Asan Plenum

Panel: Session 5 (Grand Ballroom I)

Talking Points: Francois Godement

Date/Time: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 / 15:30-16:45

Lee Chung Min, Yonsei University (Moderator)
Francois Godement, European Council on Foreign Relations
Martin Jacques, University of Cambridge
Jin Canrong, Renmin University of China

Session Description
The open, rules-based liberal international order has served the world well. It has prevented a return to inter-state conflict by accommodating the rise of new economic and strategic players. It has helped usher in an era of global economic prosperity based on free market principles. However, its future relevance is under threat. The incorporation of new, non-Western, and sometimes non-democratic, powers risks splintering the existing order. Diminishing American and European leadership also poses new challenges. Even as new multilateral organizations move to strengthen international norms and governance, will the liberal international order be transformed unrecognizably?

Session Sketch

Rapporteur: Nathan Wickstrom, Korea University

Dr. Lee Chung Min initiated the discussion by asking what has happened to the liberal international order that has been in place for over sixty years and whether the established, rule-based system is now dead. Further, he questioned China’s role in the international community; what is the country’s role as it grows as a major global power, and what can it offer the international community? Lee then brought the discussion to Russia, asking if it will rebound and once more become a major factor for the international order. Further, are Western values the same as universal values?

Dr. Francois Godement was the first to offer his insight, stating that though the liberal international order faces corrosion from within, there is still hope for its preservation into the future. However, the existing structure with its focus on the West will change. In regards to China, he remarked that the country was hesitant to take on leadership in the region and in the international community. However, with its buildup of military capacity, this stance will not be possible in the future. Finally, Godement spoke on values, claiming that a better balance between universal and local values needs to be struck and that further efforts need to be made to protect local values.

Dr. Martin Jacques offered a counterpoint on the liberal international order, stating that in one sense it is at its peak in relation to the number of countries now involved. The United States has been the driving force in sustaining the order, but the system is “coming to a big historical change” with the rising power of China and the relative decline of the U.S. The emerging order will involve China playing a larger role and lines of continuity from the existing model. China’s influence in the world will likely be shown through economic or cultural means, not through military might. When speaking of Russia, Jacques stated that it is not a global power, but a regional power. However, Putin should not be underestimated. Last, Jacques mentioned that many values associated with Western values were actually adopted from other parts of the world. His hope is that the best of the established Western values will be joined with important ones not currently recognized by the international community.

Offering a different perspective, Dr. Jin Canrong was uncertain about China’s role in the future of liberal international order. China’s changing society is further leading to the uncertainty of its voice in the future. As long as the current system remains profitable for the country and it remains satisfied, it will continue to encourage the existing order. The country as a leader can benefit others by providing the largest market. In conclusion, Jin was critical of “Putin the Great” and Russia, saying that he has not been effective as a leader at implementing a market economy and utilizing the country’s sizable natural resources.