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Sep 23 2013
Reconfiguring of International Order and Their Implications
This session is addressing the topic of reconfiguration of international order,which I think the dynamism of global distribution of power is the most significant game changer. As my Chinese and European colleagues have already talked a lot about how they look at the trend lines of reconfiguration process and what kind of implications would entail, with which I share many of their views. In the following ten-minutes I will focus on three key features of global distribution of power as well as their ramifications on international order. 

I would use three key words to generalize the contemporary world power reconfiguring process. First and foremost is diffusion. Global power diffusion has been taking place in multidimensional fashion, whether in terms of its formation, coercive power, structure power, institutional power as well as productive power, or in terms of its diffusing direction, both horizontal and vertical, or in terms of its nature.  
More importantly, as we talk about the on-going change in the nature of national power, it becomes increasingly obvious that power will shift to networks and coalitions composed of state and non-state actors in a multi-centric world. National capabilities of networking and coalitions-building on either regional or global level have been increasingly recognized as an important aspect of national power.

The second key word is recalibration. We are witnessing a recalibration of power along several dimensions in an era of power diffusion. However, I am not in favor of a master narrative which goes that the global power shifting trajectory is taking place in a liner way, for instance, that the power growth of emerging powers will overwhelm that of traditional powers in decades. This school of thinking is popular sometimes, but often too simplified. Instead, I am in favor of the concept of imbalanced dynamism of global power change because the changing compact of factors underlying the dynamism of growth is an iron law governing the power diffusion.  In other words, the power growth in the future is largely a function of complex interaction of number of variables, among them, demographic change, technology innovation, institutional reform (both domestic and international), economic restructuring, energy revolution, ecological environment restrictions, etc. All those factors, when coming and blending together will exert huge holistic impact on the pattern as well as the viability of the growth. Whether or not those key players, established economies or emerging ones are capable of recalibrating their master development strategies respectively to unlock the growth potential of those factors while harness or mitigate those negative impact will determine their growth trajectory in the future. Today, all those key economies are now in their critical juncture of reform, adaptation and transition, though with different stages and focuses, which means those driving forces are still in the state of flux and in dynamic interaction. Anyway, the future of power growth trajectory for those key economies is more complex and dynamic than that offered by those liner-minded schools.

The third key word is coopetition, a new coined word referring to “competitive and cooperative” dynamism between new and old powers. We are witnessing the coopetition intensifying between and among those key players, particularly between the group of traditional powers and those emerging powers.  The United States, EU and Japan, are stepping up their cooperation and collaboration in multidimensional way to respond to the impacts of the rise of the emerging powers in areas of economy, security and international multilateral rule-makings. TTIP and TTP are two strategic steps which will have huge impact on the next round of rule building in the economic field, particularly in terms of trade and investment.

Meanwhile, the emerging economies, including the BRICS countries, are strengthening their cooperation through stepping up their institutional building respectively, doing their best to transform the BRICS from a “hollow brick” into a “solid brick” in order to win a larger voice in making international rules.

What are their implications of power diffusion, recalibration and coopetition? First, the Western traditional powers of the Europeans and America can hardly impose their preferred policy or priorities on the world economic and political agendas as they used to; while a group of emerging powers, represented by BRICS countries, are for the first time in history moving to the center of international arena, though far from substituting for the influence of the Western traditional powers. Meanwhile, it becomes more difficult to count on a few major powers to influence international affairs and international system. Thus, the task of policy coordination among powers is even more significant if concerted actions are needed in responding to those international or transnational challenges. However, the diffusion of power adds further difficulty for the international community to take concerted actions.

Second, given the fact that almost all those key economies are entering into the deep-water area of their domestic transition respectively by harnessing the potential of the sustainable growth, it is even more imperative for all those key powers to cultivate a culture of mutual learning and sharing of development experience while getting rid of those of dogmatism or teleology. Anyway, diversity and inclusiveness should be the thematic pattern of sustainable development. Meanwhile, given the imbalanced dynamism of variables underlying the power change, for those national leaders, multiple scenarios and flexible strategic management, rather than any linear mindset should be applied in dealing with the possible fluctuations and their complex impacts.

Third, the coopetition along with the absence of a leading power to push for the new round of globalization has intensified the disparity of domestic agenda and international coordination on global economic governance. We are witnessing both the rise of economic nationalism and fragmentation of international institutional building on trade and investment and protectionism. The globalization 3.0 has reached to its critical juncture so far as its driving force and direction concerned.

Two most notably questions need to be addressed here: the first is the evolving direction of the G20. Whether or not this platform will successfully survive the suspicion and transform into a real efficient mechanism governing this hyper connected global economy is still an open-ended question. Given the increasingly worldwide fatigue over multilateral talk-shop and huge domestic economic challenges for all leading economies today, how should we prevent this highly expected platform of the world economic governance from dysfunction at end? The second is a number of regional, sub-regional, and plurilateral negotiations on trade, investment and development look set to overpass the global multilateral negotiations of WTO. Those newly emerged topics concerning both international investment and trade areas have and will continue impact many developing countries’ growth track, including China, such as environment standard, market access, state-owned enterprises, government subsidies, cyber-related IPR protection and so on, since they are becoming important international political and economic agendas. The questions are: how can we sustain the momentum of the global, open, fair, multilateral negotiations of trade and investment, or more broadly speaking, a coherent economic governance system which today are more diversified and fragmented? How can we promote sustainability and equality of global development in this process? How can we protect the interest of developing countries in the new international negotiations on investment and trade with the purpose that they won’t be marginalized again?

China and EU are two of the key players with systematic implications on international arena. The evolving reconfiguring of world order, while generating more problems and challenges ahead of us, also require both sides to contemplate the solutions to deal with them in concerted effort.

( Presentation at the Ninth China-Europe Think Tank Roundtable, Cosponsored by CIIS, Sichuan University, EU-Asia Center and European Policy Center, Sept 15-18, 2013, Chengdu, China. )

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