Exclusive interview to the Indian American specialist in international relations. In 2008 he was named one of Esquire’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century”
Parag Khanna is a leading global strategy advisor, world traveler, and best-selling author. He has published many important books that have been translated into more than twenty languages. We have talked, in exclusive with him, about the most important current affairs and topics, with a view to the future, starting from his latest book, “The Future is Asian”.
In your latest book “The Future is Asian” you illustrate Asia’s growth and its increasingly important role in the world of the near future. Do you think the time has come for the emancipation from Chinese hegemony for the whole continent?
“There is no existing Chinese dominion over Asia, in a sense that there is a lot of people talking about some inevitable Chinese regional hegemony over Asia, but that is yet to be proven. It’s an hypothesis, it’s something that people talk about as if it was already a reality, but it’s not. So, we have to be clear that there is not just a global shift from unipolarity to multipolarity: there is also a shift in Asia towards multipolarity and that’s the central nature of my argument”.
Do you believe that Asia can increase its importance, acquiring a more central role in the new multipolar world?
“There is no question that, in this standing, Asia’s rise is a big part of the reason why the world is becoming more multipolar. In the first place, it’s not only the rise of China, but it’s the continued role of Japan and the rise of india, there are many factors that are driving global multipolarity. We began to talk about the return of multipolarity in the 1970s, based on the rise of Japan and the consolidation of the European Union: so, it’s something that structurally and economically predates the collapse of the Soviet Union”.
In this panorama, what can be the role of the European Union, called to decide on its future and on what it wants to become, mired between internal contrasts and a process of a greater integration of the institutions?
“The European Union is already playing a substantial part in the global system, developing and nurturing their own position, becoming more independent of the United States, playing a greater role in the world economy, in terms of trade and reserves. UE is providing more than a single role: stabilising peripheral regions if it can, absorbing the migrants as it is and as a leading investor and creditor to many regions. Therefore, I think the question you’re asking me is whether Europe’s playing its role on the world stage together, as a singular entity, or it’s doing it as the sum total of national powers. And the answer is both”.
Can the wave of populism and sovereignty that is invading the continent hinder or slow the growth of the European Union?
“It depends, I think that there are issues where national sovereignty has always been central to Europe’a action, and obviously migration has been one of them. There has been a trend towards free mobility for Europeans in Europe, but there has never been a cohesive migration policy for non Europeans in Europe and that is still the case. The biggest question is whether Europe can move from a monetary union to also having a banking and fiscal union, and whether it can have a more diplomatic and military union. And these are the most significant indicators among we can measure whether Europe is becoming together. I think that progress will be incremental, or not happen at all in some of these areas, but I think that it will materialize”.
Will Brexit represent an obstacle for this aggregation process in the EU?
“I don’t think that Great Britain has ever considered itself as part of this deep institutional integration of the monetary fiscal banking union. It has always considered itself, as first and foremost, an independent power, so the fact that the UK plans to leave the EU is not, in many ways a big loss. It appears to be just statistical loss, in a sense that the European Union is losing a statistical amount of GDP attributed to its collected membership; but obviously, by trading, selling and investing with the EU, Britain remains interdependent with them in many ways.
But also from a geopolitical standpoint, many forms, if not all, of the security cooperation between the UK and the EU will continue. I think that the actual membership in the European Union is something that is a bit overload and certainly does more damage to the UK then to Europe and probably, in the end, will make London less important then it used to, be because many of the resources and technical institutions, like trade, that were offshore to the United Kingdom will be restored to the EU. This will certainly push Europe towards integration, because in many ways the Great Britain was trying to hinder that process”.
In the United States there’s a lot of talk about the next presidential election of 2020: which future do you see for the country, after Donald Trump?
“We don’t know if we are entering in a period after Trump because we don’t know what will happen in the election. At this point, it’s probably safe to say that he will be re-elected, but this could change tomorrow if he is impeached or something like that. I think the issue is Trumpism rather then Trump, or rather than partisanship, as it predates Donald Trump. Will we still have a hyper-partisan federal political system in the US, dominated by two parties with insufficient reform of the electoral college and campaign finance regulation and other features that hinder and are creating a sort of national consense?
The real question is: can the United States have national consensus on immigration, climate change or foreign policy or infrastructure of healthcare? These are the 5 most important topics. Can the us have a national consensus on these issues, after the next elections, regardless of who is the president? The answer is no, because, even if you do have a Democrat elected as president and it could be that a positive step towards consensus, but then you need action, and action takes a long time to implement in a very large country. So, I think that for the foreseeable future many other countries, regions and powers will continue to hedge the US role and to focus on building their own capabilities and other alliances and partnership, rather than depending on the US. And, again, this a process that has been underway for about 20 years”.
Which part can play Africa in the multipolar world that you are describing?
“Africa is not particularly relevant: it’s a resource providing continent. Africa is a net recipient: it provides resources for the world, but it receives more then it gives in terms of investment and so on; it’s still a good importer, even if receives a lot of goods. Africa will not be a leader, also because it won’t be an industrial leader: it provides resources or services, mostly commodities, and it will never industrialise, because of the pace of labour automation through technology. The Asian countries were able to use low cost labour to industrialist, draw investment and become great powers, but that cycle is disrupted for Africa because none will move their manufacturing to Africa because it’s much cheaper to have robots doing it. This global cycle of using a young population as a labour force in order to industrialise and modernise has worked in different environments, but it’s something of a circuit that moves around from low cost region to low cost region. And when one region becomes expensive, the supply changes to other low cost regions: but that circuit doesn’t involve Africa, because of automation. You can blame robots for stagnating the African industrialisation”.
What was your opinion on the Russiagate and the Russian funds received by Lega party in Italy? Do you believe there may be a real danger that Putin will influence the elections, in Europe and in the US?
“To be honest, I appreciate that there is an interference and a meddling in general from the weaponisation of the social media during elections. However, I think that people have been too quick with charging Russia with Trump’s victory. When they asked me how did this could happen, my answer is not Facebook, my answer is not Russia: my answer is that the United States haven’t had significant trade adjustment assistance for 45 years and their degree of frustration and marginalisation is very high. The origin of the fail policy to compensate technological innovation and outsourcing, those failures go back to 1960s actually! It’s very easy to blame outsiders, which is something Europeans and Americans are very good at, but it doesn’t mean its true”.