China and the US and a new world order — By David Jessop

— By David Jessop –   February 2, 2021

A few days ago, China’s President, Xi Jinping, addressed the opening of this year’s Davos World Economic Forum. His remarks imply that China is positioning itself to be the voice for a new multilateral world order.

The full text warrants careful reading. It suggests that Beijing believes it has achieved global equivalence to the US and as its economy and influence grows stronger, it intends playing a much broader, higher profile leadership role in every aspect of international relations.

Underreported in the West, President Xi’s words, delivered virtually, have significant implications.           

Indicating that the world will not revert to the past, China’s President identified four major tasks which his government and party believes should shape the world of the future.  These were, he said, the promotion of inclusive worldwide economic growth though macroeconomic policy coordination; abandoning ideological prejudice through recognition that each country’s system of governance is unique; closing the prosperity divide between developed and developing countries, while enhancing the latter’s voice in  global economic governance; and a renewed focus on multilateralism.

Without mentioning the US by name, he criticised nations that seek to “build small circles or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others, to willfully impose decoupling, supply disruption or sanctions, and to create isolation or estrangement”. This, he warned, will only push the world into division and confrontation.

In his remarks President Xi also proposed a more open world economy and the promotion of measures that increase multilateral trade, investment, and technological exchange. He said too that China will encourage a much stronger and better coordinated response from the G20.  Selective multilateralism”, he observed, “should not be our option”.

Then, without mentioning directly western criticism of Beijing’s troubling approach to human rights, dissent and democracy, China’s President said that such issues should not be an excuse for antagonism or confrontation. “We should respect and accommodate differences, avoid meddling in other countries’ internal affairs, and resolve disagreements through consultation and dialogue”, he told the annual high-level gathering.

China itself, he observed, is “on course to finish building a moderately prosperous society” and has  embarked on building “a new development paradigm” with its domestic market as its mainstay with “domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other”. His country, he said, would continue to promote a new type of international relations, seeking to bridge differences and deepen South-South cooperation through a more open, balanced, and inclusive form of economic globalisation.

The wide ranging and integrated nature of President XI’s remarks reinforce comments made by the new US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, at his Senate hearing when asked about China’s ambition.

“They are much more assertive in making clear that they seek to become in effect the leading country in the world, the country that sets the norms, that sets the standards, and to put forward a model they hope other countries, and people will ascribe to”, Mr Blinken said.

This, he told Senators, obliged the Biden Administration “to demonstrate that the vision we have, the policies we pursue, and the way we do it, is much more effective in actually delivering for our people, as well as for people around the world, to make sure that our model is the one that carries the day.”

Achieving this will be challenging. President Xi’s remarks reflect an approach to policy that China’s  centralised consensus-based single-party-linked system of government can deliver over decades with few domestic challenges. By contrast, leaders and political parties in western democracies rise and fall with regularity, making consistency and policy sustainability complex and uncertain.

Washington is now short on time to develop, enunciate and deploy a coherent new vison of how it intends responding to China’s ambition, which to quote Mr Biden’s Press Secretary, “threatens our alliances and our influence in international organisations”.

Despite the pandemic, China’s economy is rapidly recovering. In 2020 it grew by 2.3 per cent and analysts forecast  that it will experience 5.7 per cent average year-on-year GDP growth up to 2025, with its economy overtaking that of the US between 2026 and 2028.

This suggests that if a far from unified west wants to counterbalance China’s global influence, Washington will need to develop viable economic and political coalitions with its allies. This will require much more than ‘smart sanctions’ and common expressions of concerns about human rights, the treatment of the Uighur people, the future of democracy in Hong Kong, and China’s military presence in the South China Seas.

To respond, Washington will need to grow its economic influence around the world by pursuing an outward looking policy that creates linkages, incentivises US private investment, actively encourages supply chains, and pursues and delivers tomorrow’s technologies, while demonstrating domestic stability and the relevance of its values.

It will also require trust being restored after four years in which a US president and his cabinet saw relationships as transactions and pushed aside and even insulted allies and friends.

President Xi’s remarks indicate that China will now seek to redefine the western dominated global norms that have been in place since the end of the Second World War, and to reshape, repurpose  global institutions in ways that will enhance Beijing’s influence. They also indicate that China would have the world accept that vastly different forms of democracy can co-exist, and that there are alternative interpretations of human rights.

For the Caribbean, co-existing in a world in which two dominant, philosophically different powers vie for supremacy will be difficult.

What President Xi says about multilateralism, climate change, respect for sovereignty and equity, all resonate strongly with regional thinking. Despite this, the region is within the geographic, economic, security and political ambit of the US, and as Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness recently told Bloomberg Television, it is “intrinsically and inextricably” linked.

If the Caribbean is to benefit from the emerging new world order, Washington and its allies should reflect on President Xi’s remark that “no two leaves in the world are identical”. To succeed, the West must create and deliver recognisably different, well-funded, collegiately arrived at programmes that meet the recovery needs of the region and others.

David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council

and can be contacted at david.jessop@caribbean-council.org

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Comments

  • kamtanblog  On 02/08/2021 at 4:59 am

    China a totalitarian dictatorship is in no position
    to give advice to ROW. A nation state where censorship is 100% state controlled. Freedom
    of speech non-existant and human rights abuse
    ever present at every level of society. All
    decisions state manufactured and managed.
    Ruthlessly enforced !
    Thanks but no thanks
    Better the devil u know
    Western democracy with all its imperfections a more viable alternative.
    Freeer and fairer system way forward

    Off my soap box

    Kamtan

  • Clyde Duncan  On 02/10/2021 at 12:50 am

    As Germany and France Dither, Canada Among Group of English-Speaking Nations Confronting China

    U.S. getting support from Canada, the U.K. and Australia on its view that a rising China is a threat that must be countered

    Gideon Rachman | Financial Times

    AS A GENERAL RULE, IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO BE WARY OF PEOPLE WHO BANG ON ABOUT THE “ANGLOSPHERE”.

    In Britain, it is an idea that has a strong whiff of imperial and Second World War nostalgia about it. The notion harks back to Winston Churchill, who wrote a four-volume.

    NOW, HOWEVER, THE IDEA OF AN ANGLOSPHERE IS TAKING ON AN UNEXPECTED CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE.

    The trigger is the increasingly assertive behaviour of China, which is bringing together a group of English-speaking countries, all of whom have adopted more confrontational policies towards Beijing.

    THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION STARTED A TRADE WAR WITH CHINA AND RAMPED UP NAVAL OPERATIONS IN THE PACIFIC.

    A willingness to confront Beijing is clearly going to persist, in modified form, during Joe Biden’s administration. The new U.S. president has promised “extreme competition” with China. The first phone call between Antony Blinken, U.S. secretary of state and Yang Jiechi, his Chinese counterpart, was spiky.

    HOWEVER, SOME OF AMERICA’S EUROPEAN ALLIES ARE VERY WARY OF WHAT THEY FEAR WILL BE A NEW COLD WAR WITH CHINA.

    The EU shocked Biden’s team by signing a new investment deal with Beijing — ignoring pleas for consultation with the U.S. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, went out of her way in a recent speech to warn against anti-China sentiment dividing the world into blocs. Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, has made similar statements.

    BY CONTRAST, THE U.S. IS GETTING MORE SUPPORT FROM THE U.K., AUSTRALIA AND CANADA.

    These nations have all seen their relations with Beijing deteriorate sharply over the past couple of years. As a result, they are more inclined to take the American view that a rising China is a threat that must be countered.

    AUSTRALIAN HAWKISHNESS IS PARTLY A PRODUCT OF THE CLOSE LINKS BETWEEN THE SECURITY ESTABLISHMENTS OF WASHINGTON AND CANBERRA.

    But it is also a result of China’s imposition of trade sanctions in response to 14 Australian “sins”, identified by China, which included Canberra calling for an international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

    CANADA’S ARREST OF MENG WANZHOU, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER OF HUAWEI, IN RESPONSE TO A U.S. EXTRADITION REQUEST, SPARKED FURY IN BEIJING.

    Shortly afterwards, two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were arrested in China and accused of spying. They have essentially been held hostage ever since.

    Relations between Canada and China are in their worst state since diplomatic ties were restored 50 years ago.

    BRITAIN’S VIEW OF CHINA HAS ALSO BEEN TRANSFORMED OVER THE PAST YEAR.

    China’s crackdown in Hong Kong caused an outcry in political circles. The U.K. has offered a path to citizenship to potentially millions of Hong Kong residents — a move denounced in Beijing. Each week seems to bring a fresh downturn in U.K.-China relations.

    THE BRITISH MEDIA REGULATOR HAS JUST BANNED CGTN, THE CHINESE BROADCASTER, ON THE GROUNDS THAT IT IS ULTIMATELY CONTROLLED BY THE COMMUNIST PARTY.

    China has denounced the BBC for broadcasting allegations of systematic rape in Uighur detention camps. Relations may chill further this year when the British dispatch an aircraft carrier to the Pacific, where it will take part in exercises with the U.S. Navy.

    THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT HAS NOTICED THIS EMERGING ANGLOSPHERE.

    When the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. issued a joint statement about Hong Kong, China’s official response was ferocious. These countries form the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing group, which prompted Zhao Lijian, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, to comment:

    “NO MATTER IF THEY HAVE FIVE EYES OR 10 EYES, IF THEY DARE TO HARM CHINA’S SOVEREIGNTY… THEY SHOULD BEWARE OF THEIR EYES BEING POKED AND BLINDED.”

    BRITISH OFFICIALS POINT OUT THAT THE FIVE EYES IS NOT AN ALLIANCE — ITS REMIT DOES NOT GO BEYOND INTELLIGENCE.

    But there is now discussion of giving the group a more overtly political edge by adding a sixth pair of eyes. Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister, has suggested Japan might be invited to join. Many China-watchers in Washington are keen on this suggestion, although the U.S. intelligence community is skeptical.

    JAPAN IS NOT THE ONLY ASIAN NATION BEING COURTED BY THE ANGLOSPHERE.

    India is also central to strategic thinking in Washington, London and Canberra — as indicated by the increasing vogue for the term “Indo-Pacific” in all three capitals. The U.S. renamed its Pacific military command the “Indo-Pacific” command in 2018. The Indo-Pacific is also likely to be heavily emphasized in Britain’s new national security strategy, which will be published soon.

    NEW DELHI HAS ALWAYS GUARDED ITS FOREIGN POLICY AUTONOMY. AS AN EMERGING SUPERPOWER IT HAS NO INTENTION OF BEING USED BY WASHINGTON, LET ALONE LONDON.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, IN WHAT IS LIKELY TO BE SEEN AS A HISTORIC BLUNDER, CHINA KILLED INDIAN TROOPS IN A CLASH IN THE HIMALAYAS LAST JUNE.

    India’s attitude to China has since hardened considerably — with Delhi pushing through controls on Chinese investments and technology. Technological co-operation is one area where India and the Anglosphere are likely to work together.

    India is already part of “the Quad”, which brings together the U.S., Australia, Japan and India for naval exercises.

    AS THE U.S. SEEKS ALLIES WILLING TO PUSH BACK AGAINST CHINA, THE ANGLOSPHERE PLUS THE BIG ASIAN DEMOCRACIES LOOKS LIKE THE MOST PROMISING COMBINATION.

    © 2021 The Financial Times Ltd.

  • wally n  On 02/10/2021 at 11:32 am

    The threat of China is not emerging, it is imminent. While other countries use Diplomatic wishy washy language, they are direct and forceful. Most of the major countries that have weak responses, it is almost certain, their politicians could be compromised.What is frightening is that it might be too late to control China’s aggression.

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