Is the Architecture of International Politics Being Restructured?
Soli Özel in Conversation with Andrew Keen on the Keen On
The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically disrupting not only our daily lives but society itself. This show features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the deeper economic, political, and technological consequences of the pandemic. It’s our new daily podcast trying to make longterm sense out of the chaos of today’s global crisis.
On today’s episode, Soli Özel, senior lecturer at Kadir Has University in Istanbul and associate fellow at Institut Montaigne in Paris, discusses whether China is now an equal power to the United States in the international system and whether the pandemic is the end of many democracies in Eastern and Central Europe.
From the episode:
Andrew Keen: Do you see a fundamental restructuring of the architecture of international politics in terms of the United States and China? Is this pandemic proof that China now is, at the very minimum, an equal power to the United States in the international system?
Soli Özel: It may be a bit early to determine whether they are co-equals, but it appears that we’re moving to definitely we’re moving to a non unipolar world. I mean, if unipolar was a concept that didn’t particularly attract me even when it was first came out, but obviously the American moment or the unipolar moment for the United States is way over and the new architecture is emerging, as you rightly suggested, whether this is going to be a bipolar one, as we’ve seen in the during the Cold War, or as the Chinese used to play with a few years ago, whether it would be one major power, which would be the United States and a number of great powers, or which, of course, the Chinese would be the most important.
Now, of course, when that idea was being tossed around. Xi Jinping was not yet at the helm. And of course, with Xi Jinping, we’ve seen we witnessed a transformation of the way China related to the rest of the world. China now is a far more assertive power, although it does not really have in its foreign policy in the conduct of its foreign policy, as I see it, the attributes of a hegemon, because the hegemon must also act a bit collectively or must enjoy it. This giving the image that they’re acting collectively. The Chinese prefer not to be acting collectively. They do take care of problems bilaterally, but there is no doubt that they now feel confident enough to challenge the United States, but there is also, of course, their responsibility in the way this pandemic really got off and got out of hand.
No matter how far they go in sending lots of equipment and even money to different parts of the world and all that, they will really have to come up clean with what they haven’t done, as well as what they have done from late November or early December onwards, when the existence of the virus was known by their local authorities who haven’t warned their national authorities and then the national authorities that did not really take the necessary steps to actually prevent the spread of this virus anyway. Yes, we will be moving to a world where China in particular, but Asia in general, is going to be far more important. That’s only normal because forty years ago, when China undertook capitalist development under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, every fifth person in the world was Chinese and the Chinese produced only about 1 or 1.2 percent of the world GDP. Forty years later, China is about 16 percent of the world economy, the second largest economy in the world, and, in purchasing power parity terms, it is the leading economy in the world, according to the IMF as of 2004. Therefore, you cannot have that kind of great economic power shift without a corresponding political and strategic shift.
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Soli Özel is a senior lecturer at Kadir Has University in Istanbul and associate fellow at Institut Montaigne in Paris. Currently, he is a Tom and Andi Bernstein Fellow at the Schell Center, Yale Law School. Previously, he has guest lectured at Georgetown University, Harvard University, Tufts University and other American universities. Özel is working on two books: one tentatively entitled The History of Turkey’s Future and the other, co-authored with Michael T. Rock, will be a comparison of Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Turkey looking at their developmental and democratic successes and failures.