On Wednesday, June 3, the fifth Beirut Institute Summit e-Policy Circle was held online, featuring, among others, Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club.
The meeting on the reassessment of geopolitical stability was also attended by former US Ambassador to India Robert Blackville, IMF Middle East and Central Asia Department Director Jihad Azur and former Singapore Permanent Representative to the UN Kishore Mahbubani. The moderator was Raghida Dergham, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Beirut Institute and Valdai Club expert. The discussion was focused on the confrontation between the USA and China.
First, Jihad Azur outlined the impact of the coronavirus-related crisis on the global economy and the economy of the Middle East and Central Asia. He noted that governments in the region are forced to balance between protecting human lives and protecting the economy, and added that economic problems alone can lead to social and political instability. At the request of the moderator, Azur separately pointed to the refugee problem, paying special attention to Lebanon. Robert Blackville, turning to the central theme, expressed regret that the advancement of the US and China towards confrontation is harmful both for themselves and for the world as a whole.
He named the reasons for the unfavourable development of events, including the objective competition between the established superpower and the ascending one, and the aggressive policies of both sides, coupled with rising nationalism in each.
Andrey Bystritskiy, continuing the discussion, noted that the best way to influence the course of the US-Chinese conflict is not to participate in it and deal with your own business. “It’s time to learn how to live as if there were no USA or there are many other countries,” he said, adding that the USA does not want to play the role of world leader anymore and that now no country in the world has a monopoly on global initiative. Kishore Makhbubani, in turn, paid attention to the irrational background of the conflict, indicating that for the first time in centuries, a non-Western power has come first in geopolitics. In his opinion, this activated the old Western myth of the “yellow threat” and it is this emotional factor that largely prevents the parties from interacting even if it would be objectively reasonable for them to do so.
During the tough but friendly discussion that followed the speeches, the moderator raised a number of topical questions about the possibility of a US-Chinese war, the US retreat from the Middle East, the prospects for an alliance between Russia and China, accusations against Russia of meddling in American internal affairs, Israeli policy and Iran. In their final statements, participants emphasised that in the new world that is emerging now, regional cooperation and collective efforts at the regional level are of particular importance.