Friday, 18 July 2014

‘Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures’ Doctoral and Early Career Researchers Workshop

June 5, 2014, Manchester

On 5 June, for the first time PhD students and post-docs associated with the 12 research projects funded under the ESRC ‘Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures’ programme came together in Manchester. The early career researchers used the opportunity to get to know each other and exchange around their work on the Rising Powers, based in different disciplines but sharing a common curiosity about ongoing changes in and beyond these countries. In addition, the workshop provided an opportunity to interact with and receive feedback from Manchester-based academics working on the Rising Powers.

Starting out with a thought-provoking keynote speech on China as driver of a new form of globalisation, Professor Jeffrey Henderson (University of Bristol) set the scene for a day of discussion and exchange. Arguing that China is fundamentally changing the political and economic dimensions of globalisation, Professor Henderson also highlighted possible implications for developing countries that may experience greater financial scope to pursue own policy agendas, different from neoliberal approaches that previously characterised much of globalisation.

Broader discussions on the dynamics unfolding within the Rising Powers and their impact on other countries around the world were complemented with exchange around participants’ specific research projects in smaller thematic working groups. Reflecting the diversity of research projects under the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme, these projects cover issues within the Rising Power countries, such as different aspects of governance or national innovation systems, as well as the international involvement of Rising Power actors, including in global production networks as well as in agricultural and infrastructure projects in African countries.

Further, the workshop allowed room for informal exchange around fieldwork experiences and expectations in Brazil, China, India and Russia.

On the way forward, participants agreed to keep up communication through a mailing list and social media, to be able to further explore opportunities for cooperation among members of the network. They also decided to created a dedicated page on the website highlighting PhD and postdoc involvement in research around the Rising Powers programme.

Workshop documents:
Summary note
Keynote speech by Prof Jeffrey Henderson, University of Bristol (abstract)
Early Career Researchers webpage on the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures website

For more information and to be added to the PhD and Early Career Reseachers mailing list, please contact:

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Will 'Rising Powers' lower global labour and environmental standards?

By Khalid Nadvi
image by
A recent special issue in Oxford Development Studies explores how new players from the Rising Powers (mot notably China, Brazil and India) may challenge the global ‘rules of the game’ on social and environmental issues. In his introductory article on "Rising Powers" and Labour and Environmental Standards, Khalid Nadvi outlines what makes the Rising Powers special and in what ways they affect global labour and environmental standards.

Who are the Rising Powers?
First, who are the Rising Powers and why should we care about them? The Rising Powers include the emerging economies of Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa (often referred to as the BRICS) amongst others. They matter because of their expanding role as new drivers of growth in the world economy; their increasing significance not only as arenas for global production but also of consumption; their interdependent relationships with the rest of the world in terms of trade and capital flows and environmental impacts; their expanding clout in forums of geopolitical and global economic governance; and, their potential as ‘models’ of economic and social development for other developing and transition economies. Calling these countries "Rising Powers" is a matter of perspective and not unproblematic - after all some of them were historically key players in the world economy long before Western countries became rich and powerful. Nevertheless, over the past three decades, we are observing significant changes in the global economic and geopolitical power balance, with new (or re-emerging) players challenging the dominance of Western countries. In this context, there are six distinctive criteria that define a country as a Rising Power. These include:
  • strong economic growth since the 1990s 
  • significant participation in global trade 
  • a large domestic market 
  • strong state involvement in the economy 
  • availability of local private and public capital for investment 
  • growing space for civil society in public-private discourse 
These six factors make the Rising Powers different from other developing countries that have experienced strong economic growth and have caught up with more technologically advanced economies, such as South Korea. These characteristics also explain why Rising Powers may be able to change global governance dynamics around a variety of issues, including on labour and environmental standards.

How will the Rising Powers affect labour and environmental standards in the global economy?
image by wikimedia
Concerns about sweatshop labour, climate change and environmental pollution have prompted the adoption of labour and environmental standards in international trade over the past decades. This has been largely driven by governments, companies and civil society in Western countries. In contrast, some of the growth in Rising Powers like China occurred precisely because they started exporting cheap products, competing in the world market on low wages, and prioritising economic growth over social and environmental concerns. Does this mean that the Rising Powers will provoke a global ‘race to the bottom’ on labour and environmental standards? Or alternatively, as these countries become more prosperous, will domestic demands for better working conditions and environmental protection increase, and will this be reflected in a more active engagement by Rising Power states and firms in the global governance of labour and the environment?

The collection of articles in this special issue sheds light on different actors and processes within the Rising Powers that could potentially impact the global governance of labour and environmental standards. For instance, Guarín and Knorringa explore the influence of new middle class consumers on private standards, such as fair trade certification or environmental standards. Complementing this consumer-focused perspective, Brandi investigates how Chinese firms and government actors engage with international environmental standards on limiting carbon emissions. The articles by Coslovsky and by Peña on Brazil explore the enforcement of labour laws by the Brazilian government and the international engagement of Brazilian actors in private standard-setting networks on social and environmental issues, underlining the growing consensus around well enforced minimum norms in Brazilian society. In contrast, Mezzandri reminds us of the possible limits on improving social compliance through an in-depth study of Indian garment clusters.
image by Toa55/

Overall, the special issue highlights four areas that call for further research. First, consumers in the Rising Powers, particularly among the rapidly emerging new middle classes, may or may not attach importance to ethical aspects in their consumption decisions. Do these new consumers pay attention to ethically certified products? Second, Rising Power firms are increasingly taking on positions of lead firms in global value chains and global production networks. Will they come under similar pressure as many Western multinational companies to address social and environmental issues in their supply chains, and how will they respond to these? Third, civil society in the Rising Powers could potentially take on similar roles as Western NGOs running anti-sweatshop campaigns. Or will they address social and environmental issues very differently - or simply not be very important players at all? Finally, given the strong role of the state in the Rising Powers, governments are likely to be important players in setting rules on labour and the environment. How do these Rising Power states influence labour and environmental standards, both through national regulation and in global fora on social and environmental standards? These factors deserve further exploration in order to improve our understanding of how the Rising Powers influence the rules of the game on sustainability in international trade - and to find out whether Western concerns about a race to the bottom on labour and environmental standards are justified.

The special issue in Oxford Development Studies, Volume 42, Issue 2, 2014 aims to contribute to this debate. Links to individual articles can be found on the publisher's website or on the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures website.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Russia fieldwork on Emerging Technologies

By Maria Karaulova

The project on Emerging Technologies and Implications of Next Generation Innovation System Development is now actively engaging in field research. In March 2014, researchers from the Manchester team (Philip Shapira, Maria Karaulova and Oliver Shackleton) spent an intensive period in Moscow undertaking multiple team interviews with stakeholders and actors in the Russian innovation system. We were assisted by Elena Nasybulina and Angelina Petrushina from the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (ISSEK HSE), our project partner in Russia.

Russia is now at a critical stage in the development of its innovation system. Many reforms have been made, and a series of flagship projects have been announced aimed at developing Russia’s research and innovation capabilities in key areas of technology. One example of these flagship projects is Russnano – initiated about 5 years ago by then President Putin with the goal to foster technological and business breakthroughs in nanotechnology development. Russnano has received significant state-sponsored investment. Our field research sought to understand key changes in the Russian innovation system over the past few years, garner the perspectives of public, private, and academic representatives, and probe the performance and prospects of Russnano in nanotechnology and other programmes in other emerging technologies.

With two teams in the field, we completed 24 interviews in Moscow over a two-week period. A wide-ranging picture emerged. We met scientists actively engaging in innovation activities, as well as other researchers who saw no value in commercialisation. We encountered enthusiast entrepreneurs and frustrated entrepreneurs. We met with officials to discuss developments at Russnano (which has redirected its activities towards an array of innovation investments) and Skolkovo (the still “in progress” high technology cluster planned at one of Moscow’s edges). We spoke with members of the Academy of Sciences upset by recent changes in their organisation, and with government officials overseeing these changes. We learned about national Russian technology platform initiatives and interviewed city innovation and high technology park managers keen to foster local development. We held meetings with project colleagues in Moscow, including Dr. Alexander Sokolov from HSE and Ian Miles from Manchester to discuss preliminary findings, trends and next steps. We also managed to participate in extra events: Philip Shapira chaired a panel and presented at the XV April Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development in Moscow; Maria Karaulova participated at the “Nanotechnologies to the Industry - 2014" Conference with a poster contribution. Over the coming year, we plan further fieldwork in Russia, to continue to track developments in Moscow and to examine what is happening in other parts of the country.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Rising Powers researchers show solidarity with Alexander Sodiqov on Twitter

Researchers show solidarity with Alexander Sodiqov​, a PhD student from Toronto University and a co-investigator in the "Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia" project, who has been detained while doing fieldwork in Tajikistan and is now facing treason charges.

See also the statements of support by the Principal Investigators and by PhD and Early Career Researchers associated to the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures network.

#FreeAlexSodiqov at University of Manchester, 2 July 2014:
University of Manchester researchers show solidarity with Alex Sodiqov

#FreeAlexSodiqov at University of Essex, 27 June 2014:
University of Exeter Politics Department show solidarity with Alex Sodiqov