World order is maintained under interplay of properly balancing national security, core interests and foreign relations among nations. Historically, great nations with strong economy and military strength play a dominating role in leading the world. They resolve geopolitical issues and influence regional economical and political problems to maintain a healthy global economy and a peaceful world. In the process of managing world order, conflicts among great nations always exist; the existing and emerging powers will have their own perspectives of national security, core interests and foreign relations which often produce conflicts. The fact that over 193 sovereign nations having multiple races, numerous cultures and different social strata in wealth, classes, religion , sex and gender order all exist on Earth Planet, it is understandable that maintaining world order is a very complex and extremely challenging task for world leaders.
While continents are separated by vast oceans, the world is naturally divided into regions. When humans began to develop maritime technology and naval power, maritime trade became the economic force for great nations to expand and control the world. Great nations, focusing on their national (self) interest, often practice hegemony to expand their influence and to exert control over conquered land (nation) through colonialism. Such expansion naturally leads to competition and conflicts among great nations eventually causing wars between great powers, spreading to world wars. The WW I erupted and was confined in Europe but the WW II nearly spread over all continents lasting many years.
Post WW II, two great nations had emerged creating a ‘bi-polar’ world divided by ideology: capitalism and liberal democracy, valuing individual freedom especially economic freedom, versus socialism and communist governance, valuing communal equality especially favoring a socialist system. This confrontation essentially divided the world into two camps, one led by the U.S. and her allies including the NATO countries and the other led by the Soviet Union and her allies including the Warsaw pact. The bi-polar world did not erupt into another world war largely because the two leading countries each had piled up significant amount of nuclear arsenal capable of destroying each other and the world thus deterring each other from waging extensive war. The situation of ‘détente’ could not last forever because the continuous arms race required a continuous strong economy to sustain. Ultimately, the Soviet Union collapsed under the pressure of her failing economy. The world then transitioned to a ‘uni-polar’ world with the U.S. being the strongest superpower, economically and militarily.
As the ‘uni-polar’ leader post Cold War, the U.S. indeed tried to be the world police to maintain world order. However, the world has advanced further in science, technology, manufacturing, infrastructure, transportation as well as communication (media) creating an inter-dependent but far more complex global world. The leadership required to manage this new world order must expect the existence and/or the emergence of other great nations and be prepared to deal with a world transitioning from a uni-polar to a bi-polar or a multi-polar world. The rise of China and the rejuvenating Russia are two competing great nations; Brazil, India and South Africa are also rising economic powers joining the existing G-7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States), now extending to G20. The U.S. as the leader of G-7 had no choice but to deal with the fast developing BRICS and G20.
As the world progressed continuously with advanced communication, manufacturing and technologies, the emerging nations with significant economic power will exert influence on the world stage. During this progress, unfortunately, the U.S. failed to discourage arms build-up and naively believed that her military strength will remain unmatched and be effective in keeping the ever more complex world in order. In reality, not only great nations such as Russia, India and China now possess nuclear weapons even small nations like Iran and North Korea have gained nuclear arsenal becoming nuclear club members capable of using nuclear weapon for bargaining. So in the multi-polar world, proliferation of nuclear weapon is a serious problem which will neutralize the U.S. military power as an effective force to police the world. The world events in the past decades showed us how ineffective it had been to resolve world issues using military force. To avoid a devastating nuclear war, the best we can hope for is that all nuclear powered nations will refrain from using nuclear weapon, and gradually and ultimately transform the whole world into a nuclear weapon free world.
Observing the current world events, one cannot help but worry about the U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. seems to be still adhering to a ‘uni-polar’ world model and trying very hard to maintain world order ignoring the fact that the world is transitioning to a multi-polar world. In such a world, economic and military powers are necessary but not sufficient to manage the world; the world leadership needs additional political power, which is political wisdom, people and nation governing experience, geopolitical knowledge and inter-nation diplomatic skills backed by economic and military strength. The leaders of the rising nations are there in different ways through different trainings in different political systems. The U.S. is proud to have the most open and democratic political system to elect her national leaders. Unfortunately, the US election process is corrupted by money; the leaders elected are great political orators, media manipulators and fund raisers but not necessarily possessing the above cited political skills to deal with foreign policy and world issues. Even candidates with administrative and foreign relation experience are not scrutinized enough by the election process to ascertain that they have the political power, integrity and a clear vision of the complex multi-polar world.
The Russian leader, Putin, and the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, have risen to their supreme political positions with a very different scrutiny. Their ‘career’ experiences speak volume of their political wisdom, geopolitical knowledge and diplomatic skills. Russia’s rapid annexation of Crimea and China’s long-term ‘one belt one road’ vision of world co-development plan demonstrated the skillful play of their political power. In contrast, Clinton-Obama’s Pivot to Asia policy based on a legacy strategy of containment created more tension and little purpose. The non-cooperative Okinawa and problematic Taiwan make the island chain ineffective to sustain an island chain around China. Anticipating the rising of a multi-polar power structure in Asia, the U.S. needs to develop a new Asia/China policy to collaborate with the multi-polar powers to maintain a more evenly balanced power in Asia rather than creating an unstable Asia eventually dragging the U.S. to an Asian war. The current Trump administration had the opportunity to develop a new China policy but opted to launch a trade war which will not yield any long-term benefit to the U.S. and the world stability.
The current South China Sea (SCS) saga is clearly orchestrated by the U.S. under the containment strategy which heightened the tension there and prompted China to fortify small islands into potential defense bases as unsinkable carriers thus creating an opposite effect to containment. So far the U.S. and China had done correctly in SCS was that they both appreciated the importance of transparency in declaring their military actions to avoid accidents – a necessary behavior to show a nation’s wisdom in world politics. The best, of course, is to engage China as a strategic partner (rather than an enemy with no real cause) to manage the stability in Asia. Broadly collaborate with China to take advantage of her huge market and large population not only can ease the trade deficit but also reduce the military burden the U.S. is maintaining in Asia. The lack of clarity and transparency on how and why the U.S. pivot to Asia Pacific matters to her national security and core interests and the inconsistency of her foreign policy treating China as enemy and Japan do not make the U.S. an effective world leader. In world politics, if you want war, you keep secret plans, if you want peace; you make the foreign policy transparent.
Assuming that the U.S. is not planning for war in Asia, it is very important for the U.S. to recognize the emerging multi-polar world. To maintain peace in Asia and world stability, we urge the U.S. and China to have a dialogue to develop a ‘transparent’ strategy to gain trust, to reduce tension and to work collaboratively for mutual benefits, world peace, and prosperity.