By: Strategic Review Staff
New York. Noting that the world has entered a period of “warm peace” to replace the former Cold War, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told the second Strategic Review Forum in New York on September 26 that emerging powers such as Indonesia play a vital role in easing tensions in areas where “pockets of bigotry, intolerance and extremism continue to litter our world.”
Giving the keynote address at an event in New York City co-sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association as part of its annual World Leadership Forum, Yudhoyono cited the continuing standoff on the Korean Peninsula, tensions between China and Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea, and the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East as festering challenges for emerging nations as they struggle to reshape global power relationships. Following the speech, Yudhoyono joined a high-level panel to discuss “How Emerging Powers Will Reshape the World Order.”
Appearing with the president on the panel were international financier and philanthropist George Soros; Ambassador Lakdhar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League special envoy to Syria; and Dr Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. Professor Donald K Emmerson of Stanford University moderated the panel, which was timed to coincide with the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“International relations should not be a zero-sum game,” Yudhoyono said. “It has to bring mutual benefits.” He added that emerging powers offer a unique perspective on conflicts, especially at a time when the Western world is facing economic crisis. He called on Asia-Pacific countries to follow Indonesia’s lead and adopt a foreign policy guided by the principle of “dynamic equilibrium,” in which “harmony and collaboration leads to a win-win situation among all participants.”
Sounding a more somber note on the ability of emerging nations to redraw the world order, Soros said economic worries were poised to be a fact of life for most of the world. “We are facing a period of much slower growth,” Soros said, emphasizing that a quarter-century of what he called a “super boom” ended with the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and that the troubles are far from over. He said the euro zone crisis remains the “most burning issue” for world economies, including emerging nations that are having to cope with depressed export markets and slower growth in China and India.
Mahbubani took exception to Soros’s gloomy predictions, saying “short-term uncertainty… will not change the long term prospects” for emerging markets. Praising the economic transformation of Asia - and singling out various assessments that Indonesia will grow four-fold by 2030 to become a $4-trillion economy - Mahbubani called on the West to give up its traditional control of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and expand the permanent membership of the UN Security Council to draw in powers such as India, Indonesia and South Korea.
The future is bright, he said, “as long as the West understands the world has changed.” Brahimi praised Indonesia’s long history as a leader of non-aligned countries in the developing world. He noted that the 1955 Bandung conference gave birth to the non-aligned movement that has now given rise to a number of emerging countries. Turning to the Middle East, he cited the rising power of Turkey and Iran’s long history as a regional power. Current tensions with Israel, and US concerns about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, should not cause people to forget “that Iran has been there for a long time and it is going to be there for a long time,” Brahimi said.
He added that the so-called Arab Spring is also not a passing fad. “The people have found their voice and they are not going to shut up,” Brahimi said. Later in the discussion, fireworks again erupted between Soros and Mahbubani over their views on China. Soros said that China has to face a crossroads in which it will either become an open society or remain essentially closed and authoritarian. China’s eventual choice, Soros said, “is probably the most important question for the world to consider.”
The dilemma will be made worse, he said, because of the “big, big shock” of China’s looming slowdown. Government-backed growth in China, Soros added, “has come to an end.” With Emmerson pressing the point of what he called China’s “dictatorial populism,” Mahbubani cautioned the panelists to rethink their views on China. “I warn you all, the most dangerous thing you can do is to underestimate China,” Mahbubani said.
“The Western mindset is draped in black and white,” he said, and as a result the world has failed to appreciate the great opening of thought and economic freedom in China. “The opening of the Chinese mind is the single biggest event in human history.” Challenging views that Asia could face a regionwide crisis brought on by troubles in China and the West, Mahbubani said, “The best 30 years for Asia are still to come - even if Europe and the US slow down.”
In closing the panel discussion, Yudhoyono called for “sustainable growth with equity” and said individual countries have to look after their own growth and development targets if the world is to emerge stronger from the current economic climate. “We have to ensure that each country can maintain its own economic growth,” he said. If that happens, Yudhoyono added, Southeast Asia can be an engine of global economic dynamism.
This story was written by Strategic Review and the Strategic Review Forum team.