More than 100 hawks in the United States recently signed an open letter that lashed out at China for what they called “its disregard of the principles and rules of the current international order”. In the letter, they also touted the benefits of confrontation with China.
The tired Cold War cliches of these American political figures are a poor disguise of the fact that the greatest threat to the international world order is American hegemony characterised by unilateralism, protectionism, and self-interest.
On the one hand, the United States has waved its tariffs cudgel and provoked trade frictions against China, Mexico, Canada, India, and the European Union in flagrant violation of its international obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This has severely impacted global industrial and value chains, the international industrial division of labour and multilateral trade rules, all of which rely on the system of global free trade.
On the other hand, the United States has successively withdrawn from various international organisations and treaties. These include the United Nations Human Rights Council, UNESCO, the Paris agreement on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.
The consequences of these moves include undermining the operation of the IAEA and obstructing the process of WTO reform. Taken together, the United States seems increasingly determined to isolate itself from any international jurisdiction.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has publicly stated that the relationship between America and the rest of the world should resemble that between a hammer and a nail. The belief that the United States can strike whoever it wants is as good an example as you can get of American hegemony and its disregard for international law and the international order.
The reason why the United States accuses China of disregarding the current international order is because China upholds the global order that has the United Nations and its charter at the core, not the “America First” global order that some Americans want to see. This is why American politicians and the signatories to the recent open letter are vilifying China in the face of the country’s efforts to pursue peaceful development, safeguard its legitimate rights and advance initiatives that promote global governance. Their anger reflects American anxieties and fears about the rise of multilateralism and the thwarting of American hegemony in various parts of the world.
China is committed to safeguarding and reforming the current international order. It has led the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, which connects nations together in a way that foster shared growth through collaboration. It has steadfastly strengthened the authority of the United Nations and actively participated in international peacekeeping operations.
And it has spent decades working to open its economy and advance the cause of economic globalisation. These are some of the reasons why a recent open letter to U.S. President Donald Trump and members of Congress signed by around one hundred people from American academic, diplomatic, military, and business circles pointed out that China’s engagement in the international system is essential to the system’s survival and to effective action on shared problems such as climate change.
Decisions about the international order and the global governance system can’t be taken by one country. Rather, these are decisions that must be made by all of the participants through discussion.
The idea that the world should be governed according to a unipolar American hegemonic system is out of date and poses a serious threat to world stability. And it’s why all countries need to take concrete action to firmly uphold the international order centred on the principles of the United Nations charter and promote the collaborative and rational development of our shared global institutions.