China and India as emerging economic and political superpowers? Impacts on the Global Governance architecture


Dirk Messner, Director, German Development Institute –GDI-, Bonn, Germany

The “new Asian Drivers of global change” are becoming global players who are forcefully altering the relationship between industrialised and developing countries. The rise of China and India as both economic and political actors is having, and will have, significant and far-reaching impacts.

The rise of India and China as significant actors for global governance and the world economy will transform today’s “quasi-unilateral world order” into a de facto multipolar power constellation. By 2025–30 at the latest, the US, China, India and possibly Europe will constitute four substantial poles of power in the architecture of global governance. The future interplay among these central actors of global governance will largely determine whether and how the transboundary and global problems of the twenty-first century are dealt with and what role the world’s developing regions will be able to play in world politics and the world economy. This new multipolar power constellation and the competition for power and policy options resulting from it will become the central line of conflict shaping the architecture of global governance in the coming five decades – in ways much like the system conflict that dominated during the Cold War or the endless conflicts between the Central European powers in the era leading up to the World War I. The future will be shaped by “turbulent multilateralism”.

China and India’s new-found willingness to play global roles will create new challenges for global governance and governance institutions. China has in recent years been pursuing clearly discernible regional strategies in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These appear to be geared chiefly to securing its supply of raw materials and energy. India too has been playing an increasingly proactive role in the fields of climate policy and world trade. In other words, the processes outlined above are generating adjustment pressure in the architecture of global governance, giving rise to new constellations of actors and power. Can anyone even conceive that in the year 2030, i.e. in the context of the emerging multipolar power constellation outlined above, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the IMF, or the global climate regime will look the way they do today?

As well as challenging the content of global governance, the multipolar world will also challenge governance processes. Established consensuses will be challenged and the range of influences will be broadened. This is likely to expose the limitations of existing practices for managing conflict and reaching agreements in global governance institutions. In a multipolar world, informal mechanisms for establishing consensus (or “deals”) such as the “Green Room” at the WTO will come under even more strain. New alliances may emerge at the same time that “East” and “West” may fracture or line up differently on different issues. A fragmented global governance architecture, characterised by centrifugal powers, is much more probable than an inclusive global governance structure.


About the speaker
Dirk Messner is the Director of the German Development Institute. His areas of specialization include globalization and global governance, development policy, international competitiveness/ systemic competitiveness, industrial development in Latin America and Asia, state and development, and governance and network theories. He has taught in several universities in Germany, Korea, and Latin America. He has published extensively on issues concerning development and globalization, from both economic and political perspectives.

Venue: Carl Dittrich Zaal, Student Service Centre, Bonnefantenstraat 2

Date: 19 June 2007

Time: 16:00


UNU-MERIT