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Ding Gang: China can assuage neighbors in Trump era

2016-11-18

By Ding Gang    Source: Global Times    Published: 2016-11-16

 

A spate of uncertainties erupted as soon as Donald Trump stunned everyone and swept the US presidential election. Nobody knows what this entrepreneur-turned-president-elect will do after he swears in. Will he fulfill his commitments he made during the campaign, many of which are horribly disruptive?


Trump is not personally the cause of this uncertainty, even though he is probably the most controversial president-elect the US has ever had. Trump`s ascension and his election is a footnote to the highly volatile era we live in.


The world order is in transformation. The old leadership dominated by the US and Europe is diminishing, leaving a power vacuum in the global framework of governance.


Trump`s election has concerned some of China`s neighbors, worried about the repercussions of the US shrinking its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Can China take on the responsibility for order in the Asia-Pacific region?


Japan, South Korea and Singapore, three major economies in the Asia-Pacific region, can thank the US for their rise. They are strongly attached to the old order and will cling to the US during a time of transformation.


The other countries in the region are also unlikely to give up their ties with the US just because of the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership or a reversal of President Barack Obama`s policy of reinforcing the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific.


Apart from politics and security, business and trade remains an important pillar that shores up US dominance in the Asia-Pacific. The US market is still the biggest in the world, to which most Asia-Pacific economies will export the majority of their products and services.


Raising the ante to counterbalance China`s rise is getting increasingly difficult and will inflict substantial losses of economic benefits. No one is willing to sacrifice economic growth for a geopolitical game. But the restlessness caused by the fading influence of the US and China`s growing influence demands China do more to soothe its neighbors.


Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2002, China`s greatest contribution to the world has been its robust and steady economic growth, which gives a major impetus to the global economy. It is time for China to transfer its role from an economic locomotive to an architect of the transformative world order.


The US earned its dominance in the world by strength, which it converted into the capacity to manage international affairs and control global organizations. The US and its governance has offered a kind of certainty to the world.


In world history, a rising power can bring historical changes because it leads the world in a direction all want to follow.


After WWI, then US president Woodrow Wilson proposed the Fourteen Points, a statement of principles for world peace, and managed to point to a new direction for the international community. Although the proposal came on the eve of WWII, its legacy was adopted by the US after the war, and along with the establishment of US dominance in the world, became part of the founding principles of rebuilding world peace.


The founding of the United Nations, the independence of colonial countries, and the advancement of global trade are all related to the Fourteen Points. To a large extent, the proposition has laid the foundation for a US-led world order.


The prominent characteristic of the proposition is that it is concrete, specific and mindful of the interests of the majority of countries, especially colonies.


Now, the world has come to a crossroads. Which country can provide as much certainty to this confusing world as the US did? Reverting to the old world order is not a solution. Allowing China to modify the world order could be an option.


China should offer certainty to the world by engaging in the process of principle-making. It should start with resolving disputes with its neighbors, and then improve cooperative frameworks and mechanisms. The world will then be more confident with China`s role.


The author is a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: US   Trump   China  

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