“Convergence” from Within and Outside
This is a rapidly changing world. Ideas and thoughts that were popular several years ago need to be reexamined. Just as Mr. Sergei Karaganov said in his article Convergence the Other Way Round, the international financial crisis has made it imperative to reevaluate the history of the two decades that followed the end of the Cold War. What was considered as the “end” of history has undergone a number of unexpected changes, including both the rise of the emerging economies but also a power such as the mighty West unexpectedly landing up in serious trouble.
It is not good news for anyone when either the West or the East is in trouble, because every part of the world is so closely interlinked with one another. It is just that in this case both the East and the West are faced with the issue of how to adapt in order to achieve conceptual convergence and harmony so that they can both survive and maintain a level of sustainable development. To a certain extent, the East may be more capable of adapting as over the past two decades it has always been in a state of reform or in the process of “being reformed”. Nevertheless, the West may actually be facing the more serious challenge as in the past two decades it has become so accustomed to being the “winner” that it is almost impossible for both the elites and the general public in the West to countenance the fact that their historical role of continuing dominance of this uncontrollable world will face a serious challenge.
The special significance of 2012 lies in the fact that political elections in countries like the United States, Russia, France, Egypt, China and some regions will have a further impact on a world already full of turmoil and upheaval. So whatever happens, it is expected that each country’s internal political changes will bring opportunities for harmony and convergence to the whole world. In this sense, if convergence and harmony do emerge, it will be best that they occur first from within.
If we take the case of Russia as an example, such an assumption may possibly not seem too far-fetched.
After the March presidential election this year, a really intense competition, people are now worried about what kind of political structure will emerge in Russia. The future political leadership will not only respond to the challenges of the protests that have been happening since last fall, but will also be capable of leading the country to true prosperity, democracy and stability.
While it seems safe to say that the March election did not generate any great suspense about who would be the future leader of the country, the composition and direction of the future government and party system still remains an issue of great concern both at home and abroad. Medvedev met the active of the United Russia Party on April 27. Especially bearing in mind that Medvedev has clearly said that he has never been a “liberal”, this is probably the first time that he has declared so openly that “in terms of belief, I am committing to conservative values”. This was the point when all those who are worried about Russia’s future political direction got the clear impression that Russia’s two most important statesmen share common basic values. If we look back at the development path of Russian politics since 2009, it is clear the aforementioned changes are not minor details of the political situation, but a significant declaration, which to a great extent will affect Russia’s future. Although critics will bore into the details, that is not as important as the obvious political “convergence” of the past three years.
Things may become clearer if we go back to what a highly influential figure from the liberal camp said six months ago. This figure said Russia currently cannot move toward either dictatorship or radical democratization. The only feasible option is flexible authoritarianism through delaying the process of democratization. To a large extent, the fact that a key scholar of liberalism made such an assertion is already indicative of the possible scope of Russia’s political development. The liberals are unlikely to give up their own original values. However, a serious lack of political elites and a political culture similar to that of the 1990s is a fundamental reason why radical reforms will not be repeated. Obviously, this is not only a wise conclusion but also shows an internal political convergence.
Russia is a great power. For great power politics, it has always had extraordinary political influence. Although the future for Russian politics will not be a smooth path, we still sincerely look forward to a future where Russia’s domestic “convergence” in politics will bring not only prosperity to her people but also peace and stability to the whole world.
Feng Shaolei is the Dean, School of Advanced International and Area Studies; Director, Centre for Russian Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai, P.R.C.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.