Great Britain once used to regard itself as the centre of the world.
Here ,too, the Chinese people used to regard themselves as the centre of the world – The Middle Kingdom.
Today, some Americans think Washington is the world centre – the new Rome.
We are all wrong. Thanks to the global information revolution the world is now a network, not a collection of countries with some at the top and the centre and others on the fringes. Networks may have key junctions and linkages. But today there is no single ,top-dog nation, no superior power than can claim world leadership by right. In this new landscape we are all interconnected, and all reliant on each other.
The great cities of China are now just as much part of this new global network as the cities of Europe, or America, or Africa or the other vast cities of Asia. That is what globalisation has brought about.
In this new international landscape size, whether economic or military, no longer automatically equals power. The miniaturisation of weapons technology, and the rise of non-state players, means that huge military spending no longer guarantees dominance. The asymmetry of warfare has changed the power balance radically.
Meanwhile the world wide web has created a new force challenging government power everywhere. Over a billion people now access the internet, while the shift of economic power from the West to Asia has created a new global balance and a new kind of capitalism – which we have not yet fully understood. It is neither unrestrained market capitalism, nor dominant state socialism.
The Consequences of these changes are immense.
First we can see that they have put an end to both American and Western hegemony in world affairs. The West dominated model of 1945 is no longer valid. And America’s so-called unipolar moment has now passed into history.
Instead it is now seen that nobody can ‘go it alone’. Responsibility has to be SHARED for tackling the new priority global tasks . No-one can now duck out.
I refer to the restoration of financial stability, the climate challenge, energy security, defeating protectionism, checking nuclear proliferation, curbing terrorist extremism, upholding good governance everywhere.
These are global duties which ALL governments have to address – and not only governments. The networking of global contacts means that sub-government, non-governmental and informal dialogues become part of the international process. The Micro-chip has disaggregated and atomised the whole fabric of international relations .
How do we move forward in this new and different landscape?.
Perhaps the current economic downturn, from which no economy in the world has escaped, might actually help here, and become a BLESSING IN DISGUISE .
We have reached the point where almost all the global institutions of the twentieth century, both economic and political, are in need of repair or replacement by new ones.
Look at the list: The UN Security Council membership is out of date. So is the structure of the IMF. The WTO is struggling. The Nuclear Proliferation treaty needs revising. In the West, NATO is losing its way and even the EU, designed for a previous age, urgently needs reform and redirection.
Meanwhile, new global structures are struggling to be born. The G-20 is emerging as a key force, overshadowing the old G-8. There is talk of a new Bretton Woods to strengthen international financial regulation. Groups like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are assuming new weight and significance. The Commonwealth network (the successor to the old British Commonwealth) now covers two billion people and contains within it $3 trillions of annual intra-Commonwealth trade. It is assuming new global significance in this age of soft power, , and I can tell you that the next British Government will give an expanded and strengthened Commonwealth a far more central role in UK foreign policy.
We also need a new pattern of international energy governance as the global energy transition gets under way. The present pattern, with its world scramble for oil and gas and coal, its debates about new technologies, such as nuclear power, and its fruitless international arguments as to whose responsibility it is to curb greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, is getting us nowhere.
Finally let me share with you our British hopes for UK-China relations in this new Landscape. I quote from the words of David Cameron, who is likely to be Britain’s next Prime Minister.
“As China’s star rises again, so does China’s stake in preserving global stability, security and prosperity. This is a question of self-interest. China
is the world’s third biggest oil importer and the holder of the world’s biggest dollar reserves. China, as a growing international investor, has a direct interest in good governance especially in Africa.
We must resolve Middle Eastern, Iranian and North Korean dangers