Thursday 22 April 2021

Conference “Economic, Socio-Political, and Ethno-Confessional Issues of Asian and African Countries”

Conference “Economic, Socio-Political, and Ethno-Confessional Issues of Asian and African Countries” Conference “Economic, Socio-Political, and Ethno-Confessional Issues of Asian and African Countries”

On March the 15th-17th, 2021, the traditional annual conference "Economic, Socio-Political, Ethno-Confessional Issues of the Countries of Asia and Africa", was held at the Institute of Oriental Studies. A brief summary of reports is given below.

Keywords: economics, socio-political situation, ethno-confessional issues of Asian and African countries, new technologies, coronavirus impact, ethnicities and confessions interaction, Islam, Christianity

On March the 15th-17th, 2021 the traditional annual conference "Economic, Socio-Political, Ethno-Confessional Issues of Asia and Africa" was held. The event was organized by the Center for Study of Common Problems of Contemporary East of the Institute of Oriental Studies.  O.P. Bibikova and N.N. Tsvetkova were responsible for its organization. More than 65 people took part in the discussion, 48 persons made reports. The participants were mostly researchers from various departments of the Institute of Oriental Studies: Department of Economic Studies, Department of History, Near and Middle East Studies Center, South-East Asia Studies Center. At the conference lecturers were also present, as well as post-graduate students  of the Institute of Asian and African Studies (MSU), RUDN, researchers from the Institute of African Studies, Russian Geographical Society, Center for Social and Political Studies and Information Technologies.

V.Y. Belokrenitsky opened the conference with the report "On the Causes of Lagging Behind and Making Rapid Progress in the Process of Socio-Economic Development of Neighbouring Asian Countries (on the example of Pakistan, Iran and Turkey)".

Two round tables were held at the conference.The round table “Economic and Socio-Political Issues of Asian and African Countries” was conducted on the 15th of March. At this round table the major block of issues was called “New Technologies and Countries of Asia and Africa”. The reports analyzed such issues as the usage of new technologies in different sectors: in agriculture, in energy, in particular, the problems of using vertical farms in urban agriculture of the East, the energy transition, and the role of foreign economic relations in this process. A comparative analysis of the most important parameters of Western and Eastern countries economic growth in the course of 4 industrial revolutions was undertaken. The reports considered such problems as China contribution to development of Industry 4.0 technologies in Africa, development of circular ecological economy in Japan, technological aspects of creating a low carbon economy in Japan, innovative technologies in Australia, ICT development in Iran and Arab countries. A social anthropologist showed in detail how digital technologies entered the life of an African village in Mali. Cell phones are widespread there. The cheap button phones give access to the Internet. They are used for online payments and for access to social networks. The village inhabitants collectively use two solar panels in the absence of electricity. The panels give energy to irrigation pumps, making it possible to grow fruits and vegetables and to diversify the people's diet.

Special attention was given to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The reports showed that in the context of the pandemic in the Asian countries, the importance of the digital economy increased and digital services were in great demand. The use of information technologies in the fight against Covid-19 was analyzed. This report was done on the basis of the experience summarized by WHO. Several reports analyzed the impact of the pandemic on the economy, the fight against the pandemic in the countries of Asia and Africa - Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, Nigeria, the issues of social security in the context of the pandemic in the Philippines, the impact of the pandemic on financial markets of developing countries, and Russia's assistance to Asian countries during the pandemic.

Another group of reports considered issues of external economic relations: the situation in international markets of raw materials, foreign economic relations of Iran, the economic influence of China in the South Pacific (the example of Australia, New Zealand, and island states of Oceania) the development of relations among China and Latin America, among the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the OBOК (One Belt - One Road). There were also reports on socio-political issues (political transit in Sudan, problems of international relations, for example, the position of Japan in relation to the events in Nagorno-Karabakh).

The young researchers section was held on the 16th of March, 2021. These topics were discussed:  the usage of new technologies, artificial intelligence in the fight against Covid-19, the development of 3D-printing in South Korea, artificial intelligence and robotics in Japan, social credit rating in China, the use of social networks in China, Japan, Arab countries, Australia, Turkey, online games market in the Arab countries, South Korea, the online games markets in Russia and in Asia were compared.

The round table on the issues of interaction among ethnic groups and confessions in Asian countries was held on the 17th of March, 2021. The speakers made reports on the influence of the religious factor during the civil war in Syria. The religious factor activated as a result of external intervention. Then the reports were made on the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia and Iran. These countires use the religious factor in their relations with the states of the Middle East.  The following topics were also analysed: new trends in Iran's politics and economy, opinions of Tunisian researchers on the role of Islam in Arab politics, the Lebanese Parliament's legislative measures to preserve the identity of the indigenous population, some of it (up to 14 million people) live abroad and maintain ties with their homeland.

Military operations in Syria and Iraq have led to the loss of cultural and historical monuments.  At the same time, during the stay of the US led coalition forces in Iraq, museum complexes (including Babylon, the National Museum in Baghdad and Mosul) were devastated, thousands of artifacts were taken out of the country for profit and in order to deprive the residents of their historical identity. In contrast to the actions of the Americans, the actions of ISIS (banned in the RF) were inspired primarily by the desire to eliminate non-Islamic places of worship, to destroy pre-Islamic monuments, and to make money from the sale of artifacts.

A block of reports was devoted to the role of religion in Asian countires. Islam and Hinduism were examined particularly. Attempts to use the religious factor in Iran - Tajikistan relations were studied in the context of expanding Iran relations with Central Asian states. The researches spoke on the activation of an extreme right Islamist political party (Pakistan) aimed at strengthening the position of Shariah in the country.  Then a report was made on situation in India, where the attempts were made to mobilize Hindu society on a religious basis by announcing the construction of the largest temple dedicated to the heroic god Rama.

Several reports were devoted to the Southeast Asia issues. In particular, the reports were made on the plight of foreign workers (mostly Muslim and Hindu) from the neighboring countries in the Chinese-dominated Singapore.  Then a report was made that focused on the phenomenon of the Chinese press in Indonesia, where live up to 7.5 million Chinese.

In the “East in the West” section three reports were made on measures proposed to reduce the number of immigrants arriving in the West in the wave of displacement, and on the so-called “Syrian wave” of 2015. Among the proposed measures were deportation, voluntary departure with payment of transportation costs, etc. Then, the phenomenon of Vietnamese immigrants' manicure business was examined. These people almost monopolized this sphere in the United States.  Cross-cultural contact has been taking place in Europe as a result of large-scale immigration from North Africa. A lot of immigrants from Magreb contributed much to the musical culture of France and Belgium.

In the end of the conference two presentations were made that focused on the problems of the Christian Church in the Middle East and North Africa. A large number of Christians, especially Orthodox, is in catastrophic decline in Syria and Iraq as a result of hostilities. The Russian Orthodox Church is making efforts to prevent persecution of Christian minorities. The situation in Africa is different. There is a growing number of Christian communities. They retain a number of pagan rituals and traditions, such as polygamy.

Н.Н. Цветкова,