Whilst looking at how global post-2016 realities beget the need for a new, human-oriented development paradigm, Vladimir Yakunin incorporates concepts of unity in diversity, interdependence, and ‘infrastructuralism’, arguing that alternatives to current models of technocratic development are already familiar within the ‘co-working’ seen in cross-border initiatives such as OBOR and RAZVITIE.
Dialogue of Civilisations
In order to find a platform for a new way of thinking and to accumulate both material and intellectual resources, last year the members of the World Public Forum ‘Dialogue of Civilizations’ (WPF), successfully launched a new think tank in Berlin called the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute.
Prior to that, some very important conclusions and several very significant predictions had been drawn, which were then established as a basis for the Institute:
- Firstly, the WPF was among the first groups to predict the world economic system’s degradation and instability, which caused the crisis of 2007.
- Secondly, there was the diagnosis of the crisis as a systemic crisis.
- Thirdly, the conclusion that the neo-liberal globalisation model had turned into the ideology of globalism.
- Fourthly, the conclusion that the ultimate effects of the contemporary model of globalisation will inevitably bring the world to even greater inequality and aggressive domination by the United States and Western world, and will also make a major global conflict more possible.
- Fifthly, and most importantly, the dehumanisation of human society and human beings has become clear. The attempt to shape the entire world as a world dominated by Western values while ignoring the diversity of the world’s peoples as an integral phenomenon of civilisations will eventually cause a real clash of civilisations.
The only alternative to this scenario is a comprehensive dialogue between civilisations. At the DOC Research Institute, with its rich expertise and history inherited from the WPF, research will be concentrated on the following pressing topics: East and West: Bridging the Postmodern Identity Gap; Civilisations against the Threat of Social Barbarism; Life Space for Humanity: Protecting the Humane in Human Beings; Infrastructure as the Backbone of Global Inclusive Development; Policies, Institutions, and Progress for Global Inclusive Development; and The Economics of Post-Modernity: When Conventional Models Fail.
This paper addresses a number of these topics as I examine the challenges that Russia and China, as well as many other countries, now face in attempting to build a just world based on the principle of dialogue. Latterly, I will explore possible ways to overcome these challenges.
A New Development Paradigm for the World
As we seek ideas for a New Development Paradigm for the World after 2016, we can consider that it is no secret that the world as we have known it for the last several decades is rapidly changing. Last year, Brookings Institute experts described it in these terms, obviously with a tinge of regret: “The election of Donald Trump demands a re-evaluation of the future of globalization and our earlier optimism that the open global economic order will endure”.
It is no secret that the world as we have known it for the last several decades is rapidly changing.
Indeed, old paradigms have been eroding rapidly, and the pace of change intensified greatly in 2016. A number of recent political developments, including the decision by the UK to withdraw from the European Union and the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency—both of which were unexpected for the elites—have come as an unpleasant shock to those who cherished the hope that the world described by Francis Fukuyama would endure forever. These events have shown that the people at the very heart of the neoliberal world order have begun to question ideas that, until recently, they had considered universal and immutable. In reality, the former World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz spoke long ago about the general ineffectiveness and harmful nature of the so-called Washington Consensus that has been governing globalisation processes. Stiglitz insisted that “Its recipes were neither necessary nor sufficient for successful growth, though each of its policies made sense for particular countries at particular times”. Finally, this year he declared that the Washington Consensus had come to an end.
It seems logical that the new consensus be based upon an inclusive, mutually advantageous development model rather than the unipolar, homogeneous concept that has prevailed until now.
It might have been far too early to appreciate his predictions fully at the end of the twentieth century, but the tectonic shifts in world politics that took place in 2016 and the serious blow they dealt to the globalist agenda showed clearly that the time for fresh ideas and models had finally come. As the world becomes increasingly segmented, there is a growing need for new principles, methods, and objectives for global development that most members of the international community find acceptable and beneficial. Considering the emergence of several new global centres of economic and political activity and the rapid development and successful implementation of various regional and inter-regional integration projects such as ASEAN and BRICS, it seems logical that the new consensus be based upon an inclusive, mutually advantageous development model rather than the unipolar, homogeneous concept that has prevailed until now. These are the basic principles, the underlying philosophy, the successful examples, the prospective projects, and, most importantly, the overall objectives that could form the substance of such a new global development model.
A Human-Oriented Development Model
Many conferences take place around the world where scholars, businessmen, and politicians discuss political, economic, and social issues. Issues such as GDP percentage, tempo of growth, markets, and other things are discussed, but is the real reason for fostering economic growth, apart from just assessing figures, ever really considered? To quote John Maynard Keynes and his article, Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren, published in 1930, “Three hours’ shifts or a fifteen hours’ week may put off the problem for a great while. There are changes in other spheres which we must expect to come… there will be great changes in the code of morals… The love of money as a possession will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morality, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialist in mental disease”.
After 87 years, the question is: “Have we shifted closer to this prediction?” NO?! Another question is: “What represents the humane in a human being and what does it change in the course of global economic development?” According to Keynes, one of the major causes of the ongoing crisis regarding the current Western-style development model is its implicit immorality.
The immorality to which Keynes referred is still very much present. It is seen in the accumulation of wealth by large transnational corporations, the financial oligarchy, and the global elite for whom the current economic model was crafted. In the process, the interests of the common people have been ignored or even sacrificed. As a result, ordinary people must still work much more than the three hours per day that Keynes envisioned.
However, this obsession with the accumulation of wealth—which is essentially unrestrained GDP growth—poses a far greater danger to humanity than long working hours. The problem is that in order to pursue this purely economic goal on a broader scale, it is necessary to continually maximise the size of the market. This in turn necessitates the elimination of all borders between civilisations, and thus cultural differences as well, treating them as irritating obstacles to the expansion of free trade and the enlargement of common markets. The architects of this delusional planet-sized marketplace tend to overlook the fact that national borders provide people with distinct cultural identities, behavioural patterns, and strategies for living that preserve what is actually humane in humans—and the fact that we all need to cherish them. Perhaps the architects of that model fail to appreciate this dimension of human life because they view people as resources rather than as living beings, and treat sovereign countries as markets rather than as living entities. The problems that the EU is struggling with today are a good example of the dire consequences of this implicit faith in a borderless world.
This obsession with the accumulation of wealth—which is essentially unrestrained GDP growth—poses a far greater danger to humanity than long working hours.
I believe, rather, that this rapidly-shifting international agenda and the growing rejection of this type of uniform development by the common people across the globe will soon give rise to a concept of unity in diversity that can be realised through an intensive dialogue between interdependent—yet independent—cultural and political entities. As former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan once stated; “This [globalization] should not be seen as a future of world government or the eclipse of nation-states. On the contrary, states will draw strength from each other by acting together within the framework of common institutions based on shared rules and values”. Unity in diversity and the willingness to engage in dialogue are indeed approaches that can overcome the dichotomy between the benefits of global free trade and the need for borders as cultural and civilisational markers. First introduced at the United Nations by former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, the idea of a dialogue between civilisations involves interaction between the internal and external in the human being through the process of speaking and listening to others. By recognising ‘the other’ and the legitimacy of his or her interests, we can learn once again that all cultures of the world must be constantly nurtured and treated equally, and that the interests of the various states that represent the needs of those cultures must be fully respected. Only in this way can we rediscover a new common ground that would enable the nations of the world to live in harmony.
Russia, China, and India
States will draw strength from each other by acting together within the framework of common institutions based on shared rules and values.
In fact, Russia and China can learn much from each other in this regard while also contributing to global development. Both countries have long political and cultural traditions of successfully melding different and often opposing cultures into harmonious societies. This experience, if shared and combined, constitutes a truly precious reservoir of knowledge that could prove useful to the world at a time when old models and dogmas are losing their authority and the need for new ideas is greater than ever. In fact, these concepts are entirely open-ended: we are ready to develop common values with everyone who shares their spirit. Our Indian partners are an excellent example. As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in describing the ethos of India’s chairmanship of BRICS in 2016, they advocate “building responsive, inclusive and collective solutions”.
Infrastructure as a Backbone of Globally Inclusive Development
Development is not tantamount to growth
In order to avoid possible confusion, I would like to stress an important point: development is not tantamount to growth. Rather, development is a comprehensive operator, within the framework of which, growth occurs. Development does not cancel out growth, but sets requirements for its spiritual, moral, and qualitative dimensions. Not all types of growth are, in fact, good. As Edward Abbey stated, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell”. In this context, only development that includes but is not defined by growth can be considered a positive value. A healthy alternative to the dehumanised approach to globalism described earlier is the concept of ‘co-working for the sake of solidarity-based development’. Such development strives for the all-round wellbeing and personal development of all people on the planet regardless of their position or role within the social and economic hierarchy, and the gradual but steady raising of the living standards and self-awareness of all nations. If national and cultural borders manage to retain their significance, this global infrastructure—in the broadest sense of the term—could become a legitimate basis for an intrinsically humanist pattern of development. Belts of transcontinental development linking various nation-states (each of them retaining their unique cultural and political identities) in a web of interconnected co-workers would effectively build a new type of unity—not a uniformly grey global mass market, but a multifaceted, colourful community of unified peoples. It is very possible that the concept of infrastructure development will eventually evolve into a new ideology of infrastructuralism that transcends the dichotomies of ‘common versus different’ and ‘central versus peripheral’ and will provide the basis for building a new, just, and successful world. In what follows, I will focus on the historical premises, guiding principles, and general concept of infrastructuralism as an alternative to the current models of technocratic development.
Co-working in Eurasia: Belt and Road, RAZVITIE, and the China-Russia-Mongolia Economic Corridor
If national and cultural borders manage to retain their significance, this global infrastructure—in the broadest sense of the term—could become a legitimate basis for an intrinsically humanist pattern of development.
In fact, the principles outlined earlier may sound quite familiar to all of you since they appear perfectly consistent with those upon which the Belt and Road Initiative is being built. As the opening chapters of the project’s roadmap, titled Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, states: “The initiative to jointly build the Belt and Road, embracing the trend towards a multipolar world, economic globalization, cultural diversity and greater IT application, is designed to uphold the global free trade regime and the open world economy in the spirit of open regional cooperation. Reflecting the common ideals and pursuit of human societies, it is a positive endeavour to seek new models of international cooperation and global governance, and will inject new positive energy into world peace and development”.
No wonder that this grand geopolitical megaproject from China is often seen as an alternative globalisation model; its distinctive features include respect for the cultural and political differences of all of its presumed participants.
This project’s global mission is to tie together independent nation-states by creating comprehensive belts of development and building a harmonious community sharing a common destiny. That objective gains added impetus from the underlying principle of equal representation for all participants at all stages of the initiative’s implementation. It is no secret that the Belt and Road ideas have been enthusiastically received throughout the world, including in all post-Soviet countries. “More than 100 countries and international organizations have joined the initiative and over 40 of them have cooperation agreements with China”, Wang Guoqing, spokesman for the fifth session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said recently.
The new model of globalisation that China is promoting is indeed generating increasing support across the globe.
The new model of globalisation that China is promoting is indeed generating increasing support across the globe. This model is proving to be truly effective because it emphasises the importance of cultural differences and implicitly acknowledges the crucial role that nation-states and their policies play in its implementation. Russia and the Central Asian states find this model particularly appealing for its basic principles of holding wide consultations, welcoming joint contributions, and offering shared benefits. These principles, to which China so rigorously adheres, imply profound respect for the cultural and political peculiarities of each country, regardless of their size or share in the world economy. I am confident that Russian and Chinese scholars and policy-makers will take interest an objective analysis of the Belt and Road’s prospects in post-Soviet countries because the overall success of China’s geopolitical initiative will largely depend on how all of the potential participants respond.
TPP and RAZVITIE
Despite a significant decrease in the urgency of the TPP now that the United States has withdrawn from the initiative, challenges remain for finding ways to couple the Belt and Road initiative with the Russian policy of integration efforts in Asia that would avoid a clash of conflicting interests.
In my understanding, this is only possible if both global projects are based on the ideology of infrastructuralism—that is, if they strive to increase the living standards of the common people of the region rather than to merely boost economic indexes or generate benefits for transnational corporations.
RAZVITIE would establish belts of integral infrastructure development across vast territories of Siberia and the Far East. This would lead to the emergence of a new socio-cultural lifestyle and improve working and living conditions in those regions, and eventually create new opportunities for the personal development of the people in those regions and beyond. The close collaboration with neighbouring nations that implementing the project entails fully aligns with the principles outlined in the Belt and Road Initiative in general, and those embodied in the China-Russia-Mongolia Economic Corridor in particular. The leaders of China, Russia, and Mongolia signed the development plan for that project during a meeting at last year’s Tashkent SCO summit, and ever since, the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute has played an active role in its implementation.
 Whatever its original content and intent, the term Washington Consensus, in the minds of most people around the world, has come to refer to development strategies focusing around privatisation, liberalisation, and macro-stability (meaning mostly price stability); a set of policies predicated upon a strong faith—stronger than warranted—in unfettered markets and aimed at reducing, or even minimising, the role of government. (J.E. Stiglitz. The Post-Washington Consensus).