The world in 2020, according to Mark Leonard.
Mark Leonard has published another work that extends his analysis of Europe’s significance in a future world that he sees as likely to continue to be divided between broadly ‘democratic’ and broadly ‘autocratic’ countries (Divided World: The struggle for primacy in 2020, Centre for European Reform, 2007). Leonard is interested in ‘current policy’, that of Europe in particular, rather than in ‘futurology’. What does he say? Is his image of international action in a world made up of new and powerful economies helpful?
According to Leonard, we are not experiencing the end of history and the triumph of liberal democracy. Ideology is back with a basic split developing between ‘democratic’ and ‘autocratic’ countries. The move is from a single polar world based on the United States to a ‘quadripolar’ world. This world will be one of extreme international competition (in terms of economics and of power) but will be bound up together as a result of continued globalization. In this envisaged future, the United States (and no doubt India), will be seeking democracy as the international norm. China and Russia, together are likely to be seeking to ‘use international law to protect autocracies from external interference’. The European Union (EU), will favor democracy and the further development of international law and ‘multilateral institutions’. The Middle East will be a ‘faith zone’, lacking in democratic practices. By 2020 the significant world economic powers will be China, India, the United States and the EU. Brazil will only emerge as globally significant if Latin America becomes better integrated economically and politically and Russia will have an economy of roughly the size of France. In such a world there will be fierce competition for natural resources and for establishing predictable (stable) supply-chains. Key international political issues will be climate change, water shortages and large-scale population movements.
Leonard looks at each of the four components of this imagined 2020 world in turn, suggesting the kind of international policies that will emerge up and through that time from each of the parts. For the Americans, national democracies are, Leonard holds, drawing upon Kagan and Fukuyama, of greater significance than international institutions. US policy is based on the notion of spreading democracy and balancing power (e.g. key allies such as India, Australia and Japan acting to balance China in Asia and the Pacific). Europe now has its own ambitions and in the future world will be acting even more independently. The EU favors international institutions and international law. What the EU will wish for in Asia is economic integration between China and its neighbors. Russia and China will continue to support the international order more or less as it stands and will be acting in the world as it develops towards 2020 as ‘status quo powers’. China will tackle the reform issue as it grows economically but the reforms will be about maintaining the position of the Party rather than about ushering in a liberal democratic order. Russia will favor ‘leadership and stability’ over ‘democratic participation’. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (see an earlier guest web-log by David Wall) will be China’s preferred mechanism for regional security and for stabilizing Central Asia. China and Russia’s policy of ‘non-interference’ has already proven popular with some countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The EU will continue, according to Leonard, to attempt to ‘pool’ sovereignty through international institutional development as witnessed by the Kyoto treaty and the International Criminal Court. The European attachment to the legitimacy of the United Nations could be exploited by Russia and China.
Leonard acknowledges that the future of the Middle-East is hard to predict. A possible ideological battle is between mainstream Islam and radical Islam. Either way the regional will experience severe economic problems by 2020. Depressingly perhaps Leonard predicts that it will remain a ‘playground for great power politics’ with China’s interests and involvement there rising. China’s ‘status quo’ interests (state sovereignty and integrity) will probably find some support in the region as a means of counter-acting American activities. China and Russia will seek to continue to use the UN as a means of constraining American power.
A main point of the exercise is for Leonard to reach policy prescriptions for Europe. It has a number of advantages in that it is the leading regional model; the international institutions that the EU has promoted are successful and attractive; it will develop its economic and military power; it will continue to act as a ‘transformative power’. The EU will need to develop clear thinking on international institutions including its attitude to regional institutions such as the African Union.
By basing his argument on economic predictions from an impeccable source (the Economist Intelligence Unit) he has as secure a basis as any for the rank ordering of future economies and regional groupings. The picture that he paints is based on very broad brush strokes. This is both its strength and weakness. The strength comes from the simplicity of the arrangement of the elements of the ‘quadripolar world’ and from the identification of a few key motivating factors for each of the areas under consideration (including the rise of ‘soft power’ from sources other than the United States). The text is clear and the pace is vigorous. The weakness is that whilst there are interesting mini-episodes with more detailed scenarios or information (such as on the ‘Beijing consensus’) the future scoping does not cover significantly ‘what ifs’ such as the collapse of Communist Party power in China or the political significance in domestic and international policy terms of the popular and growing awareness in the United States of global warming and of its global and local implications. Consideration of actions, reactions and interactions are necessary limited. There is a place for broad-brush analysis. This pamphlet gives useful ways of looking at the more distant future as a means of asking questions about policies and their consequences in the present and nearer future. It pursues its own questions and will prompt others. I can see this being usefully read and used in a number of contexts including undergraduate teaching or in local foreign policy discussion groups and other such forums where ideas matter.