US great power obsessions leading to duplicitous diplomacy

By Li Haidong Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/15 15:48:40

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Seeking to expand and coordinate the Five Eyes alliance in order for them to unanimously speak out on China-related issues, Washington is moving fast to encircle China as part of its obsession with the geopolitical game of great powers. 

It has recently accelerated its quadrilateral alliance with Australia, Japan and India (the QUAD), and has threatened to build a larger global anti-China alliance. 

Looking back on the history of international relations since World War II, there are many reasons for geopolitical turbulence. But the US factor is undoubtedly one of the most important ones. 

As the most powerful country in the world, the US' gravity continues to make waves - and the old adage of "when the US moves, and the world has to follow" still holds true. 

The relationship between major powers has always been one of key variables affecting international politics and relations. Since Donald Trump took office, the current US government has exaggeratedly stated that the world has now entered an era of superpower competition. In the past few years, it has continuously provoked and escalated the geopolitical rivalry among great powers. This has resulted in violent turbulence and deep adjustments in the relations between major powers and the international situation. 

Some scholars say the recent escalation of the geopolitical game among the big powers is rapidly redefining the evolution of the current international system. The emergence of this phenomenon is closely related to the US' foreign policy traditions and the setback of globalization.

First of all, the US has always been aggressive with its foreign policy. It is never satisfied with the status quo. It is committed to ruthlessly bashing any competitor it sees as a threat. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US guided then Russian leader with the "democratic peace" theory, trying to make Russia believe that as long as Western-style democratization was promoted, Russia could establish a lasting and stable relationship with the US.

However, the cold historical reality shows that the process of Russia's "democratization" turned into "chaos." Despite this, the US successfully incorporated the former Warsaw Pact countries into the NATO system in which the US is engaged in ongoing geopolitical competition against Russia. 

The double-faced diplomacy of the US with Russia is now being applied to China. The US is so obsessed with competition among major powers. Even when engaging in counter-terrorism policies or dealing with the financial crisis, it has never given up its efforts to stay on top. Despite the multi-dimensional and multi-faceted ties between China and the US, the Trump administration seeks to "decouple" from China. It uses the main excuse that, "China is taking advantage of the US." Many scholars worry that this is Washington's initial preparation for a far fiercer geopolitical competition to ensue.

Second, globalization has not fundamentally weakened the concept of border of nation-states. Anti-globalization countercurrents have formed a short-term momentum too. These factors have become a catalyst for the further intensification of the geopolitical competition among major powers. If cross-border flows and convergences of core elements of globalization (such as capital, personnel, information, and security) develop smoothly, then globalization will develop in the direction of a supranational state. Accordingly, a consensus for new security concepts will appear. However, the emergence of anti-globalization forces has now intensified how the major powers maneuver.

Indeed, the economic prosperity brought about by globalization in the past 30 years has, to some extent, shelved or buried many deep-seated problems. These involve human beings and nature, such as the disparity between the rich and the poor, environmental degradation, and the spread of infectious diseases. 

The escalation of the current geopolitical competition among the major powers is an international reality that all countries must face. Staying steady when the US continues to instigate constant diplomatic chaos will be a balancing act all countries will have to endure in this era. Each country will need to steadily improve its own strength and gradually shape new ways to manage the crises among the major powers. 

Countries will need to grapple with profound understandings of US diplomatic traditions in order to gain strength and respect. Those that fail to do so are likely to be knocked out of the international arena.

The author is professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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