On Monday, 3rd October, Baccata welcomed guests, including local sixth form and Highlands College students, clients, and staff to its annual lecture at the Royal Yacht Hotel in St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands. Titled ‘The Great Imperial Hangover’ – how our imperial history helps us to better understand the emerging ‘Asian century’, speaker Professor Samir Puri addressed over 120 guests. Professor Puri has worked in government and in academia. He is Senior Fellow in Urban Security and Hybrid Warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies based in Singapore.
Professor Puri opened his talk by comparing Jersey with Singapore, where he now lives. How each has been under occupation and gone on to grow successfully following “de-occupation”, one for the European theatre of World War 2 and one for the Pacific theatre. Developing these themes, he moved on to discuss in some detail the geopolitics of Ukraine and equally the rising tensions over Taiwan.
There are “stark re-emergences” of imperial ambition with President Putin emulating Romanov grandeur, and in China a nod to past dynasties with the likelihood of President Xi being elected to a third term of office. Whilst this might cause us discomfort, he cautioned, saying that we needed “to be more self-aware in the West” of our own legacies of empire. There are positives and negatives: a positive in his eyes was how multicultural a city like London has become, but a clear negative is that it came at a massive cost, through bloodthirsty expansion and subjugation of foreign lands in early colonial rule. Are these new powers not justified in questioning this in the modern context?
Looking at current and future trends, Professor Puri confirmed that the power balance will continue to shift east to Asia. The G20 will change in composition with some European countries dropping out and Indonesia and possibly Bangladesh being included. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation looks set to rise in size and influence, recently admitting Iran. Bodies like the United Nations will likely want effectiveness. There will be little we can do to counter the more autocratic styles of leadership and government, and we are witnessing a critical moment in a process of often quite glacial change.
Nicholas Falla, Managing Director of the Baccata Group of companies said: “We were fortunate to have welcomed Professor Samir Puri to speak at our annual lecture. We knew his experience and detailed knowledge of geopolitical risk in both Ukraine and more recently on the Taiwan issue would be topical and relevant. His fluent presentation held the audience and gave a fascinating and impartial account of these global hotspots. He was able to give us impartial yet very informed perspectives, illustrating that today’s problems have often been caused by yesterday’s empires. “
The lecture also allowed for networking and an opportunity to purchase a signed copy of Professor Puri’s latest book, The Great Imperial Hangover: How Empires Have Shaped the World (Atlantic Books, 2020).