Four major challenges confronting us

I attended the Progressive Alliance conference titled “Asia’s Social Democratic New Deal for Peace, Democracy, Recovery, Sustainability” in KL over the weekend.

The conference was officiated by DAP Secretary-General Sdr Anthony Loke. DAP International Secretary Sdri Jennie Lasimbang and the Conference Convenor Sdr Howard Lee were present too.

The following are some points I made in my speech.

When historians look back, they may find that the period from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to 24 February 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine was a bit like an “age of innocence”. For a while, it seems that large scale conventional warfare, especially in Europe, was a thing of the past. But it isn’t.

I agree with 99-year-old American diplomat Henry Kissinger, where he made a comment that we are now living in a “totally new era”.

The United States-led world order since the end of the Second World War was at its peak with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. While US dominance is fraying, China’s role as a “peer competitor” is rising. But middle powers in the Asian Pacific region don’t have to face an either-or situation. Instead, there is a role for us to play in this.

It is also under this context that the progressives need to “think system” and not to be distracted by piecemeal, short-term, quick fixes. We need bold paradigm shifts to deal with the four major challenges confronting us:

1. Covid-19 and other pandemics

2. War and geopolitical crisis

3. Financial and economic crisis

4. Climate crisis

The progressives should:

1. Push for a geopolitical middle ground

We enter into an era in which mini-laterals are more like an ala carte menu rather than a fixed set lunch menu. The key is countries outside the US and China do not want to be forced upon to accept a fixed set of menu.

2. Democratise the economy

Progressives have to steer the world’s economy away from the neoliberal frameworks, from shareholder economy to stakeholder economy. Building economic security and resilience should be the top concern.

3. Rebuild state capacity and democracy

To rebuild democracy, the world needs to rebuild the state, its missions and purposes. Only with strong capacity, states can deliver growth, distribute the fruits of growth, ensure wellbeing, and pursue peace and security.

Under the global context of great power competition, the progressives have a duty to uncover a middle ground in the hope to preserve long lasting peace.

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