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Foreign Policy

The Year 2016: Riotous Clouds and Black Swans

Jan 04 , 2017
  • Wang Yusheng

    Executive Director, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

Many people would describe 2016 as “a year of too many uncertainties”. It is exactly so. Yet out of the complicated developments, there are three closely connected key features meriting our attention, i.e., chaos, change and order.

Chaos erupted in many parts of the world over the past year. The United States stirred the waters in the South China Sea and even proclaimed confrontation with China. In Middle East, a “Tale of Two Cities” is being staged in the cause of counter-terrorism, with calculated wrangling between United States and Russia, as well as between regional powers. The ever-mounting refugee crisis is causing unbearable burden to Europe. The attempted coup in Turkey had numerous repercussions, including rampant terrorist incidents and the shooting death of the Russian ambassador. Terrorist attacks scarred West Asia, North Africa and Europe. The presidents of Brazil and the Republic of Korea were both impeached. A review of these developments makes people feel panic and uneasy. The whole world seems to be far from being safe.

Why did it happen like this? There are multiple factors involved. But in my view, the key factor is the United States’ unwillingness to take a realistic approach to do as its strength permits. It has no courage to admit that the world has changed and that it has not enough strength to match its will. Instead, the country insists on “leading the world for another one hundred years” and acting as the world policeman. This, I am afraid, is the main reason behind the insecure and chaotic world in the past year.

Change, the second key feature, serves as the main theme of the year 2016. Change exists anywhere at any time. Yet the difference is that the change this year has reached a critical point. The winning of presidencies by Mr. Duterte in the Philippines and by Mr. Trump in the United States,which have been compared to two “black swan events”, are not incidental. Rather, they have shown signs of qualitative change in our times. The saying that “poverty leads to the desire for change” often refers to developing countries hoping to develop themselves. Now that many of them have developed, some even becoming emerging powers, affluence also gives rise to desire for change. These countries request a more fair and reasonable international political and economic order, and ask for fair treatment and win-win cooperation in international relations. In fact, the public is seeking a major change. The old practices by the United States and some Western countries are no longer applicable. Change reflects the trend of the times. It concerns the fundamental interests of various parties, and the peace and stability of the world. In essence, it concerns the major issue of how the world could evolve.

The third key feature, order, reflects people’s wish for good governance, stability, development and a safe world with no atrocities of war. People are thinking about how to deal with a changing world, get along with each other, and achieve compromise without confrontation. A consensus was reached at the G20 Hangzhou Summit in September to cooperate for win-win progress, to share ideas and to jointly develop, with the fruits shared by all. The G20 members also pledged to oppose trade and investment protectionism and uphold inclusiveness and interconnectivity. Such consensus shows the urgent desire for global governance.

The world today is not governed by United States alone, or by the G2 of the US and China. It is a world shared by all countries. Thus a collective approach is needed in governance. Countries should discuss, jointly govern and share the fruits of development. This concerns the major issue of going along with or against the trend of the times. In this respect, China has coped with the “riotous clouds” with calmness and confidence. China is committed to its own principles in dealing with world affairs and is well focused. Moreover, China is equipped with policies and strategies towards the new era. China is ready. Yet how about the United States, the world’s No. 1? Is Mr. Trump, who will soon assume office, ready? It is my hope that he will follow the trends of the times. Otherwise, the world will be even less secure in the year 2017.

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