The panel discussed the topic raised by the day’s previous sessions, and where the main turning points for global order were emerging.
In looking at the approach of the United States under the Trump administration, it was pointed out that in some regions, like the Middle East, Trump’s more transactional approach was received as more honest than the Obama administration and previous presidencies, whose words were often not backed up by action.
It was broadly agreed that the US stays relevant because of its security contribution, but in economic terms, the contrast is with China, which is felt to have less of an interest in trying to export its way of life. As some of the economic anxiety in Western countries can be drawn to the rise of China and other newly industrialized countries, the relationship and interplay between China and the US is inescapable.
There was some discussion over the future viability of the nation-state, but many of the talks throughout the day seemed to reveal the enduring resilience of the nation-state – Iraq was a prominent example, where state collapse has been predicted often but has not come to pass.
Discussion of the Middle East also highlighted the contest of ideas taking place in the region beyond the military contest against ISIS.
Finally, technology – and the difficulty of predicting its societal effects – was a major theme. Most acknowledged technological changes as one of the most important factors shaping the future of the world – but knowing how that will manifest is much less clear.
‘No one has the secret formula or the monopoly over the model [of governance] that is foolproof. We have seen in recent years the very fundamental problems with the Western model… On the other hand, you have Asian societies with other models, who would be well advised not to gloat, because every model will have a particular context and particular weak spots. The trick for governance is to identify and deal with those weak spots before they become big problems.’
Joseph Chin Yong Liow
‘In spite of this very grand rhetoric about One Belt, One Road, there is no master plan somewhere. It’s more an ideology, and it’s going to be a learning curve for China on how they apply that.’
‘Iraq for the longest time has just been waiting for aid. Now the conversation is changing to trade… The more we have trade, the more you will see Iraq strengthen.’
‘Our future prosperity entirely depends on our embrace on technology. China invests massively in AI, it leads in the production of electric vehicles, China has strength in solar panels… this is where we feel the competitive pressure [in Europe]. Which is good because we need to up our game in many ways.’
‘Globalization and international trade creates wealth. It does not promise to distribute that wealth and it should not be expected to. Distribution of wealth is a governance and policy issue. We shouldn’t confuse the two. The sooner the Trump administration learns that, the better for them.’
Joseph Chin Yong Liow
‘I think we have a choice between a society that celebrates diversity and has a certain code of conduct, and a polarized society. The jury is out which model will prevail… but this is the choice that needs to be made.’