The term 'new Non-Aligned Movement' is too simplistic in multilateral world

By Ge Hongliang Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/17 20:18:40

Photo: VCG

Some small- and medium-sized countries have been increasingly feeling the pressure of choosing sides between China and the US, as tensions mount between the two and the politics of Washington heats up.

For example, Indonesia delivered a message before the recent ASEAN foreign ministers' meetings, saying that ASEAN does not want to get trapped by China-US rivalry. The term "new Non-Aligned Movement" has also been voiced in Asia and Latin America.

The China-US relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world today. It has a great impact on global stability and certainty. The prospect of a confrontation between the two is making many small- and medium-sized countries uneasy.

Though some countries have made it clear that they do not want to take sides between China and the US, the trend toward the future situation is ambiguous and uncertain. They do not want to see severe friction or even war between the two powers. They hope to maintain open cooperation with both. The "great power balance" which was stressed in the past has come to a more dynamic and diverse state. 

However, the concept of "new Non-Aligned Movement" is a simplistic and unrealistic understanding of the current international situation. It corresponds to the so-called new cold war proposed by the US. This is the result of simple historical analogies and dualistic thinking. 

Indeed, the competition between the US and China in science and technology, maritime security and cultural exchanges is greater than in the past. Old memories of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union have led some academics and members of the public to unconsciously compare current China-US relations with it. 

However, it is clear that the current state of world affairs and relations between China and the US are markedly different than the past. But we are also sure that future development of China-US competition is probably more complex and difficult to deal with under uncertain and unstable global situations. 

In this case, the "new Non-Aligned Movement" concept falls into a trap. It uses a way of viewing the international situation with a traditional binary way of thinking. It perceives the inter-state relationship from the perspective of geopolitical confrontation. Moreover, some countries seek to ease the pressure of "choosing sides" by using certain historical memories for their courses of action. 

Conflicts between emerging developing countries, including China, and old developed countries are increasing. 

In terms of economy, emerging developing countries are gradually growing into new driving forces for the world economy, which is in sharp contrast to the decline of the developed countries. 

Meanwhile, anti-globalization movements have brought great challenges to the existing system of multilateralism and globalization. The general concept of security and the emergence of more global security issues make it urgent to change the paradigm of the political management of world affairs. This requires collaboration between countries. Therefore, a focus on the China-US competition based on the "new Non-Aligned Movement" only gives a small glimpse into the global situation in this current era of great changes.

We have seen some positive response to these great changes. We have seen ASEAN adhere to the principle of "balance between great powers." The body increasingly emphasizes a consolidation of its "centrality." Even in the highly confrontational field of military and security matters, ASEAN still promotes regional defense cooperation centered on itself. By contrast, the "new Non-Aligned Movement" concept represents an overly simplistic and unrealistic response.

Since China carried out reform and opening-up, China has adhered to the principle of non-alignment. It has continued to strengthen relations with the Non-Alignment Movement members, and is now an observer state in the organization. 

China and the member states have long held consensus on enhancing South-South cooperation and establishing a new order in international community. This is exactly the purpose of the Non-Aligned Movement. In this sense, the so-called new Non-Aligned Movement separates China's friendly relations with other member countries and goes against the purposes of the organization.

Under the momentum of great changes, we need to have a more detailed analysis of new problems emerging in international politics - rather than simply making up misleading narratives. 

The author is vice dean of College of ASEAN Studies at Guangxi University for Nationalities.


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