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What Should We Expect of “Globalization 2.0”?

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These days, humankind goes through a protracted and painful process of deglobalization. It remains to be seen whether this process was historically predetermined and unavoidable; if this is not the case, one can speculate about who should be held responsible for such a turn of events. In any case, the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 and the post-crisis recovery of 2010-2013 sent a clear signal that globalization would hardly be a linear—let alone exponential—process. In the aftermath of the crisis, some of the key dimensions of global connectedness (international trade, foreign direct investments) returned to their pre-crisis levels only by mid-2010s, only to plummet once again by the end of the decade. Centrifugal trends, both of political and economic dimensions, have already accumulated a powerful momentum in the modern world; it would be rather naïve to expect that a single—however significant—international event like the 2020 victory of Joe Biden at the U.S. Presidential election could reverse or stop them. The immediate task of the international community for next couple of years seems to be cutting the costs and reducing the risks associated with economic and political deglobalization.

This formidable task notwithstanding, one should not dismiss longer-term global trends. There is little doubt about globalization coming back in one form or another. Two major factors push the world in this direction, with both of them getting stronger over time, no matter what anti-globalists have to say today.

First, humankind feels a constantly increasing pressure of common problems and challenges, ranging from the accelerating climate change to the threats of new pandemics to the coming global resource crunch. For the sake of our survival, these issues call for joint action in some form or fashion. The instinct of self-preservation of the human species should eventually embrace the form of “globalization 2.0”.

Second, the ongoing deglobalization has not hindered technical progress. On the contrary, technical progress goes faster than ever and it continues to provide new opportunities for remote communications of various kinds. The global physical space and the global resource pool are shrinking, while feasible models of geographically disbursed work, education, entertainment, social and political activities are multiplying. Napoleon’s old saw that “geography is destiny” is losing its former axiomaticity. In a sense, given its boost for online activities, the COVID pandemic turned out to be a Great Equalizer eroding many of the traditional hierarchies and international barriers.

Eventually, we will herald the dawn of a new globalization cycle. This “globalization 2.0” will be markedly different from what we lived through earlier this century, but it will evolve in a mostly similar direction, retaining some of the essential characteristics of the previous cycle. If we take the global 2008-2009 crisis as the starting point and assume that today’s world is already at or near the lowest level of the ongoing deglobalization, we can rather reliably predict the next U-turn in the global connectedness to take place in mid-2020s. Should we make allowances for the more complex and comprehensive nature of the 2020-2021 crisis as compared to that of 2008-2009, we would have to move the U-turn moment further forward by two, three or even five years—somewhat closer to the end of our century’s still young third decade.

After all, predicting the exact timing of the U-turn and the arrival of “globalization 2.0” is not that important. What is of true importance is to try and foresee the fundamental parameters of the new cycle of globalization which will make this cycle quite different from what humankind experienced at the beginning of this century.

1. Globalization with no hegemon

Globalization of the late 20th – early 21st century coincided with the historical peak of the U.S. international power and influence. Indeed, U.S. Presidents—from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama—were the ones who defined basic rules of the game in the emerging globalized world. U.S. hegemony extended both to international development and to international security. All major multilateral institutions—be it the United Nations, NATO, G8 and later G20 or the IBRD and the IMF, the WTO and even the OECD—reflected the U.S. global agenda and camouflaged the commitment to preserve Pax Americana for as long as possible. In rare cases, when the United States would fail to channel its decisions though appropriate multilateral organizations, Washington did not hesitate to bypass them with very limited, if any, resistance from the international community (e.g., the U.S.-led “coalition of the willing” military intervention in Iraq back in 2003).

The new cycle of globalization will be entirely different from this model. The United States is not likely to remain the indispensable driver of “globalization 2.0”. Moreover, it is far from evident that the world will need a committed and highly motivated global hegemon in order to launch a globalization reset. We are more likely to see the horizontal model of globalization, truly based on genuine multilateralism, making headway. Examples of this model are already there. For instance, late in 2020, fifteen Asian Pacific nations signed an agreement to form the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The agreement formally launched the world’s largest free trade zone, with the total population of 2.2 billion people and the GNP of $28 trillion, or about one third of the global GNP. Interestingly enough, both friends and adversaries of the U.S. in the region joined the agreement. Contrary to what one could have imagined, it was not China that played the central role in getting the RCEP off the ground; the true drivers behind the agreements were the ASEAN nations which had been working on this ambitious project for about twenty years.

As for the United States, the U.S. leadership will have to accept that Washington will not be always in a position to act as the indisputable leader of the new cycle of globalization or as the indispensable actor in setting the rules of the game. Like any other country in the world, the United States will have to take the position of a yet another participant and sometimes that of an observer to the changing rules. In some areas, the U.S. will continue to be the rule-maker, while it will have to be a rule-taker in others. Such a shift will inevitably turn out to be very painful for the numerous factions in the U.S. political establishment who appeared on the political scene and matured there in times of the bipolar and the unipolar international systems. It is yet to be seen how the U.S. leadership will cope with this challenge.

2. Globalization with no center and no periphery

At the dawn of the previous cycle of globalization, the common vision was that its ‘waves’ would spread primarily from the economic, technological and political core of the modern world, which is to say from the “Grand West,” to its periphery. Large semi-peripheral countries such as China, Russia, India and Brazil were supposed to serve as transmission gears in this process. Early prophets of globalization also assumed that as we move away from the core towards the periphery, the resistance to globalization will increase, giving rise to conflicts and trade wars as well as sowing isolationism and nationalism. These ‘counter waves’ would slow the overall globalization process down, but they would not profoundly affect the global core, being gradually weakened in course of their proliferation from the periphery. While the periphery had to stay fragmented for some time, the core would continue to consolidate.

However, for “globalization 2.0”, the terms of engagement will be very different from this pattern. ‘Waves’ of globalization are likely to go in the opposite direction, from the global periphery to the global core. The “Grand West” is already trying to isolate or—at least—protect itself from the Global South though capping international migration, reinstalling protectionism, repatriating industries from overseas, demonstrating growing vulnerabilities to nationalism and xenophobia. Such a shift reflects a continuous fundamental change in the balance of economic power between the global core and the periphery. Back in 1995, on the eve of “globalization 1.0”, the GNP (PPP) of the seven top emerging economics—China, India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and Mexico—amounted to about one half of the G7’s GNP which includes the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy. In 2015, the GNPs (PPP) of the two groups were roughly the same. By 2040, the “emerging seven” will be twice as powerful in economic terms as the “developed seven”.

The global core still enjoys a major advantage over the global periphery—should we rather say the former global periphery?—in terms of their respective levels of engagement into major globalization processes. Nevertheless, this advantage is rapidly shrinking. For instance, China has surpassed the United States in 2020 as the global leader in receiving foreign direct investments. The question about who is to lead “globalization 2.0” remains open. One can even question whether “globalization 2.0” might have a single geographical center or whether it should be associated with a particular region or a group of nations. The next cycle of globalization is more likely to evolve as a network process without a clearly defined geographical hierarchy. The whole distinction between the global core and the global periphery might completely lose its meaning since virtually every country in the world features elements both of the former and of the latter.

3. Sustainable development rather than linear economic growth

The previous cycle of globalization was about acceleration of economic growth and increases in private and public consumption. Notably, “globalization 1.0” contributed quite a lot to overcoming global poverty and to expanding the middle class globally, especially in Asia. Flourishing international trade, augmenting foreign direct investments and emerging sustainable transnational economic and technological chains—all these factors contributed to the success of many ambitious projects of national modernization. Because of these positive changes, many in the world came to be convinced that “the rising tide would lift all boats”, meaning that the benefits of globalization will eventually become available to everybody on the planet.

To a certain extent, this assumption turned out to be valid. The average inhabitant of Earth lives a better, brighter and longer life as compared to that of his or her parents thirty years ago. Still, globalization failed to distribute its benefits among the global population in an unquestionably fair manner; on the contrary, “globalization 1.0” divided the world into new winners and new losers. Apparently, the borderline between the former and the latter does not always separate ‘successful’ states from ‘unsuccessful’ countries. More often, we observe deepening divisions within states—between certain demographic and professional groups, between metropolitan and rural areas, between wealthy and poor regions, and so on. In short, the new divisions emerge between those who were able to fit into the new way of life and those who were not. For example, the median incomes of the poorer half of the U.S. households experienced no increase over the last forty years, but only a steady decline. It goes without saying that such a situation serves as fertile soil for various forms of social unrest and political populism.

“Globalization 2.0” is likely to change the criteria of success. High rates of economic growth will still be important, but meeting sustainable development goals will become even more important than returning economic growth per se. This shift means that much more attention has to be drawn in the future to issues of social equity, life quality, environmental and climate agendas, community building, personal and public security, etc. The linear increase of private and public consumption is not sustainable; it will give way to the much more nuanced indicators of ‘smart consumption’. Moreover, the whole concept of the ‘consumption society’ will undergo quite radical changes. Countries will more and more often compete with each other in terms of the overall opportunities for self-fulfillment which they can offer to their citizens rather than in simple GNP per capita terms.

4. Social drivers rather than financial drivers

Transnational financial businesses were in the vanguard of “globalization 1.0”. Internationalizing financial markets, inter-state competition for access to foreign investments, growing geographical and sectorial capital mobility, the emerging trans-border community of financial managers aligned by their professional skills and a shared culture—all these trends have had a profound impact on production, politics, and even on mass culture and lifestyles. The cosmopolitan technocratic professional has come to be a role model and a symbol of change.

However, the 2008-2009 financial crisis exposed serious limitations of this model of globalization. Transnational capital has moved too fast ahead and too far away from the national production base as well as the domestic social environment. Cosmopolitan technocratic professionals have become a symbol of greed, moral relativism and social irresponsibility. Because of the permeating disappointment, the formerly limitless expansion of capital was contained by highly nationalistic economic and financial strategies, with the economic and financial priorities of the Trump administration being a graphic illustration of the defeat suffered by international bankers. Hopes and expectations of the self-confident economists of the early 21st century did not come true as economy never managed to defeat politics, turning it into an obedient servant. The opposite happened. Politics started overshadowing economy and dictating decisions that were quite apart with the narrative of economic feasibility. Paradoxically, “globalization 1.0” fostered a whole spectrum of new opportunities for anti-globalists to build their transnational alliances. These days, anti-globalists have arguably mustered globalization-related opportunities much better than their opponents.

There are reasons to believe that “globalization 2.0” will primarily have social rather than financial drivers. Even today, with international trade and foreign direct investments plummeting, it is worth mentioning that trans-border information flows continue to grow at a very high speed. The COVID-19 pandemic has become a powerful factor causing humankind to disunite; however, this is only its immediate impact. The long-term impact may well be the opposite, since the pandemic turned out to be an extraordinary accelerator of new information and communication technologies; and it would not be an exaggeration to argue that one of the most remarkable features of the post-pandemic world is the emergence of the first truly global civil society. Trans-border NGOs, professional communities, public movements, advocacy coalitions are likely to play a more active role in “globalization 2.0” than the old financial elites of nation-states. If so, we can conclude that “globalization 2.0” will have a much broader and a more robust social base than the previous cycle of globalization. Therefore, future resistance to anti-globalist trends might also grow stronger.

5. Social justice rather than individual freedoms

The previous cycle of globalization reflected the public demands for individual freedoms that were dominant in the global community since the 1980s or even earlier. The impulse of globalization had its roots in economic and political programs of such leaders as Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States; it gained momentum amid leftist egalitarian ideologies being in a crippling crisis caused by the failure of the communist experiment in the Soviet Union and Central European states. Visionaries of “globalization 1.0”—from Jacques Attali to George Soros to Thomas L. Friedman—dreamed of the future society populated by completely atomized “citizens of the world” with unlimited freedom of choice and very few, if any, constraints imposed by archaic group identities and related commitments.

The global political pendulum reached its extreme point in the very beginning of the century and in 2010s started moving in the opposite direction. It is very likely that we will see much more articulated and persistent public demand for social and political justice in the second quarter of the century. This implies a renaissance of leftist ideologies, an advance of left political movements and parties. There are already many indicators that societies in various parts of the world are more inclined to sacrifice some of their economic and political freedoms for the sake of what they consider to be the guarantees of social justice and fairness. We can envision an increase of the tax burden on the private sector and the wealthier social groups as well as new egalitarianism, politically motivated censorship and self-censorship, proliferation of political correctness practices, the emergence of new restrictive approaches to information management and restrictions of privacy justified by security considerations. Neither of the above-mentioned trends implies a total defeat of liberal democracies by authoritarian political models, although liberal democracies will have to put more emphasis on social justice in order to survive and compete with the alternative forms of social organization (as it was the case between the two world wars).

Globalization based on the priority of social justice has to be quite different from globalization based on the priority of individual freedoms. The modern society has yet to produce universal and legitimate standards of justice—both to be applied domestically and in managing relations between states. This suggests that the world in throes of “globalization 2.0” will not necessarily become a fair and just world – it will remain unfair and unjust for many social, political, ethnic, religious and other groups as well as for many nations. However, we can predict a much more consistent emphasis on national and international affirmative actions, non-market mechanisms of massive redistribution of material wealth on the national and international levels, more persistent efforts to bridge the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. The art of successful global and national governance under these circumstances has to include the ability to balance diverging understandings of justice that exist in the world at large or within a given country.

6. Multitude of actors instead of nation states.

The retreat of “globalization 1.0” was largely accelerated, if not caused, by the demise of non-state actors in international relations. Notions of national sovereignty and supremacy of nation states, concerns about interference of foreign nations into domestic political affairs have become quite popular in many societies and, especially, within the traditional state-oriented national elites. These elites now have their revenge: almost everywhere in the world, we stand to witness the rise of social and political status enjoyed by state bureaucrats, the military, defense sector, special services and law enforcement agencies. To some extent, the traditional (i.e., linked to the industrial sector of economy) middle class also experiences an upward social mobility. At the same time, many role models of the early 21st century are losing their former lure and influence; the new creative class, private financial sector, cosmopolitan factions of national elites, liberal media, comprador intellectuals—all of these have to fight really hard to avoid complete marginalization. The world is getting back from the post-modern paradigm to the neo-modern one, while in a number of dimensions, the world is even falling into the archaic. The former non-state drivers of globalization—such as universities, independent think tanks, professional networks, transnational NGOs and foundations as well as a globally oriented private sector—are pushed to the sidelines of the international system.

Nevertheless, the subsequent period of deglobalization demonstrated that such reinvigoration of nation-states has its own limitations. The nearly universal emphasis on national sovereignty has prevented neither the COVID-19 pandemic, nor the implosion of the global oil prices, nor the increase in volatility of currency exchange rates. Stricter national fiscal regulations failed to eliminate global offshores, much as tighter border controls and visa regimes did not prevent millions of illegal migrants from getting to Europe. Despite their frantic efforts, nation states so far achieved only limited success in reinstalling their control over trans-border flows of money, goods and services, information and people. It is hard to believe that the ‘final victory’ is just around the corner.

“Globalization 2.0” is likely to offer a different model of interaction between state and non-state actors in international relations. Though states will undoubtedly remain the main building blocks of the global system, more and more international problems might find their solutions only in the format of broad private-public partnerships (PPP). For instance, in order to block the most dangerous and destabilizing avenues of the arms race, an active engagement by the private companies from the defense sector and research universities appears to be indispensable. The advancement of the “green agenda” is impossible without involving multiple civil society institutions and local communities all around the globe. Successful development projects in the poorest countries in the world are doomed to fail, if the private sector does not shoulder efforts of national or international technical assistance agencies. It is important to mention that non-state actors in such PPPs are not likely to limit their role to that of state subcontractors; they will come to the partnerships with their own interests and priorities, sometimes very different from the interests and priorities of states. The ability to build efficient PPPs will be critical for state leaders of the future.

7. Plurality instead of universality

The previous cycle of globalization coincided with the global triumph of political and economic liberalism. Many politicians and scholars regarded the notions of “liberal globalization” and “global liberalism” as almost synonymous terms or, at least, as terms that are inextricably linked with each other. A predicted final and global victory of liberal economic and political models should have become both a key accelerator of globalization and one of its most significant accomplishments. In this context, any non-liberal or illiberal developmental models appeared to be manifestations of archaism, symptoms of inconsistent and incomplete modernization, preventing their bearers from fitting into the new global world. One could have argued about what were the most efficient modernization trajectories when it came to one society or the other, but the view that the West stood as the symbol and the incarnation of modernity itself looked axiomatic.

Today, a direct causal link between globalization and political/economic liberalism is less evident than it was three decades ago. Political and economic liberalism is under pressure. Even in the “historical West”, they now question some of the liberal centerpieces, whereas alternative social, economic and political models demonstrate their sustainability and resilience, often coupled with high efficiency. One of the most emblematic illustrations of this new situation is the comparative experience of the United States and China in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The fight between liberalism and its opponents is surely far from over, but the West has already lost its former monopoly on how to define modernity, having itself turned into a target for condescending statements about archaism and obsolescence.

This new dynamic of global development suggests that “globalization 2.0” should find a way to combine the needed degree of global universality and pluralism of national trajectories for economic, social and political development. The rules of the game in the emerging international system have to be balanced in such a way that they become equally comfortable for a large variety of participants that go through different stages of their social and political maturation. It is not realistic to expect that only an adherence to political liberalism can grant nations a free and unrestricted access to the global world; this world should be open to all—whether liberal democracies or illiberal autocracies, theocratic republics or absolute monarchies. Multilateral global projects should emerge around common interests rather than around common values. One can assume that “globalization 2.0” (or a later “globalization 3.0”) should—at the end of the day—lead to a global convergence of values. The assumption is debatable, but it is clear that such a convergence can only follow globalization in some rather distant future, while it cannot serve as a precondition for “globalization 2.0”.

8. Asynchrony in lieu of synchronization

Though “globalization 1.0” studies initially focused primarily on its financial and economic dimensions, it was more than apparent that globalization was a complex process with a profound impact on all aspects of human existence. They assumed that the financial and economic globalization would inevitably pull behind itself—just as a locomotive pulls cars behind itself along the railway—other dimensions, such as social, cultural, political and so on. Furthermore, they expected globalization to somehow synchronize its advances in various areas. By interacting with each other, the various dimensions of globalization were to accelerate each other, resulting in a cumulative impact on the international system at large. Such a reductionist vision of the future of globalization can be partially explained if we recall that most of those who originally analyzed this phenomenon were scholars majoring in macroeconomic and financial matters; therefore, their economic and technocratic determinism should not look too surprising. The idea of synchronization looked nice—for some time, it seemed that global developments proved it right.

Over time, however, it turned out that ‘globalization resistance’ in certain dimensions of human life is visibly stronger than in others. Furthermore, it became clear that there is no direct causal relationship between integration and unification. The famous Aristotle’s quote about the polis as a “unity of dissimilar” can be applied to the globalized world just as well. It turned out to be impossible to synchronize, shall we say, the economic and the political facets of globalization. The growing gap between its economic and political dimensions turned out to be the most formidable challenge to “globalization 1.0” as economic imperatives called for strategic, system-driven, global, continental, proactive and multilateral solutions, while political needs pushed tactical, opportunistic, local, reactionist and unilateral moves to the forefront. As was previously argued, economic rationality failed to prevail over political considerations, which make a globalization setback practically unavoidable.

It is clear that “globalization 2.0” will have to be asynchronous, which is to say that it will imply diverging speeds of globalization in various domains of human life. For instance, the resilience of national cultural patterns to the global advance of mass culture should not become a formidable obstacle to the economic dimension of globalization. Commitments of societies to their historied traditions and unique identities should not pose a challenge to the growing unity of humankind—on the contrary, they should serve as a national contribution to the global diversity. Global diversity, in its turn, should enhance the overall stability of the global social system. Amid a profoundly asynchronous “globalization 2.0”, harmonizing the multiple elements of universalism and particularism transnationally as well as within the boundaries of nations will be an immense political challenge as it will require extremely delicate and highly professional political fine-tuning. Today, we can only guess about how future politicians will muster the skills needed.

Situational coalitions rather than rigid alliances

“Globalization 1.0” made full use of the Western security and development institutions that remained essentially intact since the end of the Cold War. The common expectations were that the continuous geographical and functional expansion of these institutions would ultimately facilitate unification of humankind under a common umbrella, which would solve most of the pressing global problems. In reality, most of these institutions, including NATO and the European Union, too soon manifested their limitations, even bordering organic deficiencies in some of the cases. At the same time, most attempts at launching new institutions as alternatives to the old West-led organizations were freighted with a chronic institutional fatigue that often prevented these initiatives from going much beyond a club format of their activities. Global politics polarizing even further over the second decade of the century contributed to incapacitating many multilateral institutions, including the United Nations framework.

It is hard to imagine the emerging world order with no institutional backbones inherited from the previous period. Still, the odds are that most of the international activity will revolve around specific political, social, environmental and other problems rather than within rigid bureaucratic organizations inherited from the 20th century. The remaining international hierarchies will gradually lose their former omnipotence; the notions of “superpower” or “great power” will look archaic and containing little, if any, explanatory power. At the same time, no “global government” endowed with extensive powers and universal legitimacy is looming on the horizon.

Seeking to approach specific problems, nations will likely form flexible situational coalitions of the willing which will include not only committed nation states but also various actors from the private sector, civil society and other actors involved in international affairs. Such coalitions will assemble, disassemble and reassemble with relative ease. There will be no place for complex and resource-consuming bureaucracies or excessively complicated decision-making procedures. Such a problem-based approach to international cooperation is not ideal, though; it has its own limitations and liabilities. Still, it may well turn out to be more meaningful and, therefore, in greater demand by the international community than the old institutional approach.

10. North–South divide replacing East–West divide

Conventional wisdom suggests that “globalization 1.0” has tri/pped over the confrontation between the United States and China. The 2020-2021 economic and epidemiological crisis is believed to accelerate the drift of the global economy and politics towards a U.S.-Chinese bipolarity. This logic implies that the main issue of our time is how rigid or flexible this bipolarity may come to be. A rigid bipolarity will literally divide the world into two opposing systems, as it was during the most part of the second half of the 20th century. A flexible bipolarity will allow most international actors to preserve some freedom of maneuver and a degree of autonomy in their respective foreign policies. This logic looks compelling, but only if one looks at the immediate future of the next couple of years. However, keeping “globalization 2.0” in a longer-term perspective, it looks highly likely that political and economic bipolarity will increasingly shift from the “East–West” axis, typical of the 20th century, to that of “North–South”.

Surely, the current divisions between the East and the West will not disappear for a long time. For at least a couple of decades, China’s modernization model will be explicitly different from the Western model. Still, the longer-term perspective we use, the more grounds we find to include China (as well as Russia) into a broadly defined Global North. To reach a strategic compromise between Washington and Beijing would require political will, commitment, patience, stamina and flexibility from both sides, but the contours of such a compromise are more or less clear. At the same time, even some general understanding on a possible North-South compromise is lacking. There are no grounds to hope for the Global North to come up with a comprehensive large-scale development assistance program for the Global South along the lines of the Marshall Plan offered by the United States to Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. Quite on the contrary, we cannot rule out yet another rise of racism and xenophobia that would distance the Global North from the Global South even further. Amid such conditions, the world in throes of “globalization 2.0” might witness deeper integration of the Northern economies parallel to curtailing economic, political and even humanitarian connections to most of developing nations, tighter border controls in the North and new restrictions on trans-border migrations.

The critical challenge of “globalization 2.0” is not about pulling the laggards in the South up to the level of the leaders in the North. It is impossible for one simple reason—to extend the living standards of the Western middle class to all inhabitants of Earth would require imposing exorbitant pressures on the planet’s resources and dooming our planet’s ecosystem to irreversible degradation. It is also impossible because the liberal model of today’s North is not so efficient as it used to be in its heyday. The North is gradually losing its monopoly on modernity and is, therefore, less and less regarded by the Global South as a model to follow. Besides, over time, the geographical division between the North and the South becomes more porous. The North is expanding to the South—through huge ultramodern metropolitan areas in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, through new sectors of economy as well as through new consumption patterns. The South, in its turn, is infiltrating the North with its migration flows, its lifestyles, its culture and its religion. A ‘civilizational divorce’ between the North and the South is next to impossible; if humankind fails to agree on some civilizational synthesis within the next couple of decades, “globalization 2.0” will definitely fall short of accomplishing the most fundamental mission of the 21st century.

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Relevance of green politics in the contemporary world



Green theory is a critical theory in International relations which is gaining its relevance very much in recent times as the world couldn’t help itself in fostering climate change and in controlling global warming.

Green theory came into existence in the time of the late 20th century world where there was an increased need for addressing environmental issues. During the 1970s, environmentalism became a dominant concern in the society where people started to argue on the solutions to fight pollution. The USA introduced NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) and Clean Air Act which was one of the huge movements that brought awareness to include environmental problems as a major concern in the society. Before that, environmentalism and pollution control was overlooked by the majority of countries. Since then, there has always been a wide scope for green theory in this industrialized modern world; as pollution is increasing, the responsibility for controlling it is also increasing.

When ideologies such as liberalism and realism failed to save the environmental aspect of society, there came a need for a different way of thinking which led to the emergence of Green theory. Green theory discussed the green aspect in political, economic and social life.

Concepts of  Green Theory

Green theory, green politics, green economy and green security are very similar concepts which are also intermingled in general. This Greens ideology doesn’t only focus on saving the environment but also aims in achieving ecological sustainability in three main areas: Environmentalism, social liberalism and democracy. The aspects of the political world are analyzed through a green perspective.

Green theory in international relations is known as green political theory –  an ecological political theory that doesn’t come under environmentalism. The concept of Green political theory is often misunderstood with environmentalism. Green political thinkers are called Greens and environmentalism thinkers are called environmentalists. In a common view, one can find that environmentalism is often science based and green politics is the social perspective.

Green theory in IR focuses on climate justice, global justice, modern development and security. As the world faces many transnational environmental – related problems, there came a compulsive requirement for Green Theory in international relations 

Understanding Green Political theory

The main difference between environmentalism and green political theory is that :-

Environmentalism focuses on issues such as acid rain, global warming, need for growing trees and on saving the environment within the man-made structure which is Anthropocentrism – human-centered perspective of the world. Whereas green political theory focuses on the same but in a social aspect between human and nature, arguing that the man-made structure itself is responsible for the destruction and considers human as a part of nature, which is ecocentrism – nature centered perspective of the world.

Environmentalists believe that humans should bring change in the world by taking certain measures to reduce pollution. Hence they depend on governments, institutions and international organizations, trying to bring stability within the existing structure of the world where they rely on the concept of sustainable development.

On the contrary, Greens believe that the world has already reached the limits of development and sustainable development will only make the condition worse, as there is no more possibility for it. Greens do not depend on humans to bring a change, instead argue that the whole structure which is responsible for this condition should be changed.

Thus Green political theory critically examines and attacks the current world structures that are responsible for the situation and suggests that the idea of sustainable development even makes it worse when there is an immediate need for a complete shift.

Understanding the reality through green theory

The nations are self-centered and while they thrive for meeting their self-interests, balance of power, and security, global change is not a possibility. Combined contributions and effective steps are not possible when countries seek only mutual benefits and struggle with insecurities. No nation can trust and rely on any nation. It can be seen that Industrialization is the core element that connects the structures which are responsible for global warming and pollution.

Considering the factors that environmentalists depend on:

The International organizations are not a sovereign entity. They are heavily funded by super powers and hence considered an agent or actor of those super powers, as they cannot voice against the countries which provide them to operate. So, the reality is that the powerful nations provide and help the developing nations in cutting their green gas emissions, reducing pollution, poverty, etc while the developed nations’ polluting index itself is much worse compared to other countries. In 2019, Agenda 2030 plan set by the UN in 2015 to achieve various sustainable goals by 2030 was declared impossible in a report published in the UNSG.

The United States uses oil and natural gasses more than any other countries which emits over fifteen tons of greenhouse gasses per person every year. The US was the largest polluter of the atmosphere till the emergence of China as a superpower. Now China is the largest greenhouse gas emitter which emits twice as much as the US!. China alone is responsible for around 31% of the world’s emissions. The other top countries which rank next to China and the USA are India, Russia, and Japan , which are responsible for 60% of the total global pollution. Instead of taking immediate steps to stop polluting the environment, these developed nations focus more on other interests and issues.

Thirdly, the Capitalist structure of the world as accused of being heavily selfish by the Marxists is a huge responsible factor standing as a constraint for an effective change. In this capitalist society, bringing a change, for example; cutting out potential harmful substances such as the plastics; stopping production and consuming of unnecessary products, switching to alternatives from fossil fuel based transportations (Transportation sectors are the largest contributors to global warming followed by other manufacturing industries)  would affect the manufacturing company of the product which would also directly affect the economy of the countries. Even if there’s a possibility of banning those polluting products posing no nexus in the economy of the country, those industries or the MNCs will easily influence not only the government but also the people of the country to maintain its richness.


Thus under this system, where development is still considered a possibility without destruction, no organization or individual can bring an actual change by following the goals set in global conferences (such as COP27, UNCC) in achieving net zero emissions or by using alternative energies for fossil fuels, etc. The first question itself is “Without changing the platform which runs on fossil fuel and without constructing a new platform for alternatives, how can any change be brought?”.  The whole structure of the world must be changed to attain the goals of the future.

The feasibility and constraints in rapidly changing the system are the challenges posed on the green political thinkers. Meeting these challenges by innovative solutions and the growing need for a change in the world to safeguard our future is of great interest in today’s world. And as the countries keep on postponing and failing to achieve their sustainable goals set under this current system, green politics becomes very much relevant in the contemporary world.

Green theory in International relations provides unique ideas such as decentralization to bring real change, as state-centered hopes are not promising; consciousness on the limits of modern development; ecological modernization as an alternative to sustainable development; green security, green economy, etc which are evolving but always critical in nature. Green political theory is crucial for questioning the countries and the organizations to bring real solutions and changes. 

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Russia Has Lost Soft Power War with Ukraine – Global Soft Power Index 2023

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Russia is the world’s only nation brand to lose soft power over the past year, while Ukraine has seen the strongest soft power improvement, according to the Global Soft Power Index 2023 released today. The Global Soft Power Index is a research study conducted annually by brand evaluation consultancy Brand Finance on a representative sample of 100,000+ respondents in 100+ markets worldwide, measuring perceptions of 121 nation brands.

While Russia‘s Familiarity and Influence have gone up because of the impact that its decision to go to war has had on lives the world over, the nation’s Reputation has been severely damaged. Russia’s Reputation ranking in the study, one of the main determinants of soft power, has fallen from 23rd to an abysmal 105th resulting in a soft power score erosion of -1.3 points and causing it to drop out of the Index’s overall top 10 ranking, down to 13th.

Alongside the three key performance indicators of Familiarity, Reputation, and Influence, the Global Soft Power Index also measures perceptions of nation brands across 35 attributes grouped under 8 Soft Power Pillars. Russia has lost ground relative to others in the Index on all 35 attributes apart from “affairs I follow closely”. It now ranks 119th for the People & Values pillar and for the “good relations with other countries” attribute in International Relations. In addition, global sanctions have caused the nation’s perceptions as “easy to do business in and with” to fall by 61 places and having “future growth potential” by 74 places.

David Haigh, Chairman & CEO of Brand Finance, commented:“While nations have turned to soft power to restore trade and tourism after a devastating health crisis, the world order has been disrupted by the hard power of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. An event that would be hard to believe were it not for the intensity of the images we have been seeing for months and the consequences the conflict is having on politics and the economy alike.”

At the same time, Ukraine gains +10.1 points (more than any other nation) driven by a steep increase in Familiarity and Influence, and jumps 14 ranks up to 37th from 51st the previous year. Ukraine now ranks 3rd in the world for “affairs I follow closely” and sees significant gains across attributes accentuated in official communications and media reports, such as “respects law and human rights” (up 69 to 29th), “tolerant and inclusive” (up 63 to 44th), and “leader in technology and innovation” (up 26 to 50th). The popularity of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, his ministers, and advisors, results in the nation going up 36 ranks to 12th on “internationally admired leaders”.

Nevertheless, many other attributes are affected negatively, from the obvious “safe and secure” (down 60 to 118th) or “great place to visit” (down 38 to 118th), to perceptions of Ukraine’s culture and people as the focus shifts to their suffering.

USA unrivalled as the soft power superpower

Under President Joe Biden, the United States reclaimed its top spot in the ranking in last year’s Index and has further increased the lead over other nation brands this year. The USA’s overall score is up +4.1 points to an all-time high of 74.8. With the strengthening of the dollar and widely publicised large-scale investment projects by the federal government, perceptions of the US economy are on the up, resulting in America claiming the top spot for Business & Trade from China. The US also benefits from the introduction of a new “invests in space exploration” attribute in the Education & Science pillar, where it ranks 1st in the world. In fact, the US ranks 1st in twelve and among the top 3 in four more categories, bagging 16 soft power medals – more than any other nation brand in the Index.

The US records stable scores across most categories. However, mounting problems with shootings, gun crime, and police violence continue to erode perceptions of the country as “safe and secure” (down from 21st in 2020 to 62nd this year) and of its people as “friendly” (down from 5th in 2020 to 103rd this year).

The end of the Second Elizabethan Era

In the United Kingdom, 2022 will be remembered as the end of an era. The passing of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96, after 70 years on the throne, shook the nation. At the same time, intense media coverage of the period of mourning and the monarch’s spectacular funeral attended by the world’s leaders reminded the global public of Britain’s greatest soft power assets. The UK has defended its 2nd position in the Index this year, with an increase of +2.4 points to 65.8, recording increases across a number of attributes, from “good relations with other countries” (up 7 ranks) to “appealing lifestyle” (up 5 ranks).

Last year will also go down in British history for its three prime ministers. After the fall of Boris Johnson’s government, Liz Truss shot to power as quickly as she lost it to Rishi Sunak, becoming the country’s shortest-serving prime minister ever. While the nation’s overall Reputation has not been dented, perceptions of the UK as “politically stable and well-governed” declined relative to others (down 10 ranks).

Germany post-Merkel holds its own

Many worried about Germany losing its international standing after the departure of Angela Merkel. A year later, the nation has largely held its own, retaining 3rd position in the Index, with an increase of +1.2 points to 65.8. Olaf Scholz’s government has struggled with criticism of its hesitant response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but this has had little impact on the nation’s perceptions among the global public. Germany’s nation brand strength transcends political crises, proving its resilience regardless of who is in charge.

China retains “future growth potential” despite COVID-19 restrictions

Although China has seen marginal growth of its Global Soft Power Index score (+0.8 to 65.0), it dropped in the ranking from 4th in 2022 to 5th in 2023, overtaken by Japan. While most nations accelerated their global engagement across trade, investment, tourism, and talent, China remained closed last year, maintaining a “zero COVID” policy. Reduced mental and physical availability of China’s nation brand among global audiences undermined its ability to improve perceptions at the same pace as competing economies, resulting in some relative declines, such as in the People & Values (down 57 to 95th) and Media & Communication (down 12 to 24th) pillars.

Nevertheless, on many metrics China has largely defended its position from last year and it remains 2nd in the world for Influence, behind only the US, and 3rd in the Education & Science pillar, with particularly strong performance across “leader in technology and innovation” (2nd), “leader in science” (3rd), and the new attribute: “invests in space exploration” (3rd). The nation also maintains its global #1 positions for “easy to do business in and with” and “future growth potential”, pointing to the resilience of its Business & Trade credentials, despite an overall rank drop for the pillar to 3rd. Revised economic growth forecasts by the International Monetary Fund confirm that China is back in business in 2023, predicting 5.2% GDP growth, above the level of previous expectations as private consumption rebounds following the country’s opening post-COVID at the end of 2022.

UAE enters top 10 for the first time

With otherwise little change in the top 10, the performance of the United Arab Emirates is a standout. For the fourth year running, the Emirates achieved the highest score of any Middle Eastern nation brand, but this year’s increase of +3.2 to 55.2 has meant a jump of five ranks to allow it to claim 10th position in the global ranking for the first time. Both Reputation and Influence of the Gulf nation have seen notable increases this year. 

David Haigh, Chairman & CEO of Brand Finance, commented: “The UAE was one of the first economies to roll out mass vaccination and open during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving it a head start ahead of others and allowing it to maintain positive perceptions across the Business & Trade pillar with a particular improvement on the “future growth potential” attribute, where it ranks 3rd globally. The successful showcase of the Emirates as a global trade hub thanks to EXPO 2020 has also undoubtedly provided a significant boost. At the same time, the UAE is one of the largest donors of foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, which is recognised by the global general public counting it among the world’s most “generous” nations – 3rd.”

Perceptions of the UAE’s Governance and International Relations are on the up too and the nation’s salience is only expected to grow. The Emirates Mars Mission has landed the UAE at 8th for “invests in space exploration”, while hosting the world’s most high-profile climate conference, COP 28, will put the nation firmly in the spotlight in 2023. The historically oil-heavy economy continues to increase its commitment to diversification, innovation, and investment in a more Sustainable Future. The UAE already scores relatively high on the new soft power pillar of that name, placing 19th globally.

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The Dilemma of Science Diplomacy: Between Advancement of Humanity and The Source of Rivalry

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In the past decades, science and technology have gained more ground in foreign affairs decision making processes. The emergence of more complex global problems has raised awareness that policymakers need to collaborate with researchers and scientists to create effective solutions. This is where the term science diplomacy has become increasingly noticeable over the years. The complicated challenges are faced by numerous countries simultaneously; therefore, both inter-state collaboration and scientific evidence are considered indispensable to overcome those challenges, thus, bringing science to the foreground of policy-making. Science diplomacy is then expected to close the gap by presenting a contemporary approach to global challenges. The existence of science in diplomacy conveys two important promises: scientific advice and networks that could help build the world better amid the complexity of transnational issues and leverage that international actors can use to strengthen their foreign policy.

However, these two promises contradict each other as bestowing political power in science makes it laden with interests. By using science diplomacy, states will be confronted with the dilemma of either using science to improve the life of people or using science to pursue their national interests. This article will further analyze this dilemma on how science and technology are imperatively needed to resolve global challenges. Yet, at the same time, its existence becomes one of the sources of power that create a rivalry between states.

The Extent of Science Diplomacy in International Affairs

The development of science and technology is pivotal in solving complex human issues at both national and international levels. However, innovative inventions resulting from scientific evolution need to be acknowledged by policymakers and put into policy implementation first before they can be advantageous for overcoming global challenges. In this case, diplomacy could be one field of policy and decision-making where science can appear both as transformative solutions for international issues or as leverage tools for states to achieve domestic gains, which then refers to as science diplomacy. Simply put, science diplomacy is the use of scientific collaborations among nations to address common problems facing 21st-century humanity and to build constructive international partnerships. According to Legrand and Stone, science diplomacy is not limited to exchanges only between states, but the practice has been unfolded to have wider global policy ramifications.

Over the last 15 years, the involvement of researchers as transnational actors in public policy and global governance are increasingly visible and making a distinguishable impact in various dimensions, including social, political, and economical. The increasing entanglement of science in diplomacy is caused by three main factors as follows:

  1. The growth of transnational challenges. Recent international issues tend to spread and transgress national borders. For instance, concerns about cyber security, the transmission of disease, labor migrations and digital communities indicated how states had developed higher levels of interdependency towards each other. These are all matters that demand the implementation of sophisticated scientific knowledge.
  2. The disaggregation of transnational policy-making. Although powerful sovereign actors are still considered the most important actors in the international arena, non-state actors’ emersion started gaining influence as significant players in managing policy challenges. This creates an opening where new subjects can be integrated into transnational relations, necessarily science and technology.
  3. The turn to science diplomacy. The science paradigm is rarely contested when disputes over transnational issues occur. This circumstance started shifting when the rationalist traditions within public policy were ascending. As a result, scientific advice in understanding government challenges becomes matters to create policy responses related to economic inequality, social unrest, or depletion of natural resources.

The extent of science diplomacy’s contribution to international affairs ranges in countless essential issues. Cross-border partnerships and multinational research networks have accomplished consequential scientific discovery: from gene-edited plants that could endure climate change to the identification of SARS Coronavirus and the formulation of its vaccines in less than two years. Recently, the involvement of science in diplomacy has made a significant impact in improving global health. Cooperation between governmental and non-governmental public health experts with diplomats and political leaders successfully assisted the dealing with some health challenges such as HIV/AIDS, the spread of the infectious Ebola Virus and MERS, as well as managing swine flu through coordinated global response.

Further, science diplomacy has also been impacting economic dimensions. Initiatives conducted by governments and foundations along with United Nations have successfully employed technology to reduce extreme poverty. The rapid growth of digital technology also fortuitously generates new opportunities for people in the least developed countries. In environmental dimensions, The Paris Agreement was another accomplishment facilitated by science diplomacy and considered a game changer in dealing with climate change. The successful narratives above show how scientific research could eliminate major global challenges and save human lives. Undeniably, the integration of science in diplomacy become imperatives approach currently in improving humanity.

Science in Diplomacy: Creating Rivalry

Away from its contribution to solving major global challenges, the existence of science could also be the source of power which function to leverage states in international relations. According to Royal Society, science for diplomacy enables actors to conceive science as a means to cultivate or even improve international relations between states. However, the usage of science in diplomacy could not be separated from political objectives. This is in line with Nye’s argumentation which stated that the strategy of using science is pursued with genuine scientific interest, yet strategic political goals clearly champion the approach. Consequently, science in and for diplomacy drew a paradox, for it can be seen only as a way to exploit science in international political affairs to achieve national interests.

Science is inherently neutral and perceived as a force for good. Royal Society also claimed that science offers a non-ideological setting for interaction and free idea exchange, regardless of ethnic, national, or religious roots. The integration of science in policymaking has inflicted a political dimension into it; hence their neutrality is questionable. Nevertheless, by bestowing political objectives upon science, it can become a powerful tool to leverage states’ bargaining power. In this case, science becomes a source of contested power that creates rivalry. This was clearly seen during the Cold War Period when the United States and Uni Soviets attempted to attain nuclear and space capacities to maintain their hegemony.

The current trajectory of science in international relations is internalized much the same way, particularly when science and technology are growing at a breakneck speed. Looks at the Technology War between the United States and China, where both countries compete to increase their science capacity. As China gains more ground in technological developments, Xi Jinping Government is increasingly being reckoned in global political affairs. Its presence is welcomed progressively in Global South as a key player in building a digital backbone. China is even considered a systemic threat by the US following its increasing domination over science and technology. This narrative showed how science became a contested power which could leverage states’ position in the international arena. Thus, science diplomacy should be understood as something other than a contemporary approach to resolving the complex global issue. It also needs to be addressed as the source of rivalry among states.

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