Unilateralism will be supported by few

By Zhong Sheng

The US has received broad objection from the international community during the past year as it widely instigated trade frictions regardless of international rules.

However, the extreme pressures exerted by Washington intimidated no country. On the contrary, the largest victim of the US unilateralism and trade protectionism ended up to be the rule-based multilateral trading system.

It is especially true as the 14th Group of 20 (G20) summit in Osaka, Japan is around the corner. More than any other issue, the US attitude toward trade has placed stress on the forum, conflicting with the group’s traditional commitment to an international trading order underpinned by low tariffs and the WTO, said an article published on the website of the US think tank Council on Foreign Relations.

According to the article, since 2018, the US administration has enacted or threatened higher tariffs on Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, and the EU, G20 members that together account for over half of the world’s economy.

Behind the big stick of US tariffs is the rising unilateralism in the country’s foreign policies. Compared with its usual acts to impede the reform of global governance within the multilateral system, the US went further retrograde. It frequently withdrew from international organizations, arbitrarily broke the rules and smashed the global governance system.

When dealing with diplomatic issues, some politicians in Washington screamed that the US is making the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still, which means everybody has to make room for America.

Every policy presents a tradeoff, said Former US Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew and Columbia University scholar Richard Nephew in an article published on Foreign Affairs. Yet US officials seem to have adopted the belief that the United States is so large and powerful that the laws of economic and political gravity no longer apply to it, they added.

The world is not a wrestling pit where muscles and power rule. Zero-sum mentality and unilateralism will be supported by few, let alone dominating. Some US politicians have blindly resorted to extreme egoism, trampled on rules and undermined global governance system, and such arbitrary acts have been widely condemned by the international community, which suggests that unilateral thinking is far lagged behind by the trend of time. Falling from the moral high ground of global governance, the US is no longer the arrogant “City upon a Hill”.

The international system’s demand for rules is not decreasing, but constantly growing.

At present, the world is facing constant ups and downs of global hotspot issues, as well as non-traditional security challenges such as climate change, cyber security and refugee crisis. In addition, unilateralism and protectionism are also on a rise.

No country is able to solve all these problems independently. Joint efforts within mechanisms are indispensable for each country to effectively cope with challenges.

Moreover, living in the same global village, one might have his beard burnt by blowing out the lamp of others. The impacts placed on the globe by US unilateral policies have no doubt reinforced such perception.

Global countries share broad consensus regarding to what kind of an international rule system should be built. In the 21st century, to uphold a vision of global governance featuring extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, settle global affairs by the peoples of the world through consultation, and actively advance the democratization of global governance rules is not only a basic request of international justice, but also a necessary demand raised by the changes of the international landscape.

Upholding the multilateral banner of the UN and giving full play to the constructive role of multilateral mechanisms such as the WTO, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G20, will offer institutional support for the operation of the international system and mechanism guarantee for coping with global challenges.

“It is true that we are slowly moving towards a multipolar world, and that is in itself a very positive evolution. But as history tells us, multipolarity alone does not guarantee peace. Europe was multipolar 100 years ago, but the multilateral framework for cooperation and problem-solving was not there, and the result was a catastrophic world war,” remarked Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres at the plenary session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. What he said is worth pondering.

Two clear logical clues have been revealed by China’s reaction to the China-US trade dispute: the country’s resolution to safeguard the core national interests and the basic interests of the people, and the commitment to the protection of international rules. The two logical clues reflect dialectical unity that China has a clear demarcation for its own interests and the future of the world. The country deeply knows that a rule-based international system conforms to the trend of time and is also where the fundamental interests of reach country lay.

That is why China has won wide support for its stand. UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond recently described China as a “crucial bilateral partner” with a “vital role” in championing the rules-based multilateral order, saying that the UK will work with China to safeguard the multilateral trade system.

Hammond’s remarks are both a resolute denial to some country’s request to exert pressure on China, and recognition to China’s just position.

“As the world is confronted with grave challenges and when human being is at a crossroad with a choice to make, all the countries need to check out the sense of responsibility and take concrete actions rather than standing on the sideline, and work together to take the fate of human being in our own hands,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at a global governance forum co-hosted by China and France in March.

Given today’s international landscape, if global countries want to take the fate of human being in their own hands, they must stand in a consistent position to oppose unilateralism and protectionism, and further concrete their support and protection for multilateralism.

(Zhong Sheng is a pen name used by People’s Daily to express views on foreign policy.)

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