United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

A new research hub dedicated to the study of emerging powers and how different nations evolve to become leading political forces on the world stage, is being created at the University of Cambridge.

Power transitions are one of the main sources of deadlock and conflict on the world stage, but they also have the potential to act as sources of renewal and change for the better.

Dr Amrita Narlikar

The Centre for Rising Powers will bring together academics from different subject areas whose research touches on one of the most important questions in international relations: How different powers rise to the top of international politics, and how to predict the impact they will have when they do so?

Its formal launch will take place this Thursday (12 May), with an inaugural lecture given by Joseph Nye, University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University and one of the most influential researchers in the field of foreign policy and international relations.

Professor Nye is a former chairman of the US National Intelligence Council, served as Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Affairs under President Bill Clinton and currently co-chairs both America’s main cyber security project and the Advisory board of the USC Centre on Public Diplomacy. His lecture will be on the future of US-China relations.

In keeping with his theme, some of the Centre’s research will concern the big, emerging powers of the present day – in particular the so-called BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China. All four are expected to figure in the list of leading world economies by the year 2050, raising questions about the challenge they will pose to the liberal, western powers who have effectively dictated the course of international politics since the end of the Cold War.

Uniquely, however, the Centre for Rising Powers will also look beyond the immediate cases of the 21st century. Researchers will also look at historical cases to understand more about how new powers emerge, how they can be accommodated, and the effect that this has on international stability in different cases. The rise and fall of Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries, or the emergence of the USA or the Soviet Union as global leaders over the course of the 20th, could in this sense provide lessons for the future as valuable as those which can be drawn from the study of rising powers today.

The changes which occur as a result of transitions in the world order are felt far beyond established corridors of power. By altering the course of international politics, these countries also impact on the global response to issues such as climate change, trade, international finance, migration, poverty reduction and international security. Far more than diplomacy alone rests on having a clear understanding of their intentions, their negotiating behaviour, and what the consequences of their leadership on such issues are likely to be.

The findings which emerge from the Centre’s research will be fed back to international policy-makers. The new Centre already has links with various think-tanks, policy institutions and private sector organisations, and seminars, conferences and workshops in which research can be communicated back to these groups will be held by the Centre on a regular basis.

Dr Amrita Narlikar, Director of the Centre for Rising Powers, said: “Power transitions are one of the main sources of deadlock and conflict on the world  stage, but they also have the potential to act as sources of renewal and change for the better.”

“As a result, the study of how powers rise and how the process should be handled has a direct impact on international co-operation, peace and stability – and on more general values such as efficiency, fairness and justice in the global order. The research that the Centre produces will, in some form or other, be of international policy relevance.”

The inaugural lecture of the Centre for Rising Powers will be given by Professor Joseph Nye in the Old Library, Pembroke College, on Thursday, 12 May, 2011. For more information about the Centre for Rising Powers, its members and its work, please visit the website: http://www.polis.cam.ac.uk/

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