The Korea Herald


[Wang Son-taek] US-China dialogue sheds light on a new global order

By Korea Herald

Published : June 29, 2023 - 05:44

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On June 18-19, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken visited Beijing, where he talked with China's top foreign policy decision makers one after another and achieved some consensus for improving bilateral relations. This is welcome news when 8 billion people worldwide, including myself, are troubled by anxiety over the US-China strategic competition.

The two countries have not made splendid breakthroughs in managing the US-China strategic competition. However, considering the two sides' difficulties, it has achieved relatively significant results. Above all, confirming that the two countries establish communication channels in various fields is very positive.

Along with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang's schedule to visit the US, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's push to visit China is also a positive story. It is also refreshing that the two countries reaffirmed their position that conflict and catastrophe should be avoided. In the case of the US, I commend the Biden administration for conducting the dialogue even though some groups opposed and obstructed dialogue with China domestically. The disclosure of information about the Chinese spy facilities in Cuba and the saga on the reconnaissance balloon some days before Blinken's scheduled visits to Beijing twice are believed to be efforts by the forces against the dialogue.

China also showed its willingness to improve relations with the US. In the first half of this year, there were widespread concerns that China could provide weapons to Russia in connection with the war between Russia and Ukraine. However, China did not offer them. This scene might be interpreted as China taking a step back to proceed with the dialogue. China's recent sharp reduction in the notorious wolf warrior diplomacy since late last year has also helped discussions.

While the US and China deserve praise for conducting dialogue and achieving significant results under challenging conditions, they still have a long way to go to reach their final goal. The most important task should be to create a new global order for the coexistence and co-prosperity of the two countries and the global community.

A new order is needed because the current US-led liberal order, which was formed after the end of the Cold War in 1991, has visibly cracked. The cracks began in 2003 when the US invaded Iraq and the US lost some of its sense of legitimacy as the hegemon state. The unreasonable invasion led to the 2008 financial crisis, which triggered a second plunge in US leadership.

But the critical fall in US leadership happened from the absurd policies of the former president of the US Donald Trump. He declared an "America First" approach, breaking away from the hegemonic power controlling the world order. The global community, which has been in a leadership vacuum due to this absurd deviation by the US, has no choice but to wait for a new order to be established.

The installation of a new order should still be led by the US, the world's strongest country. However, China, which has grown its national power on a colossal scale, should also participate. The United States should lead the new order, but an agreement should be reached to the extent that China agrees.

Possible new global rules, if not US rules, could include stopping coercive diplomacy, suspending unfair trade practices, banning illegal securing of cutting-edge technologies and using them for military use, prohibiting human rights violations, and suppressing democracy activists. On the other hand, China could have different ideas. If their practical meaning is to keep China in check, China will oppose them. China cannot agree that the new rules will ultimately be used as a pretext to disregard China's territorial sovereignty, unfairly block China's economic development opportunities, and interfere with China's internal affairs.

However, there is a possibility of a compromise in that China can also accept the US demand. China has also dramatically expanded its national power through the US-led liberal order over the last 30 years. Even if the US and China fail to reach an agreement on the new order, the ongoing negotiation process and the negotiation channel itself may constitute the new order or become its most significant feature.

Suppose the US wants to establish a new order for coexistence and co-prosperity with China. In that case, it must revise its Indo-Pacific strategy to check China or present a new policy initiative. The new initiative should be strategic guidance for the US to cover the global village as a hegemonic country, not targeting a single nation. Rather than a one-sided approach to economic sanctions against China, a process that combines compensation for countries complying with the US-led order is needed. To maintain its hegemonic order, the US must not be a prisoner of domestic politics but show wisdom and determination to separate diplomatic issues from domestic politics.

Let’s assume that China also wants stable national development for the next 30 years through coexistence and co-prosperity with the United States. In that case, it is necessary to partially revise the current strategy that focuses on the domestic political situation. President Xi Jinping's third consecutive term went smoothly, and policies to revive the pride of China and the Chinese people have already achieved significant results over the past decade. Therefore, it will benefit China to strengthen its internal capability in various fields, such as corporate capabilities and high-tech development.

There is a not-so-small possibility that the US and China will agree on a new global order. We saw a brief sign of movement toward that direction by the talks between the US and China in Beijing. I hope people worldwide will enjoy happiness and prosperity in a peaceful environment in the near future.

Wang Son-taek

Wang Son-taek is a director for the Global Policy Center at Hanpyeong Peace Institute. He was a former diplomatic correspondent at YTN and former research associate at Yeosijae. The views expressed here are his own. -- Ed.