Who Compels the World to Crumble?

The Valdai Club annual report “Staying Sane in a Crumbling World” includes extensive political analysis at a theoretical level, writes Xing Guangcheng, Academician of the Academy of Public Sciences (APS) of the People’s Republic of China. It is very important for foreign analysts to identify and pay careful attention to this information. The wisdom of this report lies in its focus on theoretical issues and international trends as a broad outline. It skillfully includes Russia-related issues in a general context, allowing readers to understand them. 

Recently, the Valdai Discussion Club published its annual report,  titled Staying Sane in a Crumbling World (2020). This series of scholarly Valdai Club reports is written with foresight and at a high technical level. This report offers two prospects and two options for the future development of the world: first, consolidation of global governance under the UN Security Council over war-and-peace issues that are vital for the existence of countries; and, second, the US-China confrontation and the trend towards creating a bipolar world order. These are the key ideas in the current report, which deserves special attention in Chinese academic circles. 

A crumbling world on the eve of a storm

In every annual report since 2014, the Valdai Club has expressed its concern over the condition of global economic and political structures and warns the world that a storm is becoming more likely. The current report reads: The world economy needs a transparent, effective rules-based mechanism for implementing a coordinated economic growth stimulus policy. The authors recall that, as they suggested in 2019, creating a crisis response mechanism could be part of an even larger-scale initiative to build a new global economic architecture They emphasise the need to create a more balanced and inclusive global economic system.

This shows that Russia is losing confidence in the existing international crisis response mechanisms and has serious doubts about the efficiency of the world economic system.
This report has been positive about the efficiency of the rules and customs after the Cold War: From the perspective of world politics, the end of the Cold War led to the establishment of rules and customs that ensured a relative harmony of interests, giving everyone a fair share in the proceeds from globalisation.”

Evidently, the authors of the report recognise the rules and customs that took shape after the Cold War because they met the interests of Russia that is the beneficiary. But it is common knowledge that after the end of the Cold War Russia was very passive and surrounded by crises on all sides. The end of the Cold War was accompanied by an abrupt decline in Russia. The report under review also reaches the conclusion that the period of favourable conditions for the world is over and that in a crumbling world, countries will have to face regular shocks of this kind. Moreover, they could become a routine, albeit dramatic, occurrence. COVID-19 is resulting in the crumbling world becoming more dangerous and has basically destroyed the international community. In general, the report is filled with a feeling of crisis and the need for urgent action, and is sending the world a warning of impending danger.

Who has been equalised by the Great Equaliser” COVID-19?

This report emphasises the negative consequences of COVID-19: It has “seriously affected the interconnected world in almost all aspects.” This indicates that Russian analysts have a very realistic idea about the depth of the current crisis. They also compare COVID-19 to a trigger: The world has accumulated a great number of problems, so a trigger was all it took to plunge the world into crisis. This is a very stimulating factor. Moreover, the efforts to counter the coronavirus are like a litmus test for the various positions, views and care for individuals by states, international organisations and global mechanisms. They have graphically revealed the false nature of the slogans that demand observance of human rights as promoted by the US and the West. The crisis caused by COVID-19 is gradually engendering a series of crises on a different scale, which are unfolding in some countries and are reflected in various aspects of international and interregional relations. It would seem that faced with the pandemic the international community should have pooled its efforts in countering it but unfortunately, the US continues to find fault with international organisations on fighting the virus, reproaching other countries for lack of action and has even withdrawn from the WHO. This is not a positive approach to countering the pandemic.

This position is dangerous in the context of the further spread of the coronavirus.  
Faced with the serious global crisis in public healthcare, an inspiring speech on dictatorship and freedom is pointless for lack of the necessary connection between the dictatorship versus freedom dispute and the policy of a certain political regime. COVID-19 is spreading all over the world. As the report says, the virus has become the Great Equaliser that has spared neither rich nor poor. It is affecting both advanced and developing countries and regions and is changing the perceptions of people about success and failure. Although the US and other Western countries have the most advanced technology and quality medical conditions, they are not managing the spread of COVID-19 any better than anyone else. Their serious mistakes in fighting the coronavirus show that even advanced countries cannot be arrogant in the face of this crisis. By laying the blame on others, the US eventually faced tremendous problems. The report lays out very clearly and in great detail the global economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dealt heavy blows to the mechanism of international multilateral cooperation and curtailed transport, economic and other ties between countries and regions. The report suggests creating a united front for international efforts to counter the pandemic and praises the WHO for its actions. It recalls that the WHO was designed as an irreplaceable focus point for medical information from around the world and the backbone for the international medical community. The report also suggests that the international front for fighting the pandemic should be augmented in the following way: Global institutions (the UN) could be backed by global moral institutions, for example, a universal agency on pandemic prevention, in order to ensure justice, at least on this narrow issue considering its urgency for the international community.

Help can only come from the state!

This report makes it clear that a sovereign state remains the only institution capable of acting in an organised and efficient manner. The illusion that the state could disappear from world politics, giving way to trans-boundary supranational entities, has been dispelled. At a time of a serious crisis, citizens turn to their state. The current global crisis in the public healthcare system illustrates that the state is playing a key role in countering COVID-19. The authors of the report sum up: Though the economy is global, the politics are still international. In other words, the economy is managed on a global scale whereas politics remains a state-to-state interaction. This also shows that economic and political trajectories in the current world do not necessarily coincide.                                                                               

The report suggests that the destiny of a state” is not an arbitrary formula. For Russia it is closely linked with the future of Russia today and tomorrow, and theoretically influences the development trends in Russias future policies. Since the pandemic has triggered more global problems and crises, the state must play an unavoidable role in resolving them. Russia must strengthen its position in the world arena, because as a powerful country it is destined to play a key role in overcoming the crisis while protecting Russian interests. A country can only become powerful under the guidance of a strong leader. This is a condition and a key factor for a strong Russia. Judging by the rates of improving and asserting Russia's political rules in the first half of this year, the reports general theoretical ideas on national destiny indirectly include theoretical support for Russias political operations and strategies. Thus, the Valdai Club annual report includes extensive political analysis at a theoretical level. It is very important for foreign analysts to identify and pay careful attention to this information. The wisdom of this report lies in its focus on theoretical issues and international trends as a broad outline. It skillfully includes Russia-related issues in a general context, allowing readers to understand them.

What happened to international organisations and common values?

The report reads: The international community was not motivated to coordinate its efforts effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, international organisations have been paralysed by the global crisis in the public healthcare system. Neither transnational corporations, nor international organisations nor any other entity can work on solving a problem on a universal scale while also managing the consequences COVID-19 has tested the role of the state and proved the inability of international organisations to act, rendering most of them irrelevant.

The report specially notes the difficult position of the EU as the pandemic shock cast a shadow over solidarity within the European Union. According to the authors, the state and the international organisation are not at the same level of politics. Their functions and roles are determined by the states being the highest organised political entity. The authors of the report continue the discussion of different notions: from the state to international organisations, from international organisations to common values. They write that these values are just surface bubbles on water, and the shock from the pandemic relegated to the background the common values that are so frequently discussed at various international forums. A serious crisis breaking out was enough to almost eradicate humanitarian issues from the international agenda. 

It is important to understand that common values at the international level are an air castle. The authors conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic proved once again the autocracy-democracy dichotomy to be a false counter-position. Judging by the experience of various countries in combating the disease, a number of factors, rather than simply a political regime, determined the effectiveness of the response by a government and society to the challenge, including the culture and traditions that vary from one country to another, they explain. They write that the effectiveness of the response by the authorities does not depend on the political system and that there is no specific model to be taken from authoritarian or democratic governance. If the report is compared to a chess match, this is where a breakthrough is possible because the worlds autocracy-democracy dichotomy no longer exists. The response to the pandemic shows that the authoritarian state is more effective in this respect than the democratic state. Today's Russia is gradually and appropriately building an authoritarian state. This is why the reports denial of the autocracy-democracy dichotomy is of vast practical importance to Russia, as it removes any theoretical obstacles to its future policy. 

This conclusion suggests another important conclusion on the advent of the era of ethical pluralism. Ethical pluralism  the absence of a correct set of values, which everyone should follow  will be one of the main notions in a cardinally changed world. Political solutions are no longer based on the only correct ethical platform. The authors of the report write, each country shapes its policy based on its own ethical norms that cannot be regarded as being right or wrong. In other words, the modern world has no common yardstick for measuring whats right and whats wrong. The US and other Western countries have no right to judge Russia by the yardstick of common Western values. Russia is entitled to deal with its domestic government affairs under its own moral and ethical principles, in part, during its struggle against the pandemic. 

Returning to the economic arena, the report claims that there is a lack of prospects for speculative economy and that resilience to various kinds of shock becomes a major economic indicator. Currently, this leads the state to expand its role in the economy. This means that the state is a stabiliser and driver of economic development. Although the report has reservations in suggesting that this view is not always correct, they at least show that the state will play a major role in stimulating economic development over time. This shows that the authors disassociate themselves from the Big Market, Small Government vision. This is why they announce in the report that the era of the liberal world order (late 1980s  mid 2010s) is over. The US and other Western countries would probably jump to counter this conclusion. But if this era is over, what period do we live in now? What has replaced the liberal world order? Is it anarchy? This was implied by the report. 

Pinning hopes on the UN

The report focuses on the UN, which is an international organisation designed to coordinate international relations: the United Nations Organisation must still be regarded as a valuable asset to the international community and is the highest possible form of cooperation in international relations. This indicates that Russia still has high hopes that the UN can bring international relations in order. President Putin suggested holding a meeting of the leaders of the UN Security Council's permanent member states this year to address important issues facing the world, and four other members, including China, have expressed their support. We hope that this meeting of the leaders of the UN Security Council permanent member states can play a key role at a critical moment. As stated in the report, the permanent members of the Security Council, having special privileges since the creation of the UN, have a special responsibility to the world.

The future world will have to go through a difficult patch due to the shortage of resources, which will result in various problems and threats for humanity. It is even more discouraging that humanity lacks mechanisms for ensuring even basic justice or a universally recognised international system of norms and institutions as various kinds of risks never stop accumulating. 

Our goal is to avoid a return to international and political Darwinism. The report emphasises that we must have the same kind of confidence as after the victory in WWII in 1945 when, at the initiative of the victorious powers, the rules and customs that ensured a relative harmony of interests, the rules and systems that all countries must abide by, were established, including the important factor of the balance of power between the main parties, in building a world order. Thus, the conditions for peace and development for the next decades have been identified. But the current risk is that these rules and institutions are crumbling. Can we now just look on as these institutions crumble? 

Possessing all the information and understanding of various aspects of the current situation, the report highlights the key point of international relations, i.e., force and morality must become the basic tenets for any emerging system of relations. These are natural factors embedded in our consciousness. From the point of view of this law of development of international relations, this report outwardly criticises the message to deliberately impose ones will on other countries by force advantages, considering it totally unacceptable, and in general, impolitely called the United States and its allies, considering that they have repeatedly tried to build a unipolar world after the end of the Cold War, but have failed, and proved the absurdity of the desire to create a unipolar world. 

How can these problems be resolved? The prescription can be found in the report, new forms of global moral responsibility will be needed that are separated from national priorities and inevitable military competition between countries. In terms of avoiding a crumbling world, this report places hope on the ability of the parties involved to impose rational self-restraint, but this hope can be lost and is full of unknowns. 
Imagine whether America, the biggest player in the world, can impose rational self-restraint on itself? On the contrary, the United States has the ability to destroy others, while its ability of rational self-restraint is sorely lacking.

US-China standoff?

This report grouped Russia and India together believing that both Moscow and New Delhi were eager to improve the world order and eliminate unfairness in the treatment of their interests. However, they did not intend to dismantle it or make any revolutionary changes. The report also analysed China separately believing that China has achieved maximum benefits from the liberal world order, and now can influence the restructuring of the world order, Today, China like no other power has the resources to reshape the world order as it sees fit. In other words, China already has the ability to confront the United States globally.
This report focuses on an analysis of China and the United States international achievements. China's ambition and confidence have been on the rise due to its progress in battling the pandemic, naturally prompting many other states to follow its lead as a country that succeeded in neutralising the threat to its population, and even in helping other nations. The United States shows no sign of being able to move beyond straightforward competition as the main driver of development. It will have to reconsider its place in the world and scale back its ambitions, while China is moving in the opposite direction. The greatest threat to international security lies in the fact that the two are headed in opposite directions. Although this report presented a fact, this fact needs to be discussed. China has achieved success in fighting the pandemic, but Chinas rising ambition will not pose a threat to the United States, let alone create a major threat to global security. The United States has not acted like a driver of development because its understanding of post-Cold War world development trends is very different. The US position on anti-globalisation and US First! slogans hurt the US image in the world, and also harm most developing countries that benefit from the globalisation process. The USs poor performance in fighting the pandemic has shown that its vision of the global healthcare crises has serious problems. 

China is on the rise, because it is constantly trying to integrate into the world and globalisation. With the help of reforms and open policies, China continues to develop, but the world is also receiving enormous benefits from China's development. The measures and positions taken by China to combat the pandemic are commendable; the world should not panic over its enormous ability to mobilise, and China's achievements in fighting the pandemic, even less so link China and the United States as threats to the international communitys security. China's development does not strategically intend to replace the United States, and China is not planning to become an engine behind global development, because China itself is the worlds fastest developing country. It just has to be emphasised that China is a developing economy with the fastest and most stable rates of development, which, in turn, is a contribution to global development. US-China conflicts and tensions are largely a process of the US trying to contain China through integrated approaches; a US-China decoupling actually means that the United States plans to cut off the various ties with China that have been established over the years in an attempt to oust China from important industrial chains.

This report compares confrontation between the United States and China and confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, considering that the US-China confrontation will not reproduce the stable United States-Soviet Union model of the second half of the 20th century, i.e., the US-China confrontation is not based on the Cold War, but amid completely different international conditions. The players are different, and the US-China confrontation is an irreconcilable confrontation. This report offers different views from the past about the nature of the Cold War and US-Soviet relations, although these views are new, but we dont think they correspond to the history of that time. In fact, from the point of view of the nature of the Cold War and the main logic of exploitation, back then the Soviet Union and the United States, two superpowers, really were the centres of their camps orbits, and developed according to their own laws of development in the socialist camp and the Western camp, but the scope of the sphere of influences is not limited to nearby regions, but affects the entire world. The confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States included the implications of globalisation in all areas. The clash between them focused on social order, development priorities and lifestyle, which are ethical categories, rather than military, political or even economic matters, as set out in this report. On the contrary, the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States was in complex areas, including political, military and ethical, and in comparison with the state system, military and ideological confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, which, like a scythe on a stone, confrontation of ethical categories is not as important, relatively speaking, it is of secondary importance. Do not forget that the Soviet Union suffered defeat in the all-out struggle against the Western camp led by the United States, which led to a self-disintegration/collapse and an instant shift in the world order. Almost all of Russia's current diplomatic strategies and political choices are associated with the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as the sudden embrace of the Soviet Union and the United States after a long intense confrontation. 

In our understanding, the report just wants to emphasise the role of ethical categories in confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, but this is already a sphere of speculation and philosophy. Since we are talking about philosophy, we must mention Karl Marx famously saying that the most important mission of philosophers is not to interpret the world, but to change it. It is especially worth emphasising that the Russian elite need to learn and revise the basic logic and internal factors behind the collapse of the Soviet Union. Limiting the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States in ethical categories does rule out the prospects and possibilities of Russia suddenly falling into some traps. 

It should also be emphasised that today's China is unlike the former Soviet Union. The biggest difference between China and the Soviet Union is that China has no desire or strategic intention to compete with the United States for global hegemony. It is also not possible for China to build a camp against the United States to compete with it for global hegemony. The rise of China is expressed through the economy rather than military-strategic supremacy, like the Soviet Union. China's economic achievements are hard facts, and China has the right to rise. The United States may not believe that China poses a threat to the world just because of its rise. The US-Soviet confrontation model will not be repeated between China and the United States, even if the US knows the road and is ready to motivate China to follow this scenario. This will not make any sense. 

The report says that the players are different. China is now in favour of creating a community with a shared future for humankind, not for world domination. China and the United States' outlook on the world are at different philosophical levels. The United States continues to try to defeat China as a player with a Cold War mindset and Cold War tactics to contain China. It is impossible to achieve this goal for one simple reason: China is not the Soviet Union. Should the United States try to portray China as the Soviet Union in its day and use a decoupling approach to attack China, it may well hurt itself. The first Cold War player - the Soviet Union  disappeared. Who needs a second global Cold War? Rest assured that China does not need this. China is the largest beneficiary of the liberal world order, the report says. Based on this logic, why would China destroy what is beneficial to it? Opening the veil of a new Cold War, which will soon be launched, we can clearly see that the United States, the largest developer and beneficiary of the liberal world order, is actively and deliberately dismantling the support columns and beams, which is making todays world order crumble and is pushing it to the edge of collapse. Perhaps, for various reasons, the report does not make it explicitly clear who is making this world order crumble. But it is already clear to the entire world.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.