Looking into the Future: Russia and Asia in the Next 20 Years
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Viktor Larin

Director of the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East at the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is Doctor of History and Professor at the Far Eastern Federal University.

Valdai Discussion Club

I never wrote any predictions. I did not try to look into the future. But after spending almost three weeks in China during the 19th National Congress of the CPC, I was inspired for such an attempt. Indeed, the plans of Chinese leaders and their ability to translate their ideas into life are encouraging. You can do writing 3-5 scenarios, and then explain why none of them has become a reality. So, you can build your life according to the plan, without referring to «stars that have become wrong» and intrigues of enemies.

What will happen to Asia by 2037? In many respects, this will depend on the path China will take. China, as the 19th CCP Congress showed, by that time will finally end with poverty, build (by 2035) a «strong socialist state» and continue to fulfil the dreams of «prosperity of the Chinese nation» on an international arena and the creation of an ecological civilization. Will other nations prosper — it depends on them. China is not a «kind uncle» who will sacrifice its own interests for the sake of others. Globalization 2.0 will develop, but already in the Chinese format, which will face new challenges, that will grow, as before, on the basis of the civilizational values conflict, nationalism, «regional identity» and religious intolerance.

The Asian center of economic growth will move to the south, and the developed countries will try to adapt foreign labor migration to the needs of high-tech production. I do not presume to predict in which sphere a new technological revolution will happen in the 2030s, but I have little doubt that this time China will be the «pioneer». To a large extent it will happen because there are already predictions of shortage of labor resources to maintain a high standard of living for the aging population, and because, unlike Russia, China does not limit money for science, education and culture.

Oil and gas will cease to play such an important role in world production and consumption, as today, and the value of the resources of the world’s oceans and environmentally friendly products will significantly increase. The priority task of scientific and technical activities will be the creation of new technologies for the development of the North and the sea depths, social and ethno-political engineering. IT technologies, while continuing to create powerful tools for further progress, will go to the background, giving way to biotechnology, social and humanitarian innovations designed to eradicate human vices and bring human consciousness in line with technological progress. It is doubtful that they will succeed in their searches, but the trend will be exactly this.

Further turbulence and disintegration processes in Western and Central Europe will lead to the transformation of this region into a zone of stable instability, which means a threat to the security of the European Russia. This will entail a smooth movement of the vector of its interests, economic and political activity to the Asian part of the Eurasian continent. That’s when the real «turn to the East» will happen. In Russia’s foreign trade the share of the Eastern Eurasia countries, where more than half of the world’s population lives, will increase by 55-60%. The population of Russia from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean will grow to 50 million people, and the country will be connected with most of Eurasia by a network of high-speed roads and railways.

China will be able to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, finding tools to persuade the North Korean leadership to follow the path of economic development. This will lead to a surge of economic activity in the zone of Northeast Eurasia, especially in the Sea of Japan basin, including the territory of the Pacific Russia. This circumstance, as well as the forced transition of Japan to more moderate and compromise positions in territorial disputes with its neighbors, will create a single intellectual space for the North Pacific as a platform for a new scientific and technological revolution in the middle of the 21st century.

On the continent, a new SCO-based security system will be formed, as well as a multilateral collective agreement initiated by Russia, China, India, Iran and, possibly, South Korea, if Seoul prefers the Chinese «nuclear umbrella» to the American one. But at the same time, global security will be guaranteed by a «tripartite consent» (the «new Entente») between the United States, Russia and China, which the American political elite will also realize over time.

The Russian government will finally stop viewing the eastern regions of the country as a colonial appendage of the European center and will focus on developing this space as an intellectual, ecologically clean and high-tech economic system. Far Eastern regions of the country will stop attributing the ritual function of the bridge between Europe and Asia, a springboard for mythical «integration into the Asia-Pacific region» and exploitation tool of super-profits in the interests of several monopolies.

But if Russia continues to move into Asia, Asia will also move into Russia with the corresponding social, cultural and psychological consequences. Having stated that «Russia’s pivot to the East» already happened, we have to recognize ourselves that we are open to this East, are ready to accept its values, ideas and challenges. Although Russia will never become a part of this East, retaining its territory and its identity. Its Pacific part will remain a European enclave in the Asian world.

What can prevent the implementation of this optimistic scenario? A lot of things. Human stupidity, greed and ambitions. Unfavorable confluence of circumstances. Natural disasters. Our subconscious mind with thoughts of civilization and cultural exclusiveness, historical destiny and inferiority of «others». But I am absolutely sure in one thing: the future of Russia depends only on Russia itself, on its determination to get rid of the pernicious habit of constantly looking back at the West and East, the desire to be either a bridge between them, or a messiah that saves the world, or the cradle of new world upheavals.

Valdai Discussion Club