Guarini Institute and Temple University on Changing Global Order
On March 14, 2023, the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs and Temple University hosted a joint event entitled “The New Setting: COVID, Ukraine, and the Changing Global Order.” The lead speaker of the event was Professor Emeritus Ronald H. Linden from the University of Pittsburgh. His lecture was followed by a discussion by Dr. Yiorghos Leventis, Founder and Director of the International Security Forum, Cyprus, and the event was moderated by JCU Professor and Director of the Guarini Institute Federigo Argentieri, and Temple University’s Dean Emilia Zankina.
In his introduction, Professor Federigo Argentieri described how the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent war in Ukraine affected him as a member of the international academic community, and how both events influenced generations, communities, and governments across the globe in different ways. The floor was then handed over to Professor Linden for the main lecture.
Professor Linden began with a recap of political trends throughout history to analyze the current political power distribution in the world. He described how, with the rise of China, the global concentration of power has shifted from a multipolarity state to what he labeled as “unbalanced multipolarity,” with the three main superpowers being the United States, China, and Russia.
According to Professor Linden, this shift in global powers has been in progress for some time, however, it has been accelerated by recent events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. He first analyzed the effects of the pandemic in the West and then talked about how some nations reacted economically and politically.
He then moved his focus to the recent distancing of Western nations from China, in the form of investment and trade, both of which have dropped sharply. Professor Linden explained that this is due to a growing distrust of the Chinese government by the U.S. and EU, especially after the Chinese response approach to the pandemic. He showed figures describing the economic recovery of Europe and the U.S. after the pandemic and how Chinese trade with the West has failed to meet the pre-pandemic numbers. He pointed to specific instances where the EU has cut back on its involvement with China, noting strengthened investment screenings and the Investment Treaty that has been stalled in negotiation within the European Parliament as a result of Chinese human rights abuses.
However, international relations are not the only challenges China faces today; there are internal issues as well. Professor Linden pointed to the declining dependency crisis that China is beginning to feel. The growing retired Chinese population is strained by the now-modified one-child policy and is putting pressure on the working generations. As a result of both its international and internal challenges, China has responded with authoritarian policies and attempted to expand its influence externally. Professor Linden showed examples of China’s expanded claims to the South China Sea and the impact of this region on European trade.
Then Professor Linden focused on Russia, the third superpower of the unbalanced multipolarity. This political actor has faced similar issues as China from the U.S. and EU as a result of the war against Ukraine. Western companies have pulled many of their most prominent industries and brands out of Russia. As far as natural resources such as oil and gas, Russia’s most valued exports, Western nations have gone to great lengths to limit their dependency on Russia. In addition, with the implementation of various sanctions since the invasion, the economic distance between the West and Russia has never been so wide since the post-Cold War era.
Similarly to China, Professor Linden argues that Russian internal issues are a key factor in its economic crisis, including a brain drain of its young and educated population and a significant outflow of Russian capital. Like China, Russia has in recent years responded to international and internal challenges with an increase in authoritarian control and a more aggressive posture toward neighboring nations.
Professor Linden concluded his argument with a rebuttal to his own statements. While these trends paint the western democratic nations in a favorable position against their authoritarian rivals, he pointed to business preferences in the West that hold dear to their ties with both Russia and China. In addition, the role of global trade is extremely important, and still heavily dependent on China for its manufacturing power. Lastly, he warned not to lose sight of the global trends in democracy, which have seen a discouraging decline in the last decade.
Dr. Leventis then took the floor to offer a different perspective on the unbalanced multipolarity. He began his argument with the list of military spending by the main political powers. Through these statistics, he demonstrated that the U.S. military budget continues to be multiple times the aggregate of the corresponding budgets of China, and India. Next, he discussed the U.S. withdrawal from treaties in recent years that has led to the deregulation of the regime on stockpiles of nuclear warheads and their delivery and launching systems. As a result, he stated, “We are standing at the point where weapons of mass destruction and the nuclear threat have come to the floor.” He discussed the hard truth of the total absence of any credible multilateral security organization that would, on one hand, enforce non-proliferation/disarmament and on the other promote a worldwide regime of indivisible security. These pressing matters deepen the chasm between the West and the politically weaker China and Russia. This has put both nations in a position of desperation that Dr. Leventis warns has started them on a path toward extreme countermeasures.
Dr. Leventis ended with his insights on the Ukrainian war. He argued that compromise would have to be the solution. As the top two nuclear powers, the United States and Russia, clash in these modern times, the international community has to find a peaceful resolution, as a violent extreme one is not an option.