By Zhao Minghao Source: Global Times Published: 2017-2-28
The 53rd Munich Security Conference was held recently and the message it conveyed to the world is anxiety rather than hope. Last year in Munich, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that the world has entered a "new Cold War." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in this year`s gathering, called for "a post-West world order," blaming NATO for being a Cold War institution and saying the bloc`s expansion has only led to an unprecedented level of tensions between Russia and the West.
According to its annual report released by the Munich Security Conference, the post-WWII world order dominated by the West is coming to an end. The report which is entitled "Post-Truth, Post-West, Post-Order?" reflects the deep concerns the European strategic elites have over the world. There is no doubt that the US` choice is crucial for the future.
US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Defense James Mattis attended the Munich Security Conference on behalf of the Trump government. In order to appease the Europeans, both of them accentuated the US` "unwavering" commitment to the transatlantic bond and support for NATO.
As a president, Trump seems not welcomed in Europe. The Europeans are vexed by his contempt against NATO and attacks on the media. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed in Munich that free and independent press is a pillar of democracy, which is considered an implicit criticism on Trump.
By breaking traditions, Pence and Mattis left the conference as soon as they finished their speeches, without hosting a question and answer session. The very message that they hoped to convey to the European allies was that if the latter wanted the US to maintain its security commitments to Europe, they must come up with a plan by the end of this year to allocate 2 percent of their GDP to military budgets. The Americans seemed not interested in addressing the concerns of their European counterparts.
The crack in the transatlantic alliance is obvious and Trump`s presidency has added many uncertainties to the US-European relations. It seems that the Europeans didn`t believe the sweet-sounding commitments Pence and Mattis made about the US-European relations represent Trump`s idea.
Moreover, more than 1.8 million British people have signed a petition calling for Trump`s official state visit to be canceled. The Speaker of the Commons John Bercow has publicly said that he is strongly opposed to Trump speaking in Parliament because of its "opposition to racism and sexism." The US-Britain special relationship is facing unprecedented challenges as sharp differences in value between the two are emerging.
In addition, Trump`s "America first" pledge, in particular his strong protectionism, is increasingly worrisome. Weeks ago, IMF chief Christine Lagarde warned that Trump taking office is likely good for the American economy in the short term, though the rise in US interest rates and a strengthening dollar would challenge global trade.
The US is becoming an unpredictable country. Trump`s presidency has just started to stir up turbulences in the world. Predictability is the basis of order; however, Trump has used unpredictability as a policy tool. Many within Trump`s inner circle have a zero-sum mentality. Their mindset is very dangerous and seems very "un-American."
Facing the US retrenchment and drastic changes, other major powers including China, Europe and Russia need to take due responsibilities. In the 21st century, every country has to give up its hegemonic ambition. A multi-centered world which is centered on the US, China, Europe and Russia while having countries like Kazakhstan, Indonesia and Iran as pivotal states is likely to take shape in the next 20 years.
The multi-centered world is different from a multi-polar world. It emphasizes the need for more sensible management of the interdependence in global affairs. China will not seek global hegemony, but it can choose a connectivity-oriented strategy.
The author is a visiting fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.