China once again became the centre of world attention at the just concluded 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) themed “Westlessness”.
Two implications can be observed from this theme. First, with the rise of emerging countries such as China, the influence of traditional Western powers is declining and their ability to engage in international affairs and to dominate global governance is weakening. Second, rifts in the Western camp are increasing and deepening. With the US advocating “America First”, the US-Europe alliance is crumbling. Meanwhile, the gap between members within the European Union are also growing because the impact of populism.
“The West is less Western… The world as a whole is less Western,” said Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the MSC, on Feb 10. The New York Times even called the 2020 MSC “a requiem for the West.” A reshuffle of the world order may have begun.
In 2019, the world witnessed various global challenges, such as US-launched trade wars, the paralysis of the World Trade Organization dispute settlement mechanism, and deadlocked international cooperation on climate change. Waves of anti-globalisation, represented by populism and trade protectionism, are more prevalent. Divisions have spread from trade to politics, technology, military, religion and ideology. The world is undergoing profound changes and facing great unseen challenges this century.
Nonetheless, the trend of globalisation will never be reversed. Constantly developed technologies and global value chains have entwined countries around the world. Not a single member of the international community can tackle all the challenges alone and play a world savior. In response to “Westlessness”, countries should jointly explore a path in the world where the West and the East can coexist.
First, Western countries should accept China’s peaceful rise and cooperate with emerging powers on an equal footing, while China needs to be more open and should develop a new way of presenting itself to dispel the West’s concerns over its rise.
The world is moving toward multipolarity. Traditional Western powers no longer hold overwhelming superiority in terms of economic, political, technological and military influence over the world. Many global issues can only be settled through international cooperation. Otherwise there will only be a lose-lose outcome.
Western democracy is facing unprecedented challenges that can be seen from the multiple crises the West has encountered in recent years, including the refugee crisis, the financial crisis and terrorist attacks. Western powers should consider whether they need to learn from the development experience of other countries.
The 2020 MSC is in essence the Western countries’ collective efforts to reflect on themselves and to seek for a better global development framework. It is the common challenge facing all countries to get rid of the divisions that separate the Western and the Eastern world, because emphasising differences will only lead to further divisions.
Second, developing countries should assume more international responsibility and engage more in building the new order of global governance.
Developing countries are much different than they were two decades ago. They are making more substantial efforts in addressing global issues, protecting intellectual property rights, promoting free trade, opposing counter-globalisation and contributing to a community with a shared future for humanity.
As the world’s largest developing country, China is responsible and capable of engaging in international affairs. Since the beginning of its reform and opening-up, China has made remarkable contributions to the world economy while boosting its own. According to the World Bank, China has enabled “more than 700 million rural people to lift themselves out of poverty, which accounts for more than 70 percent of global poverty population since early the 1980”.
In recent years, China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative and initiated new global governance institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which have, to some extent, filled the gap in the traditional global governance system. Meanwhile, as a determined advocate of multilateralism, China is also playing an irreplaceable role in promoting regional integration.
Some countries are concerned about China’s rise. This requires China to make further exchanges with the world and further reform and opening-up. At a time when the international community is entangled in differences and debates, China should carry forward its long-held spirit which values harmony, and continue to build community with a shared future for humanity.
All countries should jointly build a new globalized world with more equality, inclusiveness and fairness. The uncertainty of the humanity’s future is increasing and division, confrontation and shirking responsibilities will not solve the problems. Thus, we need a more inclusive and equal global order and should stop playing the zero-sum game.
With the decline of the West, China needs to focus more on how to promote global development and adjust its role in the international community.
The author is president of the Center for China and Globalization. GLOBAL TIMES