The Valdai Discussion Club and the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) held a joint session as part of the Global Town Hall international online conference, titled “Geopolitical Reset: Is a World With More Cooperation and Less Rivalry Possible?”, in partnership with the Indian Observer Research Foundation.
The participants discussed the prospects for reducing geopolitical tensions in the context of the restoration of the world after the pandemic, focusing on the situation in the Asia-Pacific region. The economic and, more recently, political confrontation between the United States and China is increasingly being described as Cold War 2.0. According to Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia and President of the Asia Society Policy Institute, this definition is incorrect. There is still close economic interaction between the two countries - this concerns investments in capital markets, technology and the definition of product standards, which was not the case during the Cold War between the United States and the USSR. However, the contradictions between the two centres of power are great and make the world "binary". It is increasingly difficult for the middle powers to remain neutral in this situation.
This is especially true for the countries of Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, the choice of a side in the conflict between the great powers is precisely what they seek to avoid. According to former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, the ASEAN countries have sufficient strategic autonomy in order to enjoy the benefits that economic cooperation with China and political cooperation with the United States gives them.
During the discussion, new formats of international cooperation were touched upon, primarily the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which was signed on November 15. Kishore Mahbubani, Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute for Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, pointed out that India's refusal to participate in the agreement significantly weakens both India's own position in world trade and the potential of the entire new association.
Another topic of the discussion was the impact of the forthcoming change of the US administration on the situation in the region. We cannot expect the end of the US-China trade war, since the US Congress has a bipartisan anti-Chinese consensus, but the Biden administration is likely to choose a more peaceful tone for communication with Chinese partners, Kishore Mahbubani believes. In turn, Kevin Rudd, answering a question posed by the Valdai Club, pointed out that the United States under Biden may return to the idea of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, if not in form, then in content.