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Foreign Policy

Divided World Bad for America

May 12, 2022
  • Wu Zurong

    Research Fellow, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

As the Russia-Ukraine military conflict drags on, divisions in Europe have begun to deepen, with only disunity for the foreseeable future. With a long-standing divided Europe becoming likely, world peace and globalization are confronted with unprecedented challenges. No wonder that people have begun to worry about a potentially divided world.

EU members, with few exceptions, are continuing to take steps to disengage with Russia economically, and relations will inevitably become worse. Expected talks between the EU and Russia on balanced, sustainable security and mutually beneficial economic cooperation will vanish. It might be difficult to see any scenario in which Russia and Europe live in peace and harmony, with a resumption of all mutually beneficial cooperation programs.

Instead, a divided Europe has become a toxic forerunner of division, despite its importance in an interdependent world. Notwithstanding the determined efforts made by China and a large number of other developing countries to build a peaceful and prosperous Earth village, the danger of a divided world remains.

At present, the United States and a few other key NATO members see the ongoing Russia-Ukraine military conflict an an opportunity to weaken and isolate Russia by applying Cold War theory and zero-sum logic.

They have been putting political pressure on China, India, Indonesia and other developing countries to take similar political positions, or to join their anti-Russia coalition, in an attempt to keep Russia down, to prevent it from recovering its national strength.

They tend to believe that Russia is doomed to failure on the Ukraine battleground and that it will become worn out as it tries to deal with a militarily strong Ukraine that is fully armed with weapons supplied by NATO members under U.S. leadership.

Seeing Russia as a defeated, weakened and feeble giant, the U.S. has begun to do everything possible to impose rules for world affairs derived from its domestic laws. It has asked China and other developing countries to observe those rules. The U.S. and some of its allies are now accusing China of trying to undermine the rules-based global order, when China and other developing countries are only working to defend the world order based on the principles of the United Nations charter and international law.

Differences over the rules for world affairs will not be resolved easily because of stubborn U.S. unilateralism and habitual hegemonic practices, imposing its will on others.

Instances of global division have begun to emerge in the high-tech industry — for example, the manufacture of semiconductors and chips — as a result of the U.S. intention to monopolize the industry and keep others from getting key know-how.

Divisions on global security have also begun to loom large as the U.S. works to establish new military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, such as the AUKUS alliance — Australia, United Kingdom and United States — while strengthening NATO. Experience tells us that talk about potential global division is not merely made to scare the world. In the long run, world divisions, whether in the period of making or after they have become a reality, are detrimental to the U.S. despite the fact that it might seem to benefit a little in certain areas in the short term.

Take the U.S. military alliance strategy for instance: Military over-expansion abroad will have disastrous consequences for American economic and social development. Money earned by domestic military equipment manufacturers through the sale of arms into turbulent areas of the world will not make up for the long-term losses. The growing federal budget for the military in recent years have obviously cut into part of the already tight budget for social welfare. Such a trend, if not effectively checked, will inevitably sow undesirable factors for social instability and violate human rights.

The growing U.S. federal budget deficit will reduce the number of options for stimulating economic growth in the long run. A recent news report said that over-expansion of military operations abroad has produced serious problems within the military itself, such as the tragic deaths of three sailors by suicide in one week aboard the USS George Washington aircraft carrier in April. Moreover, serious naval accidents have occurred in the South China Sea in recent years.

A potentially divided world is also harmful to the U.S. dollar’s dominance in the global financial world that has lasted nearly 80 years. As the U.S. is more than ever willing to use the dollar as its greatest political weapon in its major power competition, its capability to cut off dollar access to central banks around the globe under special circumstances in an attempt to isolate and drain their economies has aroused self-evident vigilance and worry.

The U.S. freezing of Russian reserves valued at $630 billion might encourage other countries to diversify their investment away from the dollar into other currencies. As more transactions in international trade tend to be done in other currencies, the global reserve currency status of the dollar would be eroded in the long term.

The initial stage of a divided Europe has already sent shock waves around the world. The serious disruption of the global supply chain of energy (coal, oil and natural gas) has resulted in higher energy prices. Now, inflation has become a difficult economic problem for the U.S. and for many EU members and some developing countries. With the inflation rate out of the normal 2 percent to 4 percent range for the full year of 2021, and the Consumer Price Index rising to 8.5 percent for the fiscal year ending in March 2022 — a rate that hadn’t been seen since December 1981 — the inflation in the U.S. probably will not be transitory. It may last for some time, which is difficult to predict. In a word, inflation has become a big headache for the U.S. economy and consumers.

In the long-term, if American policymakers continue their current competitive strategy aimed at dividing the world to achieve sole U.S. superpower status, the U.S. economy could face ruinous challenges. The accumulation of tens of thousands of U.S. sanctions against a growing number of other countries would inevitably lead to the shrinkage of the overseas market of American businesses. As overseas markets continue to shrink, some of the affected businesses in the U.S. might have a survival crisis, no matter how advanced their products are.

It may be futile to try to divide the interdependent world into a number of separate parts, as a divided world serves no one’s interest. All sober-minded people in the world need to work together to build a unified planet that has closer political, economic and cultural relations.  

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