inclusion of new actors will, in fact, contribute to the continuity and efficacy of international norms.
rules in an altered game. The alternative is worse. As the power of these emerging economies grows, so will their frustrations at being excluded. And the risk is that these new players may start a new game of their own, excluding certain long-established powers, such as member states of the European Union. The implications of a competing new system would be monumentally destabilizing, even if some may benefit. At the very least, the uncertainty of a new system is cause for collective concern. History suggests that momentous transitions — those resulting in new international political orders — have always been tumultuous, following destructive conflict and the utter collapse of an earlier system. The Westphalian order that established modern conceptions of sovereignty and nation-statehood
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “The Robust Man of Europe,” Newsweek, January 17, 2011.
Geoff Dyer, Jamil Anderlini, and Henry Sender, “China’s Lending Hits New Heights,” The Financial Times, January 17, 2011.
Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008).
Jorge G. Castaneda, “Not Ready for the Prime Time,” Foreign Affairs, September/ October 2010.
was a direct consequence of the Thirty Years’ War and the demise, once and for all, of the respublica christiana. The Concert of Europe rose out of the ashes of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and the end of the precarious 18th century balance-of-power system. Our modern system of global governance centered on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is largely an outgrowth of World War II. It is in the collective selfinterest of all powers, both established and emerging, to ensure that the transition to a successor system is accomplished without any of the trauma or ruin of these devastating conflicts. One alternative to the gradual incorporation of emerging powers into a liberal international order — although by no means the only one — is a future marked by eroding institutions and heightened competition: a 21st century that closely resembles the world of the 19th century, with competing regional powers carving out spheres of influence, possibly to correspond to their former imperial domains.7 Asia, home to a large percentage of the world’s population, as well as several major economic and military powers, is likely to be the main theater of such competition. China and India, between them, account for a third of the world’s population and a significant percentage of its growth, and will likely be the two largest markets for military equipment, making their rivalry relevant not just for the region but for the entire international community. Asia is also sharply divided between developed societies (Japan primarily, but also South Korea and Taiwan) and developing nations such as India, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Ripe for polarization and security competition, Asia’s future will almost certainly necessitate a central role for the United States, although the emerging adversity may not necessarily involve Europe. A Way Forward: Prioritizing Principles The West is no stranger to accommodating and incorporating non-Western states into its orbit. During the Cold War, Japan and South Korea benefited from decades of U.S. military presence and security guarantees, while Thailand, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Turkey were all involved in security alliances with Western powers. But truly empowering and privileging new global players inevitably involves breaking with the status quo and sacrificing certain privileges.
7 Robert Kagan, The Return of History and The End of Dreams (New York: Knopf, 2008).
Europe, even more than the United States, is in danger of being caught off guard by the ongoing global power transition and, as a consequence, losing out. The moribund and ineffective UNSC represents the starkest problem with the global system as it stands. Europe has three permanent veto-wielding players out of five at the table (if Russia is included along with Britain and France), while its largest economy, Germany, has no say. Asia, meanwhile, has only a solitary representative in China, which has been anything but accommodating of its Asian neighbors. Solutions and suggestions for restructuring of the UNSC range from a complete re-ordering to something more like the G20 group of nations, or simply the addition of a few more significant players such as Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan.
Truly empowering and privileging new global players inevitably involves breaking with the status quo and sacrificing certain privileges.
At the same time, Europe may also have much to gain by ensuring the viability of norms and institutions that have served it well since World War II. Cooperation with Asian powers in dealing with the potentially destabilizing effects of a rising China will be offset by the benefits of involving East Asian powers more closely in security priorities for the Atlantic allies, such as combating global terrorism. The enduring memory of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States makes it difficult to ignore or downplay the potential havoc that can be wreaked by transnational and nonstate threats. Yet the ongoing war in Afghanistan — waged to ensure that a safe haven for groups engaged in terrorist activities does not exist — offers a powerful example of the failure to translate converging international interests into tangible results. On a more promising note, preventative cooperation in combating piracy, particularly off the coast of Somalia, has brought both traditional Western and modernizing Asian navies together for joint patrols, although
problems still remain with regard to coordinating these various efforts. Closer cooperation in any effort against transnational or nonstate actors that threaten the system requires an institutional architecture grounded in shared principles. Privileging Emerging Democracies Europe and the United States make this task more difficult when they fail to properly distinguish between emerging powers and the values they espouse. On one hand, countries such as India, Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia, while not always exemplars of democracy and human rights, generally adhere to the spirit of international norms, remain committed to the ideals of liberal democracy, and are for the most part transparent about the internal workings of their governments and their relations with other states. China, on the other hand, remains an avowedly single-party state with an opaque government and uncertain intentions. Nevertheless, there is a tendency to group them all together for failing to conform perfectly to Western-established traditions of liberalism and human rights. But given the increasing irrelevance of global institutions, the traditional powers may not have the luxury to be so discriminating. When faced with the choice of which of the increasingly powerful developing states to let into clubs — not whether they should be let in at all — it would be in the interests of the West to encourage those who adhere most closely to its own notions of norms and values. In this case, the stakes are high enough that the perfect cannot be made the enemy of the good.
The newly emerging democracies therefore offer the West its best opportunity to reaffirm and perpetuate the international order based on rules established in the wake of the last major great-power conflict, World War II. This order enshrines principles such as freedom of the seas, the moral superiority of democracy, and the primacy of free trade. With economic malaise in Europe and Japan, and looming fiscal constraints in the United States, new partners are needed to sustain this order. Although institutional reform on a macro scale is an obvious — if overambitious — solution, deeper engagement with such emerging democracies as Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Turkey could include the following concrete steps: • Instituting a more systematic exchange of lawmakers. Personal connections between members of European and American legislatures are robust thanks to frequent interaction, but relations with newly emerging democracies remain superficial. For example, Western Congressional and parliamentary delegations still visit Asia relatively infrequently, and engagements need to involve sustained and serious consultations. A regular annual conclave of influential lawmakers from major democracies can produce a more durable network. Establishing a CEO forum for global business leaders. As countries’ democracies have matured, business leaders have become increasingly influential. Effective engagement must actively involve the private sector, whose search for new markets and cheap labor could easily undermine the principles that democratic powers seek to uphold. Launching a program to immerse Western officials in partner governments. Programs comparable to the Mansfield Fellowship, which currently provides U.S. federal employees with a year of Japanese language training, followed by an assignment with the Japanese government, can be proposed for other major emerging democracies. Among other benefits, the best practices and lessons of democratic governance can be shared. Increasing the number of exchange programs between Europe and Asia. Although Europe is perhaps better placed to engage emerging Latin American and African states, it lags behind the United States in having area-specific expertise on Asia. Exchange programs will help EU institutions
When faced with the choice of which of the increasingly powerful developing states to let into clubs, it would be in the interests of the West to encourage those who adhere most closely to its own notions of
norms and values.
and member states develop a larger cadre of Asia experts and, more importantly, will help develop a future generation of Asian leaders with close ties to the West. Deeper engagement is a long-term process, one that will at times be marked by short-term frustrations as these emerging powers fail to meet the expectations of the West — and vice versa. But over the long term, deeper engagement will enable the West to shape the rise of a new international order.
would make Europe the preeminent U.S. ally in global affairs while making space for qualified emerging powers to join various multilateral fora. The inclusion of Turkey within this framework would further bolster Europe’s capabilities, anchor one of the region’s most dynamic democracies, and serve as a powerful example of what cross-cultural cooperation can look like. If the principles and norms of the global system are to be anything like those of the second half of the 20th century, the transatlantic community has to seriously consider the problem of how best to incorporate emerging powers in general — and Asia in particular — into a more flexible, inclusive, and liberal international order. If the current international game is to continue, the time is ripe to pause, make a little space, and reaffirm the rules for the benefit of the new global players.
Deeper engagement is a longterm process, one that will at times be marked by shortterm frustrations as these emerging powers fail to meet the expectations of the West — and vice versa.
Reaffirming the Principles and Rules of a Sustainable Global System On a longer-term basis, what can the United States and Europe do to increase the odds of a smooth transition to a more sustainable global system? The first may be to push for comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council and, in its absence, consider creating a security analogue to the G20 — a regular forum for major global powers to discuss key challenges to global stability and security and avenues for cooperation. The second would be to clearly articulate the rules that should underpin the global system. This could involve the establishment of a set of guiding principles upholding not just state sovereignty, but also universal human rights, WMD nonproliferation, transparent governance, respect for open markets, the security of global public goods, and rules governing intervention and preemptive conflict. Third, Europe, for its part, can capitalize on its recent integration attempts — embodied by the Lisbon Treaty — and transform itself into a potent unitary global actor. This
About the Authors
Dhruva Jaishankar is a program officer with GMF’s Asia Program. Joshua W. Walker is an assistant professor at the University of Richmond, a post-doctoral fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis, a research fellow with Harvard’s Belfer Center, and a nonresident fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF).
About Brussels Forum
Brussels Forum is an annual high-level meeting of the most influential North American and European political, corporate, and intellectual leaders to address pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic. Participants include heads of state, senior officials from the European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. Cabinet officials, Congressional representatives, Parliamentarians, academics, and media. Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic continue to deepen transatlantic cooperation on a vast array of distinctly new and global challenges from the international financial crisis to climate change and energy security to the retention of high-skilled workers, yet there is no single transatlantic forum focused on this broad and increasingly complex global agenda. Brussels Forum provides a venue for the transatlantic community to address these pressing issues. By bringing together leading politicians, thinkers, journalists, and business representatives, Brussels Forum helps shape a new transatlantic agenda that can adapt to changing global realities and new threats.
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