Democratic Change in Russia and China and the Liberal International Order

As the draft Global Trends 2030 report points out, the United States’ relative economic decline vis-a-vis emerging powers is inevitable and already occurring.  The most likely scenario is an “economically restored” United States that is able to retain its global leadership role.  A weak and defensive US, on the other hand, would “increase the chances of a dysfunctional international system.”

But in either case, the role of the United States, and its ability to shape the future international order will depend in large part on the strategic orientation of other major powers, particularly China and Russia.  As the world’s remaining great power autocracies, these two nations share a foreign policy outlook that often places a higher priority on retaining traditional spheres of influence, protecting national sovereignty, and opposing the West than on implementing broadly accepted international norms, including non-proliferation and the protection of human rights.  If these great powers continue to be governed by authoritarian regimes, the United States and the West will face significant obstacles in their attempts to solidify a liberal international order.

The most dramatic factor impacting the future of the international system, however, could be the collapse of authoritarianism in China or Russia and an evolution toward more democratic and liberal models of governance.  A democratic China, for example, might see itself as a natural political and economic partner with the West, facilitating its ability to join in addressing collective concerns.  Similarly, a democratic Russia might find its interests on key issues converging with the West, leading it to cooperate on a more sustained basis, as was the case at times during the early years of Yeltsin era.

This could open the door to a potentially transformative and so far illusive “concert of powers.”  Even if American predominance over the international system recedes, its impact could be potentially far less significant, because their collective commitments to democratic values would allow other great powers to work together cooperatively to adopt and enforce a set of globally-accepted rules and norms — reinforcing and expanding a liberal international order.

By ashjain50 Posted in GT2030

4 comments on “Democratic Change in Russia and China and the Liberal International Order

  1. Pingback: “Global Trends”- CIA: Asia will as before be the center of economich development – Europa and US will losse their postions. Middleclass will be soon most important globally, but consume more and more, which will be a big problem for envi

  2. Pingback: “Global Trends”-Prognose der US-Geheimdienste: Asien überflügelt USA und Europa. Zum ersten Mal überhaupt wird eine Mehrheit der Erdenbewohner 2030 nicht mehr in Armut leben, “erstmals wird die Mittelschicht in den meisten Ländern da

  3. While I agree with all that is said above, I think we underestimate the role of other rising powers such as India, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil (to name but four). Particuarly as this study looks over longer time horizon to 2030, our fixation on what we currently perceive to be the big powers is going to diminish as a whole, with the rise of a body of smaller powers. If this vision is true, then what matters most is not China or Russia or even economic power, but the ability to bring countries together to coalesce around a single goal. Often through the implementation of soft power. And that is something that the US, and the West more broadly, has shown itself as being very capable of doing.

    If we’re going to take a longer time horizon, in particular, then we need to get out of our focus on today’s ‘big powers’ and look to tomorrows.

  4. There is also a potential link between economic growth and the collapse of authoritarianism in China. The Chinese government already realizes that economic growth will increasingly require a shift to consumption-led, as opposed to export-led, growth. Such a shift will, however, by definition create a growing number of Chinese consumers, and what we know about the rise of the middle class in other countries suggests that these consumers will be less likely to put up with the corruption and authoritarianism of the regime in Beijing.

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