A World Transformed

Reflections on the International System, China and Global Development

by Danilo Türk (Author)
©2020 Monographs VIII, 190 Pages


The main theme of the book are transformations of the world community at the political level and at the level of the international institutions. The book explores the currently precarious state of an emerging multipolar world at the time of the peaceful rise of China. It starts with the basic political and geopolitical features, followed by a discussion on norms, values and institutions of the organized international community, and the potential of international law in the face of political instability and crises. The rise of China is discussed in its various aspects: economic and political, with particular regard to the recent turning of China outward, the Belt and Road Initiative and its evolving cooperation with the European Union. The third part of the book is devoted to development as seen from the perspective of the United Nations and the evolving conceptualization of development. In the final chapters emphasis is placed on the issues of multilateralism and the basic precepts for the future peaceful transformation of the world. There exist different types and sources of state legitimacy and different development models that can co-exist and co-evolve. Significantly, such a transformation requires respect for the fundamentals of international law, in particular sovereignty of states. Building new or reforming existing international institutions is possible only on this basis. This book could be used in courses on international relations and law at universities in all countries, either as a basic or a supplementary source. It would be also useful to journalists and researchers.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Part One: The International System
  • Chapter One: A Unipolar or Multipolar World?
  • Chapter Two: The Role of Norms, Values and Institutions in International Politics
  • Chapter Three: An Organized International Community: The United Nations
  • Chapter Four: The Global and Regional in the Contemporary International System
  • Chapter Five: The Threat of Terrorism and International Responses
  • Chapter Six: The Potential of International Law in Times of Crises
  • Chapter Seven: Ethics and Creativity in International Relations
  • Part Two: China
  • Chapter Eight: The Peaceful Rise of China
  • Chapter Nine: A Case for Partnership: The European Union and China as Actors and Objects of Global Change
  • Chapter Ten: Three Messages of an Anniversary
  • Chapter Eleven: The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and the World
  • Chapter Twelve: Greening the Belt and Road – Creating Durable Peace
  • Chapter Thirteen: The Belt and Road Green Development
  • Chapter Fourteen: The Promise of E-Commerce
  • Chapter Fifteen: In Search of a Balance: Intellectual Property and Transfer of Technology
  • Chapter Sixteen: Contours of a New International Economic Order
  • Chapter Seventeen: Davos
  • Part Three: Global Development
  • Chapter Eighteen: A Concept of Development: From Growth to Sustainability and Social Responsibility
  • Chapter Nineteen: The Human Right to Development
  • Chapter Twenty: What We Cannot Measure, We Cannot Manage: Indicators for Measuring Progress
  • Chapter Twenty-One: Greening Urban Living
  • Chapter Twenty-Two: Water as an Instrument of Development and Peace
  • Chapter Twenty-Three: China and Global Trade
  • Chapter Twenty-Four: The Future of Multilateralism
  • Chapter Twenty-Five: A World Transformed
  • About the Author
  • Index


This book is the result of my experience. I have participated in a variety of policy discussions related to questions about the functioning of the international system and global development over the past two decades. In these discussions, I was engaged as the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs (2000–2005), then as President of Slovenia (2007–2012), and most recently (since 2012) as scholar. Significantly, all these discussions ended with a focus on China’s current and future role. China’s role has been growing exponentially over the years. In many ways, China has now become central to the development of the international system and of the world.

The policy discussions in which I participated took place in different parts of the world. I have visited China more than twenty times and met China’s political leaders, as well as diplomats, academics, students and others. I had the opportunity to engage in a variety of interesting discussions. In the last four years, I particularly enjoyed working with students in China in my role as Senior Visiting Fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University in Beijing. This experience also gave me an opportunity to speak to the Chinese media and to write commentary for various Chinese newspapers. Now I have selected my writings of the past years in which I have commented on the international system, China’s role, and international development.

These texts speak about the transformation characterizing our world today. They are organized around three major themes: the international system, China, and global development. I have selected my writings and organized them in a way that would serve two purposes. First, each of the twenty-five texts has a theme of its own, which is relevant to global transformation. Second, they should all shed light on the general picture of the world’s transformation. Admittedly, this approach carries a risk: it is not easy to ensure the necessary coherence and avoid unnecessary overlaps. Being aware of that risk, I selected the texts carefully and organized them in a manner that aims to maximize coherence and minimize unnecessary overlaps.

The reader should be able to see the “big picture” by reading the final chapter titled, “A World Transformed,” which is also the title of the book. However, in order to obtain a detailed presentation of the numerous questions discussed in the book, readers are advised to read individual chapters. Each of the book’s chapters, with the exception of the final one, contains a text prepared for its own occasion over the past years. I have edited them minimally, for example, by clarifying the year of several events mentioned in the text.

In preparing this book for publication, I was ably assisted by my friends from the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University in Beijing. I owe my gratitude to the Dean of the Institute, Dr. Wang Wen, the Deputy Dean, Mrs. Yang Chingqing, and Mr. Zhaoyu Guan who assisted me during my visits to China and helped with valuable information.

My special gratitude goes to Mrs. Božena Blix who provided valuable editing advice.

Danilo Türk

Ljubljana, 7 May 2019


A Unipolar or Multipolar World?

The basic structure of the international system has been a lively subject of discussion since the end of the Cold War and continues to be of central importance today.1 Has the world become unipolar since the end of the Cold War? Is today’s world, almost a generation later, moving in the direction of multipolarity or has it already become multipolar? What are the implications of the current evolution?

These questions can be answered in three stages:

First, it is necessary to recognize the growing body of opinion that the world is becoming increasingly polycentric and, in some ways, clearly multipolar. In fact, the period of the seemingly unipolar world has been relatively short and always open to question.

Second, it is useful to keep in mind both the nature of change in the past few years and the nature of the current type of multipolarity. While there are certain similarities between our era and the one before World War I, there are also very important differences. These distinctions make our world very different, perhaps less dangerous, but also more complicated to manage, than the world that existed a century ago.

Third, general characterizations in terms of unipolarity versus multipolarity do not help much when dealing with the existing problems of international peace, security and development. It is therefore important to juxtapose the evolving general pattern of international relations with ones which are more specific ←3 | 4→and geographically defined, such as the patterns in Eurasia, in particular. This is necessary because the actual issues of international relations always arise in geographically-defined circumstances that also offer a large part of the solutions – to the extent that solutions are possible.

Let us therefore try to answer the questions in three stages.

First, a perfectly unipolar world is not possible and has never existed since the international scene constituted itself in the form of a pluralistic international community several centuries ago. The phenomenon of a pluralistic international system is usually traced back to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, which ended religious wars in Europe. These questions of unipolarity and multipolarity can be discussed in the global context as well.

Unipolar systems did exist during a period of the Roman Empire, in the first centuries AD and in the Chinese Empire of the same period, during the Han Dynasty. Each of these empires represented the “known world” at the time and were characterized by a central, unipolar authority. In later historical periods, several empires existed simultaneously. For example, the Holy Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Moghul Empire and the Chinese Empire existed simultaneously in the sixteenth century. However, their interaction was limited, and it would be inaccurate to describe their simultaneous existence as a “multipolar world”. Multipolarity, as a meaningful political concept is a product of later periods of history, especially the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries. Subsequently, this multipolarity was changed into the bipolarity of the Cold War, which dominated the second half of the twentieth century.


VIII, 190
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (May)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. VIII, 190 pp.

Biographical notes

Danilo Türk (Author)

Danilo Türk is Emeritus Professor of International Law, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and former President of the Republic of Slovenia (2007–2012). He had served as Ambassador to the UN (1992–2000), including to its Security Council, and was UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs (2000–2005).


Title: A World Transformed