Valdai Discussion Club’s Asian Conference

The Asian conference organized by the Valdai Discussion Club in partnership with the Habibie Center in Jakarta on November 27 was a unique opportunity to discuss the key challenges that the Asia-Pacific region will face in the near future, in light of intensifying global turbulence and of total demise looming over the established, though not ideal, world order.

The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, hosted the regional conference of the Valdai Discussion Club, titled "What are Asia’s Goals in the Asian Century." It brought together leading Russian and foreign scholars, intellectuals, diplomats, businesspeople and public figures.

At the first session, "Asia's Socio-Economic Profile: From Quantity to Quality," the attendees discussed the socio-economic situation in the region and its problems, and tried to forecast the course of further development. It was concluded at the session that the path toward economic development and prosperity would not be easy. The participants of the conference outlined two basic polarized paths: the old path of copying existing products made predominantly by "the traditional Asia" and the new path of creating original products suitable for consumers of the most diverse world markets. Asia does not want external forces to write the economic playbook, which would probably only slow down the development of Asian states.

During the second session, "Security Risks and Neutralization Strategies," experts came to the conclusion that a Pan-Asian treaty should be drafted to regulate the key security and cooperation issues in the Asia-Pacific region. Georgy Toloraya, Executive Director of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research, believes that trilateral and multilateral projects involving North and South Korea are the most efficient instrument for a breakthrough in economic cooperation, which is aimed at achieving prosperity on the whole Korean Peninsula. Alexander Lukin, Director of the Center for East Asian and SCO Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that “Russia’s pivot to Asia is not something unique, because both the West and the US are doing so. It is a natural process: the Asia-Pacific region is becoming the center of world economy and politics."

Russia and Asian states should employ methods of "soft power," methods of non-military and extra-economic influence to change the negative images of each other, or at least clarify the role of all actors of the region. It is necessary to reconsider preconceptions and revise mere prejudice. "The soft power of persuasion will play an essential role," concluded the attendees of the third session, called "Asia for Russia and Russia for Asia."

Overall, experts reached an understanding that there were no territorial disputes or historical barriers between Russia and ASEAN states. Russia should work both with ASEAN as a whole and with each ASEAN state separately.

Rahimah "Ima" Abdulrahim, Executive Director of The Habibie Center, who was a partner in organizing the event, said that she was very happy with the results of the conference. In her words, the dialogue opened several doors toward more thorough, deep and fruitful interaction in a wide range of fields. She added that the talks only scratched the surface, and that it was time to dig deeper.