EVENT TRANSCRIPT: THE DAWN OF EURASIA: ON THE TRAIL OF THE NEW WORLD ORDER
DATE: 1PM-2PM 6TH FEBRUARY 2018
VENUE: MILLBANK TOWER, WESTMINSTER, SW1P 4RS
SPEAKER: DR BRUNO MACAES
EVENT CHAIR: DR ANDREW FOXALL
DR ANDREW FOXALL
Well good afternoon everybody and welcome to the Henry Jackson Society. My name’s Dr Andrew Foxall, I am director of research and I oversee our work on Russia and Eurasia as well. It’s a great pleasure to have with us today Dr Bruno Macaes currently Senior Advisor at Flint Global based here in London as well as being a senior fellow at Renmin University in Beijing and being affiliated with the Hudson Institute in D.C. He was formerly – and some of you know him as the Portuguese Europe Minister between 2013 and 2015. He also holds a doctorate in political science from Harvard University.
Bruno, if I may, is going to talk to us today about his new book The Dawn of Eurasia. Copies of which are available outside. Bruno will speak for 10-15 minutes in the first instance and that will leave plenty of time for Q&A. So would you join with me first of all by welcoming Bruno and without further ado over to you…
DR BRUNO MACAES:
Thank you, Andrew, so much. Thank you for the invitation and thank you for coming. So lunch time is not so convenient. Really appreciate that you are curious about the book and that you are here. Let me try to explain why I think Eurasia is an important word because the book is really organised around the word. It is still an unusual word though Andrew was telling me that he used to teach a course on Eurasia. But it’s still an unusual word. What does it mean? And why is it a good word? And why do I think it’s going to become a word that we use more and more.
Let me talk to you about Eurasia first in space, in geography and then in time, in history. And |I won’t hide that for me, Eurasian history is a more interesting, more important idea. So I’ll start with Eurasia in space.
What is Eurasia? It’s the super continent. The combination between Europe and Asia. From Lisbon to Shanghai or if you want to take it even further from Lisbon to Jakarta. Why are we now forced to think about political geography in these terms? Well, let us start with the end of the Cold War. The end of the Cold War was supposed to be the age of reconciliation for Europe. Finally, able to overcome its divisions, you would be able to live in peace and united in a single home. But paradoxically the end of the Cold War was also – I think, and I argue in the book – the period where European exceptionalism started slowly to desegregate. Where reconciliation also happened further to the East – where of course Russia opened up to the West and more significantly in the same decade where China opened up to the West.
The establishment of global supply change, where China was a fundamental part, a fundamental link. First Western multinationals, Western financial institutions and then China itself to develop new infrastructure. You know that we now talk a lot about the Chinese infrastructure project the Belton Road led by China so far entirely controlled by China. But let’s not forget that in the early stages of Chinese integration with the global economy, infrastructure was being built by the West. Ports in China, information and communication technology being established and even human links and human connections between China and the West. We are now at a point where that project is being taken up by China.
Now devoid of the old ideological distinctions and with new economic trade lengths and new infrastructure lengths it becomes more and more difficult to separate between Europe and Asia. I think that’s perhaps the most characteristic mark of our time. The progressive integration between the two continents, how China, Europe and Russia in the middle are involved in a battle for the border lines between the three blocks. How Chinese influence now extends all the way to Eastern Europe and how Europe also for the past twenty years has been extending Eastwards. This poses a challenge for Europe of course because in a way it might extend without limit and therefore lose its definition or it might draw a precise border beyond which it doesn’t extend but then it becomes vulnerable to influence from the East. We’ll return to the topic, but let me return to Eurasia as a concept in time. In this case it’s not a new super continent, but it’s a new age, a new historical period. And let me tell you that the book was originally called the New Eurasian Super Continent and then I changed it to the Dawn of Eurasia precisely because I wanted to make the point that the most interesting use of the word Eurasia is to describe a new historical period rather than a new geographic entity.
Why is Eurasia an interesting word? Well it combines these two poles of Europe and Asia, it allows us to talk about our own time as a time period divided between these two poles. If you think about, let us say the global economy in the next twenty thirty years, there’s very little doubt that by 2040, four of the largest economies in the world will be in Asia. China, Japan, India and Indonesia. And Germany will most likely be the sixth. Easy prediction to make. It could be 2035 or 2045 but population and economic dynamics inevitably will take us there. So you might say, well it is the Asian Centre, it is the Asian age. I make some cautionary points in the book about this because first of all its very difficult to talk about Asia as a single entity, it’s much easier to talk about the West as a single entity it has the institutions which Asia doesn’t have. Second of course Asia will go through difficulties, through crisis. Asia may have been in the past a continent of stability, peace, it is now a country where you find the most acute territorial disputes, where nationalism is on the rise and so we have to be cautious that there will be speed bumps on the trajectory on the road towards Asia becoming a dominant.
That’s the first point, and the second is that the West there are some people who would disagree with this but Europe and the United States remain economically sound, remain centres of creativity, of knowledge, of capital and I don’t see any signs of desegregation or any signs of collapse in either Europe or the United States. We can return to this point.
So I believe the best way to think about new global order is somehow divided between Western ultimately based on the European political tradition, but Western pole and an Asian pole. It is I think Eurasia because it expresses two important thoughts about the new global order. First it expresses the view that this is a global order of contradiction. Of unresolvable contradiction. Why? Because we no longer believe that let us say China is converging to a Western model. It is very clear either public or private statements coming from China, China is tracing its own path of historical development.
So we are no longer in a world where everyone is moving in the same direction. It’s a world of contradiction, of different paths, of different political models and the fact that Eurasia combines two different elements I think expresses that contradiction. But at the same time it’s a single word, because the new world order having deep contradictions it’s also a world order of integration, of links, of connections, od globalisation. It is as I say in the book at some point we could talk about it as the second age of globalisation. Because connectivity, inter connections, influence flowing both ways is as deep as a hundred years ago or fifty years ago.
The difference is that we no longer believe that the world is going in the same direction, it’s going in different paths but it’s going together. That’s what I think the world Eurasia means – it’s to capture a world of integration as well as contradiction. I think we need that word to express that because I think that globalisation expresses the idea that it’s going to lead to convergence. And one of the main ideas in the book is that we will have integration with divergence.
Final thought, why is Eurasia (phone rings) this is very unfortunate. Why is Eurasia a good word and a word we need? I think it expresses the full range of alternatives. Because Europe has developed a Western political tradition to develop its logical conclusion. And because China has remained more than anyone else resisted Western influence. I think about the range of possibilities of alternative models for the future as being defined by two extreme points.
The European Union on one hand and China on the other hand. Then in between these two extreme alternatives we have among the major players – India and Russia – which will be trying to find a place defined somewhere along the spectrum. And then across the oceans we have the United States. Which if it wants to preserve its global leadership role will probably be wanting to pick and choose between different ways of doing things and different ways of organising society and the economy. I think the United States will also be moving along this spectrum defined by China on the one hand and Europe on the other hand. In some respects, it will be moving away from Europe, in some respects it will be learning from China. We already saw 2 or 3 weeks ago how a memo in the State Department suggested the United States had to take full control of 5G network development – something that you would expect from Chinese authorities not from American authorities. So the United States is changing as a response to China and positioning itself somewhere also between the two alternatives.
To conclude, I believe that Eurasia as a word expresses some of the most important dimensions of the new world order and also the fact that we will be thinking for a long time along this spectrum defined by two alternative poles on the extreme and then a multitude of options in between. But certainly no longer the world where we are heading on the same path to the same place which was the world after 1989 and I think it’s about time we abandon it.
DR ANDREW FOXALL
Thank you very much indeed, so that leaves 40-45 minutes or so for questions if I may I’m going to use the chair’s prerogative and ask the first one but please do take this time to think of your own questions.
Throughout the book it seems to me like one of the key arguments that you make is that Europe and Europeans don’t and aren’t able to think geopolitically and think in terms of Eurasia. And you contrast this with Russia and China. Who do, in the book you know that Russia has the Eurasian economic union and China has the Belt and Road initiative. I wonder if you can just say a little bit about why it is that you think that Europeans struggle to think in terms of Eurasia both as a concept but also in broader geopolitical terms.
DR BRUNO MACAES:
Yes, that’s a really important question and I think that there’s a number of reasons for that. First of all, the psychological difficulty in breaking the great wall between Europe and Asia. More important than the Berlin Wall – the Berlin Wall was just a segment of this historically significant separation between Europe and Asia, which Europeans still subscribe to. The idea that we are different, that we are exceptional, that others have converted to our way of life but we invented it and others are copying it. The idea that we don’t compromise on our way of life everyone else has to accept it or then live their own lives if they don’t accept it but that we will not compromise so this is very powerful in Europe and I was telling Andrew just before we came in that in China when you talk about Eurasia people are very attracted to the idea. Scholars but also college students. In Europe if you talk about Eurasia the response tends to be ‘what happens to Europe then? Does it disappear? Is it absorbed by a larger unit?’ And that is in fact a very troubling suggestion which I know is troubling and I want it to be troubling. That’s part of the idea.
Then I think Europe is still confused about this question of convergence. So some days Europe thinks everyone is going to become like us and so let them do it in their own way taking their own time, we don’t have to be concerned about that we have perhaps to encourage them a little bit with funding, with travel opportunities, with visa opportunities so they can see what they are supposed to copy when they travel here. But other times Europe seems to conclude that, no, the world is going in a completely different direction, a very dangerous, unintelligible direction.
But then the solution is for us not to deal with that world at all. And I think this has become now quite powerful. In Brussels now, the default position is we don’t deal with the other one because he is somebody you cannot talk to. We don’t deal with Putin because you cannot talk to him. You don’t deal with Trump because you cannot talk to him. And you don’t deal with Modi either. In the end of course there is a great danger here that European political culture has become so developed that in a way it has become insular and it doesn’t relate to the rest of the world anymore. Sort of Galapagos turtles which have taken their own path of biological development and have become so specific that they cannot live outside the Galapagos. And they cannot even converse with anyone living elsewhere so I think there’s a lot of danger of this that the European political culture is becoming exceptional in the bad sense of exceptional, it’s becoming almost unable to deal with the rest of the world.
DR ANDREW FOXALL
Thank you, well plenty of questions – I didn’t quite see who was first up but I can certainly see lots of hands so let’s take you please sir
Michael Adams, just a member of the public [inaudible] develop line of thinking if you turn it on its head – as the right of power in countries like China grows, how do you see that willingness to remain in the international institution architecture in which its framed very much in Western terms.
DR BRUNO MACAES:
I don’t see that willingness anymore I think that’s how I see the Belt and Road; I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this idea. It was introduced as a development economic integration project including 70 countries across Eurasia and even outside Eurasia – certainly in East Africa. Sometimes it seems it can include every country except the United States, Canada, Japan and India. Every other country is part of the Belt and Road eventually. So it’s a challenge to define the United States very clearly. Now this project for me is really a geopolitical project, it’s really a project about creating a new world order where China is at the centre. If you want an equivalent to the Belt and Road, it’s not the marshal plan, it is something like the West. It is a certain project of shaping and organising the global order and placing China at the centre and so its not certainly about train connections between China and Europe its much bigger than that.
I think in 2013 when the idea was first announced by President Chi in two speeches – one in Indonesia, one in Kazakhstan and very significantly chosen as crucial countries for the project initial notes I think that was the moment China decided that you would both need to charge your own course and develop your institutions but also that it was able to influence and confident to take the risk so I don’t see a lot of interest in Beijing these days about reshaping the institutions. I see a lot more interest in creating alternative ones.
I agree with your several points. This point about Europe or the Western Eurasia really goes back to the 7th Century and you’ve travelled in those regions, I have, but it’s surprising how much coverage the media gives to Eurasia in particular to the Belt and Road project. I think that’s the largest project that I’ve ever seen as a developing project and it certainly in part relates to the trade routes, the geopolitical importance of it is that this area has been ignored since the first world war. And China has been the one to spot the opportunity at a time when others are totally distracted.
The amount of money being invested in that region and the involvement of the different jurisdictions in that region and the deployment of enormous resources – there’s something like 12000 geologists working in that region basically for China. And you see no coverage in the West. Rod Blight, Independent as ever.
DR BRUNO MACAES:
I think that’s entirely true, the Europe and United States have retreated from some of these dangerous places, have given up, certainly things are not going very well for the United States in its War on Terror and it’s now appetite to establish a sort of fortified presence in some of these regions but not an economic, not a cultural, not a political presence.
Let me give you an example which is not in Eurasia, but it’s very relevant and very much connected and I came back three weeks ago from Djibouti which is in a way in some respects is not an African country it’s an interesting country but certainly much more a country connected to the Arab world and to the question of Eurasia than to its African neighbours due to French colonial history. And what you see in Djibouti, but what you see also in Kazakhstan and also what you see in Pakistan. What I saw two years ago is that Western presence is limited to peacekeepers, you never see the soldiers of course, they never come out it’s not the 1950s anymore where they go have a drink in the town. The American base in Djibouti is a fulltime town, the only Starbucks in Djibouti is inside the American base and you cannot go of course. And so you never see a Westerner, you know that they are there in huge numbers like 15,000 American soldiers probably. And then the Chinese are everywhere – the plane arrives is two thirds Chinese business men, not military people, they have physical appearance not of military people but of a business man who likes to have a good dinner. They’re everywhere and then what do you hear from people in Pakistan, in Kazakhstan, in Djibouti?
The only time we hear from the West is when there’s a counterterrorism question, but we never hear when it’s about development when it’s about economic ties or even cultural ties. SO I think the West is simply left in a void that China is taking advantage of, not just economically but also culturally. I would not be surprised if even ten years now Chinese becomes, Mandarin becomes quite common among young people in Pakistan, in Uzbekistan, in Kazakhstan. It’s already happening in Uzbekistan, the schools they offer both and they seem to be equally popular English and Chinese – give it another ten years and most students will be learning Mandarin not English. So it has a deep impact, a cultural economic political. The ability that China now has to access decision makers in Pakistan is extraordinary. It doesn’t matter if the government changes it – it did recently. The whole civil service is now committed to China, so I think the influence runs already very deep in some of these regions.
Can I just add a point to that Bruno? I think Mandarin certainly is the language to be learned but they may be joining as a reserve currency with trade in [inaudible] throughout Eurasia. I think that would be the biggest change to be coming
DR BRUNO MACAES:
That’s also happening in Pakistan very quickly, the currency.
DR ANDREW FOXALL
Gentleman in the red jumper
My name’s John Lonkin, member of the public. The United Kingdom and Portugal historically were both countries which travelled with their culture to lots of distant parts of the world, is that a card which will give us some advantage in years to come?
DR BRUNO MACAES:
I think so, I think there’s some. Let me start with Portugal, there’s almost nothing Portugal in the book but Portugal is a country that always had a bit of trouble being 100% European but now in many historical periods this was considered a great failure. And by the way the last 30 years the greatest failures the Portuguese decided collectively that okay we will now show that we can be 100% Europeans in case there’s any doubt and I think we did it. But still, historically we always had great difficulty in identifying ourselves as 100% Europeans. We always were interested in the rest of the world, always very open to the rest of the world, always thought of ourselves as being very connected to Latin America to Africa. I think that’s also true in the UK that also has some difficulty in identifying itself as 100% European. Now, this for the United Kingdom was never a problem – for Portugal it was a problem of how you define yourself. I think it might be an advantage in a new Eurasian world where if you don’t identify yourself as 100% European that might be an advantage, whereas for the past 200 years it was a great problem for Portugal and for Spain.
There’s a famous sentence by Una Moono, Spanish philosopher, saying that Spain was never able to be 100% European and perhaps in a future world where Europe is not at the centre this will be an advantage. And I think it could also be an advantage for the UK in a post-Brexit world where the UK will be able to establish connections to Asia. And clearly, what I said before, that 4 of the largest economies in the world will be Asian in 2040 opens some economic opportunities for the UK. I think the book is quite relevant for Brexit and I’m giving a few interviews to the media on the relevance for Brexit because if you do think that Europe is still the end destination for mankind as a whole and that European Union offers that vision where everyone will eventually end up – then Brexit is a mistake. The question is quite philosophical I think, Brexit is a mistake and then the UK will have to come back probably on worse terms. If you think the world is going in a different direction, then Brexit opens some opportunities. Which will be difficult to manage by the way, very difficult because in the UK there’s also enormous resistance against the openness towards Asia. Takes different forms than in Brussels, but it is very powerful and I saw that in the interviews I was giving to the media that the immediate follow up question is well how about human rights – and it’s true that if the UK leaves Europe and then becomes an Evangelist for the European definition of human rights all across Asia then it will not be able to take advantage of those opportunities.
I’m not recommending that it accepts human rights violations that’s why I say it is very difficult to manage and takes a lot of political skill to do this. But it does open opportunities and in response to your question again I do think the United Kingdom was never 100% European. In part because it thinks of itself as being connected to the whole world. That’s the sort of legacy of Empire that is shares with Portugal of course.
DR ANDREW FOXALL
John Barryman, University of London, Birkbeck. Thanks very much for the talk, I enjoyed it and most of what you’re saying I would strongly agree with. Could you explain one area – Russia is a large country, it’s like piggy in the middle with a smallish population with the European 1.1 billion, China on the other so there’s been a long standing worry I think in Russia that it’s capacity to remain a self-standing pole might be challenged.
And what I’d like is to develop that in the context that it is the relative stability and failure of the Eurasian Union so far to provide a framework that would assist or evade that. And also link it to how far you think Russia views despite the talk of strategic partnership, China is something of a challenge both to itself and to central Asia where much of the Chinese Belt and Road is going to run. Thank you.
DR BRUNO MACAES:
Excellent question, it’s discussed at length in the book I think it’s one of the most important questions raised by this idea of Eurasia where does Russia fit. And decision makers in Moscow are very much concerned about this to the extent where I think every geopolitical coming from Moscow for the past 10 years has been about this. Has been about how to define Russia in this Eurasian space.
Now I see of course a turn to the East, which is civilisation in away in the sense that for the first time in its history I believe Russia is starting to be comfortable with the idea that it is not a European country For 300 – 400 years Russia was always much more interested in a square mile in European territory than a whole empire in Asia and it’s a very bizarre military and geopolitical decision throughout its history because it was under this very strong convictional prejudice that it had to find a place in Europe. I quote in the book from Dovsdoyski who says in a very interesting essay called What is Asia to Us, well Russia could have reached a deal with Napoleon and he said Europe is for you Mr Emperor and we will take Asia which would have meant being able to absorb British India and its power over Persia, eventually perhaps being able to consolidate China as well and create an empire similar to the Genghis Kahn Empire which Russia certainly had the resources to do but it was much more interested in the European question and much more interested in being seen as a European country
Now I think that has changed and Russia now, if you travel like I did for a few months last year, you see how significant this change is that the attraction now is in many other places towards China that young people have been to China, have been to Beijing show you the pictures on the cell phone they don’t show you pictures from Paris or London they show you pictures from Beijing. And especially those border areas in Siberia the influence is extraordinary as you’re living in a small Russian village that is exactly as it has been for centuries and then across the river there’s a huge Chinese city with a skyline of skyscrapers and of course Russians understand this. And what for them was always a case of backwardness is no longer a place of backwardness and Asia and China in particular has enormous attraction.
I think if we look at the past 3 or 4 years – well first we had the Ukraine crisis which I think is a mixed picture the Ukraine crisis because I think it’s an instance of what I was talking about that Russia will sacrifice a lot just to have a foot hold in Europe. And I think very much afraid of losing that foothold and being pushed over to Asia to central Asia and Ukraine for them is the bridge to Europe so in that respect it is still the old Russia concerned about Europe, but in another respect it showed how Russia was able to completely break with European security concerns and Europeans understanding and that it did that with a certain relish. So it showed that Russia no longer aspires to be part of the European community. And then we had Syria which I think it is the next step in this break, because now actually Russia is much more interested in moving into a region which never been interested in before or throughout history.
Russia was never interested in the middle east, the closest it came was Northern Persia but never in the middle east as such but now very much moving into the middle east, trying to consolidate control over energy sources across all the major production areas. Russia, the caucuses and the middle east and I’ll conclude with this – I believe China is still there in the background but what Russia learned in 2013, Ukraine happened, Russia turned to China but then they realised they had a very real weak hand to play with China. Because China had spent 20 years diversifying its list of energy sources and then it was able when negotiating gas supply with Russia was able to impose conditions worse than the ones Russia could get from Europe. And so I believed that Russia then concluded well, China was always going to be there. It’s going to be very central for us, but we have to come back and turn to China with a better hand. And I suspect they will be able to if in 5 or 10 or 15 years they have established control over energy fields in the middle east, across energy routes in Syria, pipelines, they will be able to return to the question and actually be able to face China in a position of much greater equality and not in this subordinate position that they find themselves in 2018.
It is still very difficult because China now is in a different league, extraordinary by the way if you think about what were the last 200 years Russia was the bringer of civilisation building infrastructure in the tri-Siberian. And now it’s the opposite. History does change things sometimes dramatically 180 degrees, and the relationship between China and Russia is one of these cases.
DR ANDREW FOXALL
Thank you, David Cope from but not representing Cambridge University. I haven’t read your book, apologies, but it seems that listening to a lot of you see it seems to me to have a bit of an update of Mikinders Heart in theory. I don’t know if you refer to that in the book? But perhaps more dystopian the 1984 East Asia, Eurasia and Oceania. The question you ask about Russia and its role, we must also ask the question about the other partner on the outer skirt of the world which is the United States.
Now one’s assumption would be that the United States seeing what’s important going on would do this with a certain amount of disfavour and would seem to avoid perhaps the convergence you’re talking about. Would seek to practice divide and destroy, as perhaps one might say is this kind of policy with Japan in that we overtly try to prevent any passion with Japan and China. Do you have any sympathy with that new point or do you see the United States will play a benevolent or disinterested role in the emergence of this Eurasian access, pole?
DR BRUNO MACAES:
All right this is a difficult question to answer because it brings together a number of different issues. Now I’m not going to hide that I’m sort of attracted to the magical resonance of the word Eurasia. Not being a common word it does have these lengths towards a bit of obscure and I wanted to use the word for my own purposes and I wanted by the way to give it a much more liberal meaning than it has in all its history. Because in Mykinder in Orwell the word is used with authoritarian overtones. And I wanted to say while it’s such a nice word and I think I can hijack this word and two or three years from now no one will remember the authoritarian overtones. But it is a word with kind of resonance. Now Mykinder the idea is if you control the core of the supercontinent you will be able to impose your will on the coastlines because you will have access to energy sources, you will have energy to natural resources, you will be protected from military attack.
I think some of these things are quite outdated and I don’t spend a lot of time talking about them. I was telling Andrew just before that this was always a reflection for geopolitical military strategists and I want the word to be a word that can be used in a cultural context, an economical context, a political context and not just military political strategy only. And the book is not about that. Now to some extent it remains important in the sense that well if China is able to control Central Asia it’s able to form an alliance with Russia then you could have what Mykinder was talking about. That you have an empire that has access to enormous amount of natural resources that protected from any kind of military attack. But I have to say in the book I don’t see the risk of this because I see the divisions, the contradictions being so important. Even between Russia and China I don’t see the prospect of a solid long standing strategic alliance – it’s going to be a lot of competition, a lot of rivalry between the two blocks. For me Eurasia means something different, it means the reconciliation between Europe and Asia. It doesn’t mean the centre, the vital strategic centre of the largest land mass on earth. It means a historical moment when East and West finally meet.
So it is different. The role of the United States. It is a bit puzzling in the end because geopolitical thinkers from Mykinzy they always reinforce this idea that the United States should not allow the continent to be controlled by just one power. Could have been Germany, could have been Russia, could be now China. That’s true to some extent, I don’t see a risk of that happening. But it’s also true that United States after 1981, 89, had a vision of Europe free and whole but of Eurasia free and whole. If there’s anything that United States was trying to bring about was a supercontinent where ideological differences would disappear which China and Russia would be economically integrated – so it’s not the case that United States was trying to bring about division in Eurasia, it was also trying to bring about a certain type of unity based on liberal values. And if Eurasia would have developed much more integrated without political differences that would have existed today. I think United States would have been happy with that provided it was a liberal Eurasia.
Final thought on this what will happen now? I think it’s very clear that United States will develop a rival strategy to the Belt and Road. Probably aligned with India, with Japan, with Australia. There’s even an word that is starting to be used the Indo-Pacific which is a word that in a way already means a very embryo geopolitical project to rival with the Belt and Road. Which will be more based on sea power, which will be more based on trade openers and then China will have its own rival project. So I have an essay coming up today or tomorrow called two belts, two roads suggesting that we already have two projects of Eurasian integration the Belt and Road and the Indo-Pacific let us call it that. Eurasian Economic Union very limited and then perhaps Europe will come up with its own and perhaps the UK try to bridge between some of these or even also develop its less ambitious project as well. So I do see a world where there will be rival projects or Eurasian integration and China will have to face rivals in that project.
DR ANDREW FOXALL
You Sir, please. Then I’ll come to the three that I can see.
Paul Shul, Birmingham and [inaudible]. I think that Eurasia is a fascinating word and I think it might be interesting to compare it with the paranoid idea of Eurasia. But I wonder if your analysis did enough justice to two important kinds of tension. One between Russia and China, the sort of bad marriage where you can’t really talk about it but have underlying anxieties about, demographic disparities and all that sparse territory and the nightmares of taking another wind because of nuclear increasing attrition even faster. But the other intention seems to be about Europe as a sort of threat, not military, not economically except maybe in contest with borderline.
But ideologically, it’s a source of spiritual pollution in Chinese terms. It’s a threat to unique Russian civilisation values and I think you get Russian leaders saying the trouble with the West is it threatens us in a way that other countries don’t, the Mongols didn’t really conquer but the West wants to change us psychologically. And I’m permanently, religiously and ideologically so it’s a standing critique to an authoritarian dictatorship in China.
How does that factor of danger work out in your opinion of Eurasia? Can we shut up? Can we stop doing what our cultural DNA requires us to do, but in these critiques of other people’s behaviour
DR BRUNO MACAES:
You know that scene in Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky where the Prince Nevsky meets one of his aids and the aid asks him ‘when are we going to expel the Mongols from our lands? When are we going to do justice to our ancestors and expel them from our lands?’ Nevsky not the real Nevsky but Eisenstein’s Nevsky in 1940 says we will do that but for the time being we have a much more dangerous enemy. And then the camera does a close up and he says ‘the Germans.’ And I think this is Eisenstein was very prophetic about our own times because that’s all the mind-set in the Kremlin it’s maybe China will be a danger but we have a much more pressing danger – the European Union. But also the European Union, I don’t think the reasons you point out Russia takes being in the European Union very seriously. Not as a military power but as its ability to impose its regulations.
The Russian airlines have to conform to European airlines otherwise they don’t get to fly through Europe or they’ll go bankrupt. Just an example but this sort of creeping almost invisible way that Europe has to expand which I’m not against but it’s a form of soft power which is in fact quite hard. I think Russia is very concerned about this and is for them the priority. I really am sometimes there would be a bit of a clash between Russia and China which I think would provide some balance between Eurasia. I don’t see that developing for the time being. The leaderships talk, they understand each other, they see a much greater threat in the West. It may develop in the future but not now.
But I think you’re right and I think this was pointed out by an earlier question. Russia is very much afraid of disappearing between China and Europe and as Europe expands eastwards and China expands westwards they might meet in the middle. Russian becomes in Brazinsky’s word a black hole in the middle. And they try to revert this situation which might look quite desperate into something positive if the can become a bridge between China and Europe. But the situation is really quite desperate because you have these two poles of enormous economic development – capital and technology. With which Russia has no ability to rival so they have to use other weapons of military and geostrategic and use a lot of improvisation and brilliance of different kinds because the fundamental economic forces are all in favour of Europe and China.
But let me conclude with this – when I talk about Eurasia and I never talk about the creation of an organised, peaceful, political community across Eurasia. I talk Eurasia as a place of interaction and very integrated where borders disappear but conflicts do not. If you want a historical analogy, take say Europe in the 19th Century. Everyone who was able to think seriously about politics knew that European countries were part of a larger unit where every important question was decided. But it was also of course a stage of war and competition. Many people of course consider themselves Europeans in the 19th Century. But it was not the Europe of the European Union, it was the construct of nations but also of conflict. I think it’s a good analogy for what Eurasia will be in the next century – lots of people will start to consider themselves Eurasia’s.
Everyone will be aware that the important questions are decided across the supercontinent. But that doesn’t mean that we live peacefully in Eurasian Union. It means that in some cases there will be competition but it also means that we will no longer think of Europe or Russia or China as independent units and that we understand that the influence is not so deep. We will have to get used to this world where from the past two years where Europe agonises about being influenced by China and Russia even in its elections.
This by the way was how the whole world had to live for the past 200 years. Questioning Egypt and Turkey and Pakistan did the West influence our election and now the West has to live with this it’s a bit ironic, but its historical justice, poetic justice. Now the main question in the United States and increasing in Europe and even more in Australia and New Zealand is the question of whether China and Russia were behind the election result.
DR ANDREW FOXALL
Chris Cole, I’m an independent body but I chaired the round table on the future of Hong Kong and spent a long time in China. I’ve got two quotes – one is indicative of military strategists and the other is Alexander Toukin who’s probably coming to the UK shortly. When I talk to them, it brings me back to Kazakhstan you know the saying in Kazakhstan? If you’re a realist you learn Russian, if you’re an optimist you learn English and if you’re a pessimist you learn Chinese.
But of course then you’ve got the situation that Sunny whereas you’ve got the Russian orthodox that believes in the Shia principle. Not so much the Greek and the West. And so you’ve got these dynamics of politics, Lookbeck summed it up the Chinese model is byzantine and behind that it’s either the police or the army, the government only controls about 10%. Whereas in Russia, ever since the early 90s, the army doesn’t trust politicians because it doesn’t support the trigger. So for me into this becomes economics, so when you’ve got a situation where you’ve got byzantine China, you’ve got the economics coming through, we’ve got the politics coming through which Doujin is based in traditionalism which is bottom up, which is interdependence which is what you were talking about – so how does all this come about and morph?
Because I also add that globalisation is not the only form of capitalism. Adam Smith was bottom up, he was free trade and that is a social cohesion to economic trade and economic interdependence rather than one power or the other. And for me they’re the factors to create mutual respect but you’ve got these other byzantine factors that are playing and let us not forget religion. So could you say something about those dynamics?
DR ANDREW FOXALL
We’ve only got five minutes or so left so I’ll just take the other questions now to save time. You first and then the lady at the back
My name’s Max Hast, I’m a political risk analyst for Eurasia with AK International. I have a tonne of questions but to keep it short and simple I would say what can we read into the fact that it’s not in Eurasia perhaps the country where China and Russia collaborate best together is Venezuela and it’s on the verge of collapse and the fact that when we look at Eurasia, Turkistan which is the one country where China has really the sole power almost it’s also on the verge of collapse.
DR ANDREW FOXALL
Good question. Yes, the lady at the back please.
Pamela Kember, Head of Asia House in London. I just wanted to say the word you said Eurasia to also include a cultural context which I think is really valuable to Asia House we understand that Turkey is part of Eurasia – I’m just wondering do you see disappearing relationships or cultures which are now [inaudible] or we may see a returning to these cultures and civilisations that perhaps have disappeared? Or is that not part of the ongoing platform that we think of today as Eurasia?
DR BRUNO MACAES:
I start with the last one. I do talk a little bit about it in the book and I wish I had talked about it a little more and I do in the case of Turkmenistan. I think this world is a world of really transformational change and a world where the traditional sources of power and of higher power are collapsing. It’s all very interesting reanimations of lost culture can happen. The example I give in the book is Turkmenistan where you go to Ashkhabad or other cities and you see the whole city is white built in white marble and then as you start to investigate why, you realise how this is deeply connected – the tendency is to say this is about corruption, and it is about corruption but you know corruption doesn’t explain why the building has to be white. And then as you start to investigate you realise the deep Turkman connection to the colour white. And how it has a mythological aspect and culture.
And now you have new cities built on the basis of oil and wealth that go back to ancestral values. And I think if you had the eyes open to see, you see this happening all over the world. I think it’s typical of times where people no longer have a very clear model to follow the West are a bit lost but that also gives a certain wealth of opportunity to recreate the lost cultures. I wish I could have talked more about in the book but I think you’re right about that. You’re reading the book of course doesn’t mean the post-Soviet states it means the full Soviet continent states remains very important but it is worse for them because they are lost in this transition area.
Kazakhstan I think is a fascinating country because it is truly the country that doesn’t know if it is part of the Russian world, the Asian world, of the Chines world or the European world. Don’t forget that Kazakhstan has significant part of its territory in Europe in geographical. It could apply to be a member of the European Union; it would be quite interesting if it did. I think the Kazak territory that is in Europe would be a very large European country, maybe even the size of France along those lines. So Kazakhstan is a very interesting country, also I think returning to some of its ancestral, nomadic culture. I talk about this in the book as well. So you see this sort of old strata of culture that are being uprooted and brought to the surface precisely because the world is in such upheaval. That’s my explanation of why this is happening. But it’s a wonderful element I think of our contemporary world. Where it’s almost archaeological in that sense where we redirect things that have been supressed.
Not a lot of time, let me just say a couple of things about the other two questions. So I think China had a very bad year in terms of its foreign policy and I’m a bit frustrated that all the focus is on Trump which in the end didn’t accomplish much but I don’t think he was responsible for that much damage especially if you think in terms of geostrategic and great power competition – in some respects there’s been actually a little bit of improvement I would say. I think China had a much worse year than the United States. Every country where he was actively involved was in crisis, let’s not forget about Pakistan and we don’t know what’s going to happen with Pakistan. It’s faced enormous blowback from its efforts in political and economic influence almost everywhere. Pakistan, also in Nepal, in South East Asia and then we have the case of Venezuela where China is learning that if it doesn’t have the United States to help provide stability and order things are very difficult.
I’m told by my sources in Pakistan that they were not happy about the Trump tweet where Trump said ‘It’s over with Pakistan.’ People were saying, well big win for China – I don’t think it’s a big win at all. What China would like is for the United States to be there, to provide security, to do counterterrorism, to provide some political stability, and then China would below the radar increase its political and economic influence. If United States leave Pakistan entirely then China will have to step in and it’s starting to realise that this is not easy to do and its very expensive to do.
And finally, I think I addressed a little bit of this idea that cultures are returning now perhaps this very impersonal abstract form of globalisation that we’ve had for the past 20 years is in crisis that globalisation is going to have to be rebuilt but from the bottom up as different countries, as different blocks of models. As China increases its influences, as China and Europe find a way to live together, as they somehow divide their spheres of influence in central Asia. What will Russia place in this? So globalisation is much more complicated, you build communities from the ground up and you don’t have this entirely utopian idea that you’ve had for twenty or thirty years –
Interesting robotisation enables that to happen, because ti costs the same to produce in Shanghai and Sheffield and Milwaukie.
DR BRUNO MACAES:
So therefore costs of tariff barriers, the costs of raw materials or robot brings goods to market.
DR BRUNO MACAES:
And that changes the whole gammit and it empowers for example through the supply chain the domestic economies in Africa.
DR BRUNO MACAES:
Let me finish with that because I think that’s an important point and I think it shows this idea that we can have – another reason I like the word Eurasia is that it leaves things relatively open. If you commit to something like ‘this will be the Asian Century, this will be the Chine Century’ or if Mark Lennard of the European Council Relations wrote a book in 2004 called Europe Will Rule the 21st Century it might still be true but it was one of those things that five years later sounded very strange. But if you commit to one of these views you are definitely going to be proven wrong because history works in unexpected ways and every movement in a direction creates a reaction against it.
So I think we’ve seen in 2017 that Chinese power and influence created a blowback, European expansion in 2004 – 2009 also created a blowback in Ukraine and other places from Russia. So I think it will be a balance and it will seem in some moments that one of the poles more dominant but then there will be a rebalance and there is never anything that should be taken for granted. So those narratives that all industries are going to delocalise to China immediately that created a new situation with operating in the opposite direction and I think that’s an iron law of history that every movement in a certain direction creates a rebalance and so the idea of balance for me is important and in the book its very important. Try to create a balance between all the forces that are operating and see how they can balance each other.
DR ANDREW FOXALL
Excellent time keeping I make that 2’oclock on the dot so well done indeed. I would just take the opportunity of course to say thank you Dr Macaes the book is terrific I would encourage you all to purchase a copy they are available outside I’m sure Bruno would be happy to sign them if you do. But again, thank you very much indeed for your talk.