Upcoming event 3 November – ‘The World of the 2020s’ with the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Wednesday 3 November 18:30

PS21 and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry are delighted to invite you to the first of our exciting series of monthly discussions.

London and the world are reopening after almost two years of pandemic. But what does this new era look like?

The Project for Study of the 21st Century (PS21) and London Chamber of Commerce and Industry are joining forces for a monthly series of topical discussions examining the issues of the era.

Drinks will be served and there will be networking before and after.


Peter Apps (moderator): Executive Director PS21, Global Affairs Commentator Reuters

Richard Burge: Chief Executive at London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, former Chief Executive at Wilton Park, Chief Executive of of Countryside Alliance, Director General Zoological Society of London.

Christine Mikolajuk: financial services professional and Board member at PS21.

Brett Lovegrove: former head of Counter Terrorism at London City of Police, Chair of London City of Commerce and Industry Defence and Security group.

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Upcoming event 26 October – War in the 2020s – From Afghanistan to a High Tech Future

Tuesday 26 October 18:30

PS21 is delighted to welcome you to its first-in-person event since March 2020, linking up with King’s College London War Studies Society.

The West’s two-decade war in Afghanistan came to an ignominious end over the Summer – but with the US and its allies betting that the next conflict may be very different, with technology and information key to victory.

The Project for Study of the 21st Century and King’s College London War Studies Society which are delighted to welcome you to another in its series of events on “war in the 2020s”, examining the changing face of conflict.

Peter Apps (Moderator): Executive Director, PS21 and Global Affairs Commentator, Reuters

Brig Ben Barry (retired): Land Warfare Fellow, International Institute for Strategic Studies

Victoria Mackarness: Director, CMS strategic, defense and security commentator.

Nelson Macmillan: former Royal Navy warfare officer, technology and strategy consultant.

Libby Vallance-Bull: Senior Account Director, Rebellion Defence.

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London Event November 6 – Imagining Geopolitics in 2030

This event is now sold out!
If you would like to be added to the waiting list, please email ps21central@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 6th, from 06:30 p.m., Bush House (SE) room 2.12, King’s College London, Strand, WC2R 2LS.

In the latest of our ‘2030’ series, PS21 is assembling another great collection of experts in a variety of specialities to discuss the future of geopolitics, and how international affairs will evolve in the decade to come.

What will remain following President Trump? Who might replace Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping? What will happen to the remnants of British politics? In an increasingly interconnected era, will we see a total revolution in international politics? What role will climate change have on relations?

We’ll be talking East, West, evolving cultures, uncertain economics and much more.


Dr Richard Schofield – Leading academic on geopolitics at King’s College London

Dr Daanish Mustafa – Reader of Human Geography at King’s College London

Professor Andrew Preston – Professor of history of American foreign relations

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Doors open at 6pm, the event will begin at 6:30pm. Please bring photo ID.

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London Event 25 June – The ‘Asia Century’: Expectations and Challenges

Tuesday, 25 June, from 06:00 PM, Room K0.16, King’s College London, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS

Following the trajectory of rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and thriving economic and population growth throughout Asia, the 21st century has been heralded as the ‘Asia Century’.

However, Asia also faces a number of challenges to its global rise including ongoing strains on the Korean Peninsula, maritime disputes in the South China Sea, overpopulation, disparity of resources, regional instability between India and Pakistan and the impending effects of climate change. Despite these challenges will Asia be able to take the lead and become the centre of global world order? And if so, what is to be expected from an ‘Asia Century’?


Dr Shirley Ze Yu – Visiting Senior Fellow at London School of Economics and a former China National Television news anchor.

Dr Pablo de Orellana – Teaching Fellow in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London.

Duncan Bartlett – Editor of Asian Affairs magazine, former broadcast journalist for the BBC.

Aaditya Dave – Research Analyst focusing on South Asia in the International Security Studies department at the Royal United Services Institute.

Vasuki Shastry – Associate fellow of the Asia-Pacific programme at Chatham House and former global head of public affairs and sustainability at Standard Chartered Bank.

Doors open at 6pm, with discussion beginning at 6:30pm. Please sign in at reception upon arrivial, reception staff will then direct you to the room.

Sales end at 11:00 a.m. on June 24

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London Event 16 April – In Conversation with Sir John Holmes

Tuesday, 16 April, from 06:00 p.m., London School of Economics, Alumni Theater, New Academic Building, 54 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Holborn WC2A 3LA

Held in collaboration with the London School of Economics United Nations Society.

Join PS21 and the LSE UN Society for a discussion with renowned former British diplomat Sir John Holmes. Sir John Holmes joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1973. Over his 46-year career he has been posted to every corner of the world and held many senior government positions, including Head of the European Union Department, Ambassador to Portugal and Ambassador to France. Between 2007 to 2010 he served as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Sir John Holmes currently sits as Chair of the Electoral Commission.

In our conversation, we aim to explore Sir John Holmes’ career, his perception on how international affairs has changed, and his analysis of contemporary international issues informed by unmatched experienced.

Doors will open at 06.00 p.m. with the event beginning at 06:30. Upon arrival, check in at reception, they will then direct you to the room.

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Note – For this event, we are using Google forms, not Eventbrite.

To support PS21, donate here. 

GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact ps21central@gmail.com.

PS21 Event Writeup: ‘Changing Face of the Middle East’

By Rebecca Lille

Photo Credit: Ross Bradford

PS21 Chief of Staff, and chair for the event, Sam Genge, opened by welcoming everyone. He introduced the topic, explaining that discussions on the changing face of the Middle East are still very much needed. He stated that although people generally have a good working knowledge of the Middle East and related issues, the topic is complex, and in-depth, knowledgeable discussion is still important.

Henry Smith, Partner at Control Risks, highlighted emerging trends in the Middle East. He referenced the new Democratic House in the US, hoping to “clip the wings” of the Trump administration, and with it, the presence of the US in the Middle East. Smith suggested that we are unlikely to see consistent US policy regarding the Middle East. In response to the US de-prioritising of the Middle East, the regional powers are preparing to take more control, and looking to Asian powers for the future. A key focus for Smith, is the important role of climate change. He noted that there is increasing evidence to suggest that natural weather issues, such as drought, are linked to civil instability, pointing to the Syrian conflict as just one example. Smith concluded by highlighting some positives trends. He noted the recent successes against ISIS, the possibilities of peace or negotiated settlements in both Syria and Yemen and the economic boom taking place in Egypt.

Cinzia Bianco, Senior Analyst of the Arabian Peninsula at Gulf State Analytics, further outlined trends in the Middle East. Bianco suggested that the post-Arab Spring Middle East has seen a significant decline of the role and interest of global powers and lacking commitment of resources from the West. Global actors had hoped that regional powers would step in to establish a new and coordinated balance of power. However, instead, states have focused on individual growth and influence in a zero-sum game mentality. As a result, the centre of regional politics has shifted to the Arab Gulf, reflecting the financial might of assertive local actors such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. Bianco also analysed the Gulf players’ role vis-à-vis the resurgence of political Islam, discussing the transformative political role of the Muslim Brotherhood in both Egypt and Libya, and its continued presence as a significant player in Syria. Bianco said that, while the conflict between Islamists and anti-Islamists is catalysing attention the most, rising inequality is having a neglected but crucial effect on shaping the political landscape in the region. Bianco suggested that of all regional trends, this is the most important long-term, influencing the balance of power both at the regional and at the domestic level.

Niamh McBurney, consultant at Versik Maplecroft, warned that, contrary to a number of recent media suggestions, ISIS are still present in Iraq, although their capabilities are extremely limited in comparison to previous years. There are, however, other groups similar to ISIS around, and these too pose a threat. Since its invasion in 2003, the Iraqi environment and have completely changed. Politically, there appears to be a somewhat positive trend. The elections held in 2018 saw the most successful hand over of power since the invasion. However, McBurney also discussed the recent popular protests in South Iraq as a new feature of Iraqi politics, stating that these were caused by a multitude of drivers, but the cut off Iranian gas supplies were a great influence. In addition to this, climate change caused heightened tensions. The security forces have stepped in, providing resources such as water and power, but McBurney predicts similar issues and protests for summers to come.

Emad Mostaque, Iran and regional specialist, began by discussing the political theory of the social contract – suggesting that the Middle East, has seen a considerable redrawing of this contract in recent years. In collaboration with this shift, the politics of the region have seen a move towards personality politics. However, Mostaque said that this move is not confined to the Middle East, pointing at Trump’s success in the US as another symptom of this trend. the Middle East is also witnessing a shift towards more libertarian views. With these changes occurring, Mostaque questioned when the breaking point will occur, offering several possibilities; when water tables get too low; when Egypt’s economic boom ends; or when international pressures on Iran amount to foreign intervention. Mostaque concluded that the breaking point is of key concern, as are the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, with the latter posing a possible incoming humanitarian disaster. Mostaque remarked on the recent successes against ISIS, stating that although these look promising, he predicts an ‘Al Qaeda 3.0’ is likely to emerge soon.

London Event 19 March – Changing Face of Europe

Tuesday 19 March, from 06:00 p.m., Juju’s Bar and Stage, Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London.

PS21’s 2019 programme of events continues with an in-depth discussion of the changing nature of European politics. The looming spectre of Brexit shows no signs of resolution by the March 29th deadline and continues to generate increasing uncertainty. Furthermore, European elections in May could potentially reshape the composition of the European Parliament. Amidst this uncertainty, join us as we begin to dissect this complex environment.


Peter Apps (Moderator) – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist, Founder and Executive Director of PS21

Julia Ebener – Fellow, Institute for Strategic Dialogue

Georgina Wright – Senior Researcher, Brexit, Institute for Government

Sherrill Stroschein – Reader in Politics, University College London

Alexandra Kellert – Western Europe security, political and operational risk analyst at Control Risks

Doors will open from 06:00 p.m., with the event starting at 07:00 p.m. The bar will be open throughout.

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To support PS21, donate here. 

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London Event 11 March – Changing Face of the United Nations

Monday, 11 March, from 06:00 p.m., King’s College London, Room 1.67, Franklin-Wilkins Building Waterloo Campus, SE1 9NH

Hosted by the King’s College London’s War Studies Department.

Since its inception in 1945, the United Nations has played an instrumental part in global affairs. it has served as a platform in resealing international disputes, maintained peace in turbulent areas across the globe and played host to altruist diplomats and despotic dictators alike. It has not, however, been free of controversy. Criticism directed at the supposed ineffectiveness of the United Nations Security Council and accusations of abuse towards members of the peacekeeping corps, demonstrate that it is not a perfect organisation. As we delve deeper into the 21st Century, the future of the United Nations remains uncertain. Will it buckle and break under the pressure created by rising nationalism among its member states, or will it thrive in our ever more technological and connected world. Join PS21, hosted by King’s College London, for a discussion on the Future of the United Nations.


Dr Pablo de Orellana (Moderator) – Teaching Fellow at King’s College London, War Studies department.

Marcus Lenzen – Program advisor from the UN Department of Political Affairs from New York.

Vijay Mehta – Chair of Uniting for Peace and founding trustee of the Fortune Forum charity.

(Arrival Notice TBC).

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To support PS21, donate here. 

GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact ps21central@gmail.com.

London Event 19 February – Changing Face of the Middle East

Tuesday, 19 February, 6pm,  Juju’s Bar and Stage, Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London. 

Civil wars, dictators, terrorism – how did we get there and where do we go from here? Eight years after the beginning of the Arab Spring, the region is still in turmoil. PS21 discusses trends and explanations for the Middle East’s current Turbulence. We’ll be attempting to answer questions such as, why didn’t the Arab Spring succeed and what does the future of the Middle East look like?


Peter Apps (Moderator) – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist, Founder and Executive Director of PS21

Lara Fatah – Director Alfa5 & Consultant, Kurdistan expert

Henry Smith – Partner, Control Risks

Cinzia Bianco – Senior Analyst, Arabian Peninsula, Gulf State Analytics

Emad Mostaque – Iran and regional specialist

Doors open at 06.00 p.m., with discussion beginning at 07.00 p.m. and, as usual, the bar will be open throughout.

Sign up here.

To support PS21, donate here.

GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact ps21central@gmail.com

PS21 Event Writeup: ‘Beijing, the US and the South China Sea’

By Oliver Yule-Smith

This event was co-chaired by PS21 executive director Peter Apps and PS21 Chief of Staff Sam Genge.

Dr Chris Weston, an international business consultant on risk management, began by drawing a broad picture of the nature of the regional dynamics, specifically related to the economic dimension. Dr Weston challenged the core tenets of the liberal peace theory by arguing that economic ties between the US and the China do not make conflict completely unimaginable. He drew on the specific example of the parallel between Britain and Germany before the start of World War 1. This helped to feed into narratives of a return to Great Power Politics. Dr Weston then pointed to US tariffs on China, the South China Seas and the unilateral withdrawal of the US from INF treaty and even the Postal Treaty of 1873 as a clear evocative of the skirmishes between Great Powers. The conclusion was optimistic that we are not destined for a war or even a Cold War. However, Dr Weston did suggest that the US are clearly signalling that they want a change in the nature of the relationship as current events show.

David Li, an Asia-Pacific analyst with the economics and risk team for HIS Markit, segued into the specific manifestation of the China-American relationship in the South China Sea. He outlined the current state of play in the South China Sea by arguing that China’s military build-up in the region is already complete and that this has helped to ensure China’s dominance in the region. However, Mr Li noted that there has been considerable reactionary build-up in this region, broadly supported by the US, that might help to challenge Chinese influence in the region. Mr Li then looked at the drivers for China’s aspirations for dominance in the South China Sea by looking at the internal dynamics of the CCP. He, thus, outlined two camps: the hard-line approach personified by the Chinese military that aspired to exert control in the region and the moderate approach led by diplomats who wanted a more conciliatory approach to China’s rise in this region. However, it was argued that the hard-line approach has largely won out but that this approach will cost it dearly with ASEAN and Indian Ocean countries.

Deepa Kumar, analyst at HIS Markit country risk team, picked up where Mr Li left off by stating that China’s dominance in the South China Sea has led to an increasing role for ASEAN and India in the region. Ms Kumar argued that China’s dominance necessitated a response from these countries given the South China Seas importance for trade in the region. Ms Kumar assessed that ASEAN countries are dependent on China FDI flows so will push for a more diplomatic response. This would be a more logical approach given that there is particularly diplomatic strength as an institutional bloc. Ms Kumar then turned her attention to India which she stated would form a cornerstone of any US strategy towards the South China Sea. Drawing on David’s analysis she argued that with Chinese military build-up in the South China Seas the Indian Ocean would become the next battleground. Ms Kumar concluded by stating that whilst ASEAN and/or India will not themselves escalate events if China escalates these countries will have no choice but to respond.

Beyond Caliphates and Cosmopolitanism: An analysis of the sovereign state’s competitive advantage

After the Cold War, the massive means that had been deployed to stabilize existing states decreased. A break up of sovereign states into New Wars accelerated debates about the norms of the Westphalian system of sovereign states. With Yugoslavia as first trajectory, debates finally culminated in the Resolution 1674 and the commitment to the Responsibility to Protect. It seemed that human security was to dominate its state-centric counterparts. But can an individual-centric paradigm become dominant within an international society which is constituted by state sovereignty?

The doubtful compatibility led to a transition of the international society’s civil law system, enshrined in the UN Charter, to something that resembles common law. It became increasingly based on precedents like the 1999 NATO operation in Kosovo (pp. 1, 2), the 2003 Iraq War or the 2011 Crimea Crisis (pp. 17, 24, 30) with UN resolutions as court decisions towards future actions. A Westphalian effort to rescue itself?

Even if differently construed, the competing powers of the Cold War had the Westphalian system in common. It proved appropriate to settle their disputes. But was it appropriate for all societies within? The 1979 Revolution in Iran including its’ rejection of Westphalia gave the first explicit answer.

In Iraq, Ba’ath government’s social contract was constituted by its’ means. The army’s dissolving in 2003 became a trajectory for disorder. The new conditions of Iraq’s Sunnis had similarities with those of the Tutsi in Rwanda. During the colonial era, the “divide and rule” strategy became one trajectory of the 1994 genocide (pp. 74). Enforcing a state that was perceived by some of a – since 2003 – minor group as unreasonable Western system resulted in its’ rejection. Appearances that the conflict with ISIL focuses only on religion can be deceiving. Cultures generally tend to overlay new and less understood conflicts with traditional, cultural conflicts.

Western populism manages blurred borders and globalization with cultural conflicts, too. Charles Kupchan (DGAP lecture, Bonn, Feb 2018) mentioned that isolationism and protectionism were points already made by George Washington. George Lawson (LSE lecture, London, Aug 2017) mentioned that many people in UK still seem to perceive it to be an empire. Can a civil law-based European Union be superordinated to an empire of individualism? The German perception tends to link right-wing policy to national socialism. Populism debates focused around the de-legitimized gap in the far-right that to fill used to be informally proscribed (pp. 440). To illustrate, another cultural conflict overlay of the US and UK was identified by Johanna Polle in the drone warfare debate.

In the West, conflicts led to cultural alignment. Wars changed borders and forced migration. Conflicts within given borders had the same outcome as people settled down where they assumed the best quality of life, or supported the government which seemed to be the most advantageous. These inter-societal (pp. 307, 308) interactions aligned borders to contain only culturally related people, able to engage in common social contracts. Alignment with and between governments led to reciprocal legitimacy finally fixed in 1946. But reveal conflicts like the Catalonian independence referendum in 2017 that cultural alignment is ongoing?

Technology aligns cultures beyond geography. Globalized societies emerged in the internet and became manifested in systems like 4Chan. While 4Chan originated within the internet, it later left its virtual world: Anonymous emerged (pp. 15, 16) as one of the first phenomenons in which the real world imitated its virtual counterpart and not vice versa.

Compared to populism, no local conflict overlays appear in respective Anonymous manifestations. When people “become Anonymous”, they have common ideals (pp. 45) while sovereign states can be perceived as disadvantage: Its’ borders can separate such cultures. Furthermore, 4Chan proved to be powerful in the internet (ibid, p. 30). Sovereign states still have problems to manage law enforcement and legal certainty within.

But globalized societies can also rise from within Westphalia. Transnational networks are centered in and connected through the Silicon Valley: A common interface where reciprocal comparative advantage of different nations can be put in place to compete with each other.  Protectionism approaches in the US shall protect the traditional nation. But they are likely to divide societies and networks like those in the Silicon Valley. But are “Silicon societies” defenseless?

Mark Zuckerberg could impose his preferred format on the European Parliament’s testimony([1] [2] [3]). Further, the parliament could not impose any obligation. But judiciary power was still shifted onto social networks because no one else seems to be able to manage “Fake News”.

Powers rising from within Westphalia should be analyzed also from a revolutionary perspective. Further, the possibility that Cosmopolitanism becomes manifested not within but next to the contemporary system deserves to be further examined. If these global societies can be seen as revolutions, populism is maybe the related counter revolution.

It cannot be ruled out that new actors can become at least on par with the state. Even if a counter revolution dominates: The Westphalian system – still not established throughout the world – will have changed. Now it is to be questioned whether the state – in comparison – accelerates or hinders the one power that makes dominance: Trade.

By Christopher Klooz

Event July 10 London Event – “The Nuclear Peninsula: the Future of the Two Koreas”

Tuesday, July 10. 6.30 pm. K2.31 (Nash Lecture Theatre), Strand campus, King’s College London.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula is a complex and ever changing one. In the space of one year, the political context has shifted from impending conflict, characterised by insults and fiery rhetoric, to renewed friendship between North and South, temporarily cemented by the promise of Northern Nuclear disarmament.

Due to the unpredictable nature of the situation on the peninsula, analysis as to its future is a complex task. To shed light on this topic, the Project for the Study of the 21st Century has gathered a panel of experts to discuss the current situation and how the situation may change.

Join PS21 as hosted by Kings College London’s War Studies Department for an evening of discussion on the future of the Korean Peninsula.

Confirmed panellists include:


Jihyun Park – Outreach Director at Connect: North Korea refugee support group, recipricant of the Natwest Chairman’s Award and North Korean defector.

Alison Evans – Head of Open Source Analytics and Senior Asia-Pacific Analyst, IHS Markit.

Karl Dewey – CBRN Analyst, proliferation editor at Jane’s, IHS Markit.

Hamish Macdonald – Contributor to NK News, Chief Operations Officer of the Korea Risk Group.

Dr Chris Weston – PhD in North Korean institutional economics, international business consultant on risk management.

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GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact ps21central@gmail.com