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How would the BRI impact a Continuing World Order?

Posted By Carl Michael, Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Carl Michael checks the effect of Belt and Road Initiative on world order in his ninth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


The theme of this scenario is: ‘The BRI Impedes Globalisation – A Continuing World Order’. The key drivers are continuing support for globalisation, coupled with the BRI working as an impediment in the global order, which is how it is viewed by the international community. In this scenario the dominant themes are continuity, multipolarity, business-as-usual, and a weakening of a universal approach to the international order.


In this scenario, states form blocs with those in geographical proximity or with similar civilisational foundations. They coordinate within blocs, though blocs compete with each other. The US and China as the leaders of the largest blocs, have not quite escaped the Thucydides trap; with conflict addressed through ‘a long peace’ approach. Disconnection, distrust and antagonism are rife. The heightened potential for conflict raises military expenditure although actual conflict remains limited.


By 2050 the Chinese economy is the largest but that of the US is dominant. Intra-bloc trade is limited by barriers and actual international institutions are given little attention. The economies of Africa, ASEAN, India and China continue to grow but with an internal prosperity divide. Economic growth is strongly viewed through a resilience lens and long-term planning is viewed as crucial.


From a social perspective, cohesion is emphasized in most advanced regions and the provision of welfare and social services is controlled. Values and lifestyles are less given to trends because of an emphasis on ‘discipline’. Developed countries experience a collective decline in population but migration is highly controlled, leading to economic and social pressures being alleviated through growing levels of personal augmentation.


Technology and information remain a critical driver of growth, but the drivers for technological innovation are the military and security. Technology availability is constrained by a lack of international cooperation and is poorly regulated in social and ethical terms. Most states or blocs prioritise locking-down and securing their information environments in order to defend them, but this has an inadvertent effect on the free flow of people, knowledge and material.


Governance is characterised by the lack of global initiatives to address global problems because of a lack of respected multilateral institutions. This leads to stronger intra-bloc frameworks further undermining global institutions. Low-intensity hybrid conflict is commonplace, which strengthens the hands of bloc leaders as they manage their states, the governance of which is strongly impacted by technological advancements. The megacity rules the day with high levels of intra-urban connectivity within blocs but not between them.


In the context of protecting and managing the global natural environment, there are few international initiatives to provide mitigation for environmental stress arising from the changing climate. Access to water, energy, mineral and food resources is regulated at the bloc level, in order to manage both short-term shocks as well as long-term resilience structures. There is strong global competition for key mineral resources. The result is inconsistency, disconnection, and a lack of coordination for environmental management.


In this scenario, in 2050, the BRI has hindered globalisation and instead upheld the continuing of the current world order. Despite the BRI being designed to be multilateral and geo-economic, its perception as an instrument of hegemony enhanced polarisation, and the challenges it created engendered distrust among many powerful nations. As a result, China did not increase its soft-power, and this added to the perception that it was different from the rest of the world. Taiwan, the South China Sea and North Korea will continue to be flashpoints, but a pre-emptive strike remains unlikely. The emphasis will be on deterrence and ambiguity rather than overt provocation since all parties know that any counterproductive moves would upset the ongoing balance of the prevailing multipolar world order.


© Carl Michael 2020

Tags:  Belt and Road Initiative  globalization  world order 

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Why is migration important to understand?

Posted By Kevin Jae, Friday, January 17, 2020

Kevin Jae, a member of our Emerging Fellows program initiates publishing a series of blog posts aimed at identifying the impact of migrations on the world order by 2050. This is his first post in our EF blog. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


The figure of the migrant, diffused in media broadcasts across the world, is a political image that provokes polarizing reactions. The migrant—is it a completely novel emergence in history? Even a cursory reading on the topic reveals that migration is not a new phenomenon. A people—however nationalist myths construct them—have never been resting stagnant within nation-state borders. We are all migrants and mongrels of some sort. All desires for a pure nationalist phenotype are a nostalgic longing for idylls that have never existed.


Why is migration important to understand? While we may look upon past histories of migration with the detached interest of an academic, our contemporary migrations are all-too-close and all-too-urgent: they present an ethical imperative, a duty to decide and to act. This challenge is not one that the global community can neglect and stay a safe distance from.


The most recent mass migration has come from the Syrian Civil war, where an estimated population of 22 million Syrians were scattered about by the vagaries of historical circumstance — 13 million were displaced and 5 million of those displaced found themselves outside of Syrian national borders. The rippling geo-political effects of Syrian mass-migrations (among others) have impacted the world. Liberal democracies around the world agreed to do their fair share and house migrants; however, recent response by recipient states have changed. They have adopted a hostile position to migrants and from the fringes, alt-right parties and their leaders have begun to take center stage in contemporary politics. One commonality in these parties’ platforms has been the rejection of and the anxiety toward the foreign migrant. Migration has changed national politics. National politics, in turn, have changed international politics as nationalist discourse has led to an inward-looking and parochial political vision. The British and American exits from free trade deals and international organizations suggest the first cracks in the liberal world order, with its goals for political and economic international co-operation. A comparatively small displacement led to profound effects around the world.


The future is filled with the possibility of migration. Mass migrations will be a potent combination of push and pull factors: it will be a combination of aspirational desires in rich, urban metropolises and retreats from poverty and political instability. Of course, not all migrant populations will be undesirable. The growing, young demographics in the Global South will be welcomed in the Global North to fill labour shortages. These are likely to be in the minority compared to the potential migrations spurred on by existential threats like climate change, which has the potential to make large swaths of land mass uninhabitable. How might the introduction of a large migrant population, one that grossly outnumbers the current migrants, spark intra-national and international conflicts, both diplomatic and military?


The future of mass migration that we head towards today provokes all of these questions. To neglect this question would be to drive without headlights in the darkness. Through analysis and by writing about this topic, I hope to turn on the metaphorical headlights and illuminate the faint contours ahead. Only in the crudest beliefs in human nature is the fate of humanity doomed to economic rationality and resource-related conflicts from migration. As human beings—and this, fellow futurists should be well aware—we have the power to construct the future. We are not mere passengers driven by fate.


Why is migration important to understand? To shape the future.


© Kevin Jae 2020

Tags:  migration  nation  world order 

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