|Kishore Mahbubani, Bill Emmott Debate the Geopolitical Competence of Asia and Europe
|by Natalia Olynec
Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the LKY School, and Bill Emmott, former editor of The Economist, challenged one another in a debate on the theme “Asia versus Europe: which region is more geopolitically incompetent?”
In the debate held at the LKY School, Mahbubani elaborated on the themes he also described in his latest book, The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East. He argued that the European Union has failed to import peace and modernity to its neighbours, to adopt policies that are independent of the US, and to find an effective strategy that takes into account the rise of Asia.
Emmott, who is an independent writer, speaker, and consultant, argued that the European Union has helped its neighbours develop stability and prosperity, and has a model of sovereignty pooling and “soft power” that is becoming increasingly influential. Emmott’s latest book is Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India, and Japan, will Shape Our Next Decade.
In particular, Emmott argued that the EU has shared its prosperity and peace with Central and Eastern Europe as it expanded it borders and influenced other countries to adopt policies that would help them qualify for membership. He also predicted that Turkey, Europe’s Islamic neighbour, will join the EU in the next ten years or so.
“We keep redefining who the neighbours are by moving the garden fence,” he said.
“We keep sharing by bringing them inside the garden.”
|We keep redefining who the neighbours are by moving the garden fence
Former Editor in Chief,
He conceded, however, that Europe failed to ensure peace in the Balkan War. However, he pointed out that Asia also doesn’t have a good record in managing regional conflicts and civil wars such as those in Sri Lanka, Aceh, East Timor, and the conflict between Pakistan and India.
Regarding Europe’s relationship with the US, Emmott argued that Europeans share about 80 percent of their interest with the US and pointed out that Asia relies on America for security and bilateral alliances.
Emmott said that Europe has “renounced its heavy-handed approach” in international relations that was common in the early 20th century and replaced it with a softer form of diplomacy.
“EU geopolitical competence is shown by the fact that this is a club people want to join,” Emmott said. “Asia doesn’t exist as a geopolitical entity. There is no Asian collective position.”
For his part, Mahbubani agreed that the European Union has “reached the peak of human civilisation” by the fact that there is “zero prospect” of war among its members. It offers the “gold standard” for regional cooperation, he said.
On the other hand, Mahbubani said he is pessimistic about the future of Europe and argued that the region has lost its capacity to think strategically about the future.
“At a time when the world is changing rapidly, when we are seeing the greatest shifts of power in human history, we need to work hard to create a stable world order,” Mahbubani said. “We should all be focused on global geopolitical stability.
The best minds in Europe are too busy talking amongst themselves about internal European issues. This will damage both Europe and the world.”
He argued that the EU is creating “long-term insecurity at its borders,” and especially in North Africa, by not exporting peace and prosperity to this region. He said European policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy undermine African economies.
“When you have subsidies, you create poverty in Africa,” Mahbubani said.
He called for Europe to develop a better relationship with the Islamic world and to push for a two-state solution to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel.
This would “get rid of the prime source of anger in the Islamic world,” he said.
The debate was followed by a lively question and answer session with the audience, which included senior diplomats, journalists, scholars and students.