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Foreign Policy

Adapt to a World Without U.S. Leadership

Jul 16, 2018
  • Fan Gaoyue

    Guest Professor at Sichuan University, Former Chief Specialist at PLA Academy of Military Science

After World War II the US dominated world order according to agreements signed at the Cairo, Tehran, Dumbarton Oaks, Yalta, and Potsdam conferences. During the Cold War the US led the Western Bloc to counterbalance and defeat the Eastern Bloc headed by the Soviet Union. After the Cold War the US became the only super power and led globalization and global governance. With US leadership (and the cooperation of other countries) large scale wars between big powers have been avoided, peace and development have been maintained and world order has been successively improved (such as the replacement of GATT by the WTO). However, with Donald Trump becoming president the US is changing: from promise keeper to promise breaker, from world order creator to world order destroyer, from international norm maker to international norm violator.

The US is shirking world leadership

In a year and a half President Trump has changed the foundations of US policy and strategy, which based American peace, security, and prosperity upon that of the world. With an “America First” strategy the US is preoccupied with pursuing its own interests at the expense of other countries including its allies, arousing anger.

The US has sought and consolidated world leadership for decades. In Obama’s 2010 and 2015 National Security Strategy the phrase “American/U.S. leadership” appears 17 times. But in Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy it appears only 7 times, which means Trump doesn’t attach as much importance to American leadership and intends to dodge U.S. international commitments and responsibilities. In reality Trump tried to elude U.S. international commitments and responsibilities by pulling out of international agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Agreement, and the Iran Nuclear Deal, and by withdrawing from UN organizations such as UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Council and by urging its allies to increase their national defense budgets. Worse still, the US violated WTO rules by imposing a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports from all countries, a 25% tariff on $50 billion worth of imports from China and announcing tariffs on another $200 billion of imports from China, which is unreasonable, insane, and ruinous to multilateral free trade system. China, the Europe Union, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, India and some other countries announced retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports and swore to protect the multilateral free trade system. The US’ wrongdoings have seriously damaged its credibility, image, reputation, and leadership. The 2018 G7 Summit in Canada dubbed the “G6+1” by France and the tumultuous NATO Summit 2018 in Brussels serve as good examples. The international community is surprised at what Trump has done and has become suspicious of US leadership.

The UN should be reformed to play a more important role

As the US has lost its moral basis to lead the world, the UN should play a more important role in leading the world. To this end, UN organizations and mechanisms should be reformed. First, enlarge the UN Security Council by increasing permanent members from 5 to 7 or 9 and non-permanent members from 10 to 14 or 16. Second, repeal the veto right of UNSC permanent members and any important UNSC resolution should be passed by a two-thirds majority. Third, regulate the ratio of the UN membership dues, making it more fair and reasonable to the actual status of each member state. Fourth, increase UNSC authority. Any international peacekeeping operations or military operations should be authorized by UNSC. Fifth, execute international political democracy in dealing with world affairs. Any important international issue should be fully discussed at the UN Assembly or UNSC and decided by a simple majority or a two-thirds majority depending on the importance of the issue. Sixth, other organizations of the UN should also be reformed accordingly. In the past the international community was used to a world under U.S. leadership. In the future it will have to adapt itself to a world without U.S. leadership.

China's role

China as the largest developing country in the world and one of the five permanent UNSC members should play an important role in world affairs. China should serve as an initiator. To promote world peace and development China has already put forward the concept of Community of Shared Future for Mankind and the initiative of One Belt, One Road. China should also put forward new initiatives to facilitate globalization and the multilateral free trade system in the days to come. China should serve as a coordinator. China has played an important role in coordinating the denuclearization of North Korea and maintaining the Paris Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Deal after the US’ withdrawals. China should continue to coordinate different requirements and the interests of all parties concerned in international affairs. China should serve as a contributor. China has contributed a lot to world peace and development. In the future China should make greater contributions to the world by fulfilling commitments and responsibilities, observing and perfecting current international norms, protecting and facilitating globalization and multilateral free trade, providing more public goods to the world, and offering Chinese wisdom and creative thinking in global governance.

Under the UN banner each country enjoys an equal right to participate in international affairs and global governance. China should consult and collaborate with other countries to improve and perfect the current world order and multilateral free trade system, advance globalization, build a community of shared future for mankind, and ultimately build a fair, just, and prosperous world.

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