Another Bipolar World Order (Part II)
What is the chief competition that will determine the destiny of mankind in the 21st century?
- The common challenges the world faces — climate change, terrorism, environmental degradation and pandemics — have never been as severe as they are today.
- The new emerging powers need peace to develop themselves. Only development can provide them with a solution to their problems.
- The notion that war is the last resort for settling international disputes has become obsolete. I think this represents great progress for our civilization.
- Since 1978, China has embarked on the path of peaceful development with reform at home and opening up to the outside world.
On the international stage today, there are two competing trends. The first trend is that of peace, development and cooperation. It represents the hope and future of mankind in the 21st century. Two factors make this trend possible.
The first is economic interdependence. The world is deeply interdependent, especially in economic terms — a remarkable achievement.
The second factor is that the common challenges the world faces have never been as severe as they are today. They include climate change, terrorism, environmental degradation, drug trafficking and pandemics. No country, no matter how powerful, is able to cope with these challenges alone. The human race is bound to unite in order to meet these challenges for their survival.
These two factors are very powerful — and will become more so over time.
The second, far less healthy — if not outright insane — trend is that of conflict and confrontation. Two factors explain this trend.
The first is the fact that people’s mindsets often lag far behind the enormous changes the world is undergoing. Some are still living in the past and tend to view everything with this obsolete mindset.
The second factor is the proliferation of interest groups, some of which cannot let go of the benefits they accrued in the past due to conflict and confrontation, particularly during the Cold War. They seize every opportunity to fan the flames of hatred and confrontation.
For example, in the past decade, the U.S. military budget (including military expenditures in Afghanistan and Iraq) has more than doubled. Many wonder whether such an increase is necessary, since the Soviet Union no longer poses an existential threat.
A looming battle?
The competition between these two trends can be seen almost everywhere. It will determine the destiny of mankind in the 21st century.
The new emerging powers need peace to develop themselves. They are facing many difficulties at home and abroad, and only development can provide them with a solution. In today’s world, no country can modernize itself in isolation.
For the new emerging powers, international cooperation is indispensable. Hence the new emerging powers are staunch supporters of the peace, development and cooperation trend. In return, their rise is bound to strengthen this trend.
If you look at the world economy today, Western powers are not in good shape. The United States, European Union and Japan are heavily indebted. Their economic growth is sluggish— and their unemployment rates are rising.
To fix their problems, they also need international cooperation — and in particular, cooperation with emerging powers. It is true that in these countries, there are forces hostile to peace, development and cooperation. However, I don’t believe they can prevent the trend of peace, development and cooperation from growing.
Peace and development are the theme of our epoch. No force can resist it.
We all remember that after the demise of the Soviet Union, euphoria was widespread in the Western world. Some people believed they won the Cold War, and that was “the end of history.”
They thought they could turn the world the way they wished. But the world is such a diverse place. How can one turn it the way one wishes? That’s simply impossible.
In the past decade, the United States fought two and a half wars, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Over 6,000 American soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, and several tens of thousands of them have been wounded.
Still one does not see the light at the end of the tunnel. When President George W. Bush started the Afghanistan war, the overwhelming majority of the American people were on his side. Today, most Americans oppose the war. The same can be said about Iraq.
War used to be considered a panacea for settling international disputes. In the past 3,000 years, when countries couldn’t settle their disputes by diplomatic means, they went to war. War settled everything.
But today, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have not solved any problems. On the contrary, they have created huge problems for the United States and its NATO allies. In the years and decades to come, they will have to spend a lot of money, energy and time in dealing with the consequences of these wars.
The notion that war is the last resort for settling international disputes has become obsolete. I think this represents great progress for our civilization.
This has something to do with our epoch’s theme. War and revolution was the theme of the past epoch. But the theme of today’s epoch is peace and development. It is irresistible.
I hope people throughout the world realize this change. We have to follow our epoch’s theme. If we do, we’ll render a tremendous service to the world and international community.
Where does China fit into the equation?
Since 1978, China has embarked on the path of peaceful development with reform at home and opening up to the outside world. We chose this path to keep pace with the change of our time, i.e., the theme of our epoch.
Though we made tremendous progress in the past 33 years, we still face daunting challenges today, such as growing disparities between coastal areas and inland areas, between rich and poor, between city and country; environmental degradation; energy and resource bottlenecks; and international challenges.
We believe only the path of peaceful development will enable China to cope in a proper way with these problems and to modernize the country. In a recently issued White Paper on China’s Peaceful Development Path, the Chinese government stated:
“China aligns its own interests with the common interests of the people of the world and seeks to expand convergence of interests of all parties and to build and develop communities of interests with other countries and regions in various fields and at various levels. China is committed to promoting the common interests of the entire humanity and sharing the benefit of human civilization with everyone.”
This is a significant statement. There are about 200 countries, with more than 2,000 ethnic groups in the world. They have different religious faiths, different cultures, different histories and are in different stages of development. It is quite natural that they have differences. If we focus on the differences, however, we shall end up in argument, perhaps even in conflict and war.
In contrast, the approach outlined in China’s white paper advocates that countries and peoples around the world focus on common ground and convergent interests. This approach will lead to a deeper interdependence among countries. Then, everybody will be a winner.
China has been following this path of peaceful development over the past 33 years. It is a success story. China will not deviate from this path.
In conclusion, since the demise of the Soviet Union, the human race has made marvelous progress, in spite of some severe setbacks. We are confident in the future of mankind. China will continue to cooperate with all countries in the world to build up a harmonious world featuring lasting peace and common prosperity.
Editor’s Note: Read Part I here.