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Over the past year, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia has generated serious fissures in political, economic, and security systems that represent growing threats to global stability and also raise further questions. Does this conflict represent a battle between globalist and nationalist factions? Will its fallout eventually lead to an Asian conflict involving China? What role do the media play in influencing public opinion on such matters? Do the electorate still have the power to sway increasingly authoritarian governments away from military escalation? We invite scholars from a variety of backgrounds to explore these, and other, questions with us at our 4th conference at Thammasat University in the historic and beautiful city of Bangkok.

Plenary speakers

Richard Sakwa

Emeritus Professor of Russian and European Politics, University of Kent.

The Political West Faces the Political East: Dynamics and Disruptions

The Political West was created during and shaped by the Cold War in the decades after 1945. When the Cold War end in 1989 it was assumed that the structures, practices and institutions associated with it (notably NATO) would also dissolve, and thus generate new practices of positive peace. Instead, the Political West assumed the position of victor. Its practices and ideology radicalised and expanded, claiming a certain universality, thus regenerating the negative peace characteristic of a cold war. This led to the onset of Cold War II in 2014, followed in short order by hot war in Ukraine. The Political West, however, is only a particular and temporally bound version of the West in general. There is also the Cultural West, with its roots reaching back to antiquity and today still produces art that examines the human condition. Russia is by entitlement part of this Cultural West, and over the last millennium has contributed much to it. There is also the Civilisational West, which has taken shape over the last 500 years. Since the early modern period in Europe this has been the age of imperialism and colonialism, but has also seen the flourishing of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Russia has always had an ambivalent relationship with this West, repeatedly finding itself lagging in terms of the model of modernity it has devised as well as equivocal about its values. Post-communist Russia engaged fully with the Cultural West, but became increasingly alienated from the Civilisational West, while in the end its relationship with the Political West has become outright hostile. Over the last decade Russia has taken the lead in shaping a Greater Eurasia, as well as contributing to the development of a broader Political East that offers an alternative model of modernity while seeking to defend the Charter international system created in 1945.

Glenn Diesen

Professor, Department of Economics, History and Social Sciences, University of South-Eastern Norway.

Towards a Eurasian World Order

The Peace of Westphalia laid the foundation for the world order in which sovereign states balance each other, which also informed international law in accordance with the UN Charter. The Westphalian world order was challenged following the collapse of the Soviet Union as the collective West under US leadership emerged as a global hegemon. The West professed the intention of transcending realism in the international system through liberal hegemony. Subsequently, sovereign equality under international law was gradually replaced with sovereign inequality under the so-called “rules-based international order”. Three decades later, the international distribution of power and legitimacy for liberal hegemony has withered.

China, Russia, India, and other powers on the Eurasian supercontinent have been at the front of a wider international rejection of liberal hegemony and laying the foundation for a Eurasian world order. A new geoeconomic architecture is constructed with greater Eurasian control over strategic industries, transportation corridors, and financial instruments. A multipolar Eurasia emerges due to the systemic incentives to develop a “balance of dependence”, an international political economy consistent with the assumptions of the balance of power logic in political realism. A Chinese hegemon is therefore unlikely to emerge due to the systemic incentives of Eurasian states to establish various formats for economic connectivity to avoid excessive dependence on any one state or region. The multipolar Eurasian geoeconomic architecture, based on the balance of dependence, incentivises the strengthening of the Westphalian order and the UN Charter. Although, in the “return” to the Westphalian order the non-Western states are asserting their role as leading subjects and not objects.

Featured speaker

Rachael Rudolph

Assistant Professor and Researcher, Beijing Institute of Technology, Zhuhai.

The Sahel: A Western Retreat or the Start of a New Geopolitical Game? A Study of African media coverage following the formal end of Operation Barkhane and release of the White House’s Sub-Saharan Strategy in 2022

On February 17, 2022, France and allied partners formally announced they were withdrawing troops from Mali following a breakdown in relations with the government and growing anti-French sentiment among the population. Nine months later, the French president announced the end of Operation Barkhane, a nine-year anti-jihadist insurgency. Since then, many countries have withdrawn their troops from the UN’s Mali mission. Mali has since increased its military, security, and intelligence cooperation with Russia.

Throughout the nine-year anti-jihadist operation, the U.S. provided significant logistical and intelligence support to France, trained the region’s militaries, and carried out a range of operations. Critics posited that it enabled France’s “dead-end” Sahel counterterrorism policies and limited the role of locally-driven initiatives. They called for a new U.S. Sahel Strategy; a new strategy is expected to be released before the end of 2022.

The U.S. Sahel Strategy is unlikely to deviate far from the U.S. Sub-Saharan African Strategy released in August 2022. In the strategy, the four stated objectives include fostering openness and open societies; delivering democratic and security dividends; advancing pandemic recovering and economic recovery; and supporting green energy initiatives and transitions. Though concerns have been expressed over some of these objectives, it has been the references to Chinese and Russian activities and the U.S. intent to engage the region more proactively in order to “counter growing foreign activity and influence” that have the population and governments on edge.

This study examines African media coverage of geopolitical competition between the West, Russia, and China leading up to and after the release of U.S. Sub-Saharan Africa strategy to better understand the nuanced framing of competition among the economic and political elite and their likely receptivity and response to initiatives that foster a new Cold War dynamic and ignore African and nation-state agency in the “new great game.”

Additional presentations (provisional)

Ljupcho Stojkovski, Faculty of Law “Iustinianus Primus” Skopje, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University: Stuck again? How much does the “new Cold War” (going to) impact the functioning of the UN Security Council?

Julian Pigott, Ryukoku University: Ukraine’s Information War.

Patrick Strefford, Sangyo University: The Chimerical Liberal International Order

Gavan Gray, Tsuda University: The Politicisation of Sexual Violence in the Ukraine War.

Xiaoxue Liu, Tatsuhiro Yamamoto, Graduate School of Informatics, Nagoya University; : Social Emotions under the Spread of Information about the Conflict between Ukraine and Russia on Twitter: An Analysis of Spokespersons

Kaustav Padmapati, Assistant Professor (Senior Scale), School of Modern Media, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun, India: Taiwan’s Critical Position in Indo- Pacific: India’s Response to China’s “one China” principle

Ladislav Zemánek, China-CEE Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences: Polycentrism in the Era of Postliberalism: The West against Global Majority

Ebinezer Florano, University of the Philippines: Cross-Impact Balance Analysis on the COVID-19 Vaccine Diplomacy of China: Scenarios on Its Impacts on Taiwan’s Campaign for the International Recognition Its Sovereignty and the Philippines’ Territorial Claims In the Disputed West Philippine Sea/South China

Johan Nilsson, City University of Hong Kong: Nationalism and the Myth of Historical Progress

Can Pirtici, Ryukoku University: Self-referential regime of post truth in Erdogan’s Turkey

Conference moderator: Lawrence S Levy

Lecturer, Department of Clinical Psychology, Kyoto Bunkyo University.