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The International Security Situation

Jul 31, 2018
  • Wang Fan

    Vice President, China Foreign Affairs University

The most important factors influencing international security conditions are the risks of war, changes in international patterns, trends in economic globalization, and innovations in science and technologies.

1) Risks of war

The possibility of wars between major powers remains low. However, as competition and conflicts intensify, forms of conflicts between major powers will also diversify. First, major power conflicts may take the form of "proxy" conflicts involving third parties. Wars in the Middle East have always been accompanied by major power wrangling behind the scenes. Island disputes in East Asia cannot be separated completely from strategic considerations regarding regional dominance. Second, intensification of major power competition may also take new forms, as damage done by trade wars, cyber wars, and financial wars may surpass that done by traditional wars.

In July 2018, the US formally announced that it would impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese commodities, and may impose tariffs upon another $200 billion of Chinese exports. A China-US trade war is inevitable, and may persist for quite a long time.

2) Changes in the international power structure

Since the 2008 economic crisis, the international power structure has witnessed rapid readjustments due to the rise of emerging economies. While there is still one superpower and multiple major powers, the one superpower has weakened, the multiple major powers have changed positions, and Chinese influence has become ever more prevalent. The collective rise of emerging economies and the overall relative weakening of Western nations have resulted in accelerated changes in the international situation and order.

3) Trends in major power relations

Changes in comparative national strengths have to some extent affected state-to-state relations, especially those between major powers. As the US attempts to sustain its ruling status, the influence of other nations rises. Western nations are struggling to preserve their dominance as well as the old international order. Major power relations are accompanied by changes in the international system during the transitional period, and display gradual yet profound changes.

4) Globalization

Globalization has entered a new phase. Late-coming nations like China are constantly promoting globalization, while traditional powers are resorting to trade protectionism. But the process of globalization will not stop.

The main characteristics of the new round of globalization are its orientation towards developing nations and infrastructure construction, and the fact that its main driving force is emerging economies.

5) Influence of new science and technology

Changes in science and technology have impact international relations. Currently, information technologies, energy technologies, advanced manufacturing technologies, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence are driving breakthroughs. These rapidly integrating technologies may become a new engine for world economic growth.

Financial security also affects international order. With financial internationalization and interdependence deepening, changes in financial systems may yield tremendous chain reactions; there is even the risk of systemic dysfunction in global finance. Therefore, in international relations, finance can be used as an instrument to influence political security.

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