The purpose of these seminars is to provide a forum for discussion on a question of major significance in global politics, namely: what effect are shifts in power from West to East likely to have on the values and norms of international society?

It is often said the 21st century will be the Asian century. China’s economic growth rate, averaging 9.6 percent per year between 1990 and 2010, means it is now the second largest economy in the world. It is predicted to reach parity with the United States in a few decades, with a recent article suggesting it will overtake them by 2030. In its shadow but still ascendant is India. Already the 9th largest economy in the world, India is predicted to be in the top-five by the same year. In that time, a 2007 World Economic Outlook report sees global energy needs rising by 50% with China and India accounting for 45% of the increase. With their greater economic power, and the global reach of their energy needs, commentators expect India and China to want to have a larger influence in world affairs. The question is: what kind of influence?

The last two centuries have seen the creation of a global system of international organisations and institutions modelled largely on Western ideas and values. When Britain achieved primacy in the nineteenth century, it promoted the anti-slavery norm and international law among the great powers. In the last century, the U.S. advocated self-determination and decolonisation. If history is a guide, the shift in global power to the East is likely to have a profound effect on the norms of international society. Understanding Chinese and Indian attitudes to that society, and the norms they promote, is therefore of fundamental importance to theorising what forms of order and ideals of justice will prevail in the coming decades. While most commentators focus on the economic implications of the rise of Asian powers, the ideas they advance will also be hugely important to global political outcomes.

Key points of consideration include:

How rising powers have altered the normative basis of international society in the past: does this provide lessons for the future about how to incorporate new or different ideas without conflict?

Chinese and Indian views of international society: what similarities and differences are apparent in the values and norms they wish to promote? Is the idea of Asian values meaningful? What are the policy implications?

The nature of power in the modern world: can China or India exert influence without first expanding their soft power resources? How does economic and military power translate into normative force?

The structure of global politics: what normative challenges do the institutional frameworks of international politics face and how might the international community respond?

What scope will there be for non-Western, non-Eastern voices?: In an international society dominated by the EU, US, China and India, can other cultures and states find avenues to express their values?

These questions will be addressed over three one day workshops. The first explores the historical record on managing the aspirations of rising powers and seeks to identify Chinese and Indian attitudes to international society. The second examines their views on normative challenges to that society, including the legacy of the American exception, deepening international criminal law, and the expansion of global civil society. The third looks at how the international community could respond to these challenges, reforming global institutions and adapting civil society to encompass non-Western values.

The seminars have been generously supported by the ESRC (Grant Ref: ES/J021261/1) and the British International Studies Association.