Wang Wen: Before next US govt resumes world leadership, humanity must restore global governance

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Wang Wen: Before next US govt resumes world leadership, humanity must restore global governance

2020-11-17

By Wang Wen        Source: Global Times        Published: 2020-11-16


Joe Biden published an article "Why America Must Lead Again" in a Foreign Affairs magazine earlier this year. In fact, what matters to the world is not who leads it, but whether or not the global governance, which is now in a state of shock, can be appropriately restored.


Global governance is in dire straits. The primary reason for this stems from the US abandonment of the norms or international institutions over the past few years. Then COVID-19 came. This is the first global crisis in which the US has not assumed international leadership since the World War I. The US has always been in a leading position with the WWI, the Great Depression in 1929, WWII, the 1970s energy crisis, the Cold War, the Middle East crisis in the 1990s, and the 2008 global financial crisis. However, in this global public health crisis, the US didn't lead the world in fighting the pandemic. Nor could it even protect itself.


The second reason is the serious disruption to major international organizations of global governance represented by the UN, WTO and WHO. The UN has always aimed at bringing great powers together, but it has lost its appeal during COVID-19 outbreak. Former advantages of international morale are currently weaker than ever.


In the face of the ongoing global recession with protracted trade loss, WTO's reform and response has been seriously harmed. The WHO has been fighting at the anti-pandemic forefront, but the effectiveness of the international response to the virus has still been greatly diminished due to the US going out of the picture.


Third, coordinating bodies such as the G20 and G7 have not been harnessed to their fullest capacities, and have seemed to be disarrayed. Coordination among major powers has played a huge role in past global crises of the past half century. But during the COVID-19 outbreak, G7 countries were hit hard. Worse still, they are trapped in an even more severe second wave. G20 leaders held a virtual meeting in March, but internal disputes regarding the theme and implementation of the resolution still exist in the G20 summit. The lack of unity among major powers has encouraged protectionism and de-globalization in many countries. Under the pressures of this pandemic, humanity has not been united.


Fourth, international fiscal and currency coordination bodies, such as the IMF and the World Bank, have become ineffective. Human history is seeing the worst negative growth since WWII, and all countries should have worked together to recover. Unfortunately, some European countries and the US have implemented quantitative easing and zero or even negative interest rates. This has indirectly started an international currency conflict. In the US, the federal budget deficit surpassed $3 trillion through August, and is projected to widen to $3.3 trillion by the end of this fiscal year. This has led to violent turbulence in international financial markets and is worsening the situation.


The sick global governance is an important reason for the out-of-control global pandemic. Due to the COVID-19, governance deficits are increasing, adding greater pressure on weak global governance and leading to further pains.


Global governance has flourished since the end of the Cold War. Some people of insight have tried to push humanity to maintain the order of the international society and resolve transnational problems based on existing international mechanisms and global rules - regardless of their nationality, race, religion, or ideology.


It should be said that global governance has made great achievements. But why has it become so vulnerable in 2020? The primary reason is that the COVID-19 pandemic is far worse than anyone could have imagined.


When COVID-19 broke out, most Chinese people thought it was another SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). In 2003, SARS infected only a little more than 8,000 people on a global basis. The number of COVID-19 infections has been over 6,000 times in comparison of SARS, and the number is still rising. Human beings have underestimated the detriment of infectious diseases and are now paying a high price for them.


Countries in Europe and the Americas, whose societies are based on liberal values, have paid the highest price. The pandemic has rampantly spread for nearly one year. Unexpectedly, there are still a great number of people in Europe and North America refusing to wear masks in the name of freedom. Safeguarding freedom is especially valuable when society is prosperous. Yet amid crisis, everyone should have the obligation and responsibility to sacrifice their freedoms to reasonable demands. European and American countries - long-term leaders in guiding global governance - have not been able to effectively fight the pandemic. This has directly led to the lack of leaders in emerging and developing countries in dealing with the deadly disease. As such, much of the world has fallen into chaos.


Some people are now asking: is it the time for China to lead global governance? No! From my perspective, China harbors neither the will nor sufficient capability to lead global governance. Beijing hopes to contribute a "China plan" to global governance, but the plan does not involve China's leadership. China's notion on global governance is not the pattern in which one country should take the lead and others follow suit. It should be based on equality and inclusiveness. The future of global governance will involve consultations, with the will of every country being respected.


I believe international cooperation in battling the pandemic remains the priority for international community. Human beings should have a clear awareness of the long-term impairment of the pandemic. Every country should share the genome sequences of the novel coronavirus, overcome difficulties together, and develop widely available vaccines. This is what every international political organization should promote and appeal for. And every citizen across the world has to wear masks in the long-run.


Global governance has reached a critical juncture where everyone has to contribute to and work toward an identical goal.


The author is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. wangwen2013@ruc.edu.cn

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