观察者网

李世默:中国、美国,和那些各处崛起的“爱国贼”们

2017-11-02 16:04:46

【10月26日,美国保守主义政治期刊《美国事务》网站刊发复旦大学中国研究院研究员、春秋发展战略研究院研究员李世默关于中美关系和“民族主义”崛起的英文评论文章,作者独家授权观察者网刊登中文版,以飨读者。

《美国事务》以“中国、美国以及‘民族主义’”为题刊发李世默文章

一个多月以前,在得知史蒂夫·班农(刚离职的特朗普总统首席战略顾问)将赴香港出席里昂证券投资者论坛后,人们纷纷做准备迎接最猛烈的嘴炮。据《纽约时报》报道,班农将借机在中国领土上发动正面进攻,并高调鼓吹中美两国围绕着21世纪的世界统治权,已经展开——或应该展开——一场史诗级的搏斗。

或许没人比这位布赖特巴特新闻网的老板更适合代表特朗普政治运动背后的“美国优先”精神。在卸任白宫高级官员之前数日,班农接受了《美国展望》杂志采访并表示:“美国正在和中国进行一场经济战争……25或30年内,我们中的一个将成为霸主……”。

然而在随后的主旨演讲和接受媒体采访时,班农却称,冷战已经过去,自己“从未采取反华立场”。中美两国虽然是竞争关系,但完全有能力一起解决问题,包括当下最棘手的朝核问题。班农对中国领导人给予了相当高的赞誉,称习近平主席为英明领袖,也是特朗普总统最尊敬的世界领导人(the world leader)。

在许多人看来,班农仿佛患了精神分裂症,但其实这种矛盾心态并不奇怪。当下搅动美国的“民族主义”运动其实只是冰山一角,其背后是一场席卷全球的意识形态范式转变。它是针对数十年来意识形态领域的“全球主义”(有别于经济全球化)的反作用力量。全球化本来是直截了当的,就是指世界通过贸易、投资、旅游、信息等方式,越来越紧密地联系在一起(中国称之为“互联互通”),然而这个趋势却遭到了全球主义的绑架,被变成一种强势推进的意识形态。它所设想的世界在经济、政治、国际关系甚至道德层面不断收敛同化,最终实行统一的规则和准则。国界将逐渐失去意义,最终彻底消失;文化特性最终让位于普世价值。自冷战结束以来,美国主导的所谓自由主义世界秩序,本质上已转变为对宗教般的普世秩序的憧憬,而它的扩张是以牺牲国家主权为代价的。

这套意识形态过度扩张引起了反弹,影响范围远远超出了美国,甚至也不局限于西方。即使在中国这个通常被认为是全球化受益方的国家,外交和经济政策基于国家利益已经成为准则。长期以来,中国更偏向基于国家利益而不是普世主义意识形态的国际框架。事实上,西方如果以国家利益为基础开展外交,更可能维持和平甚至与中国达成合作;反之,西方精英鼓吹的全球主义则可能导致国内外出现紧张状态。

全球主义在全球碰壁

世人越来越多地意识到,西方国家和许多发展中国家的精英在推行全球主义时,牺牲了本国同胞和社区的利益。以美国为例,全球化带来的大部分利益被华尔街和硅谷攫取,而中产阶级却一蹶不振。

许多发展中国家状况相同,甚至更糟。比如菲律宾,经过“自由派”多年领导,变成了毒枭的避风港,青年人深受毒品戕害,经济严重受损,几乎快要沦为一个毒品国家。匈牙利和波兰作为两大最成功的东欧阵营国家,冷战结束后加入了西方阵营,然而它们最想优先解决的事项不断遭遇来自欧盟的压力。在移民和司法等领域,布鲁塞尔几乎使它们无法像主权国家那样制定基本政策。

如今,许多此类国家产生了强人领袖,他们致力于强化国家权力,以对抗过度扩张的普世秩序:菲律宾的罗德里戈·杜特尔特,匈牙利的欧尔班·维克托,印度的纳伦德拉·莫迪,波兰的法律与公正党,埃及的阿卜杜勒-法塔赫·塞西,泰国的巴育·詹欧差,俄罗斯的弗拉基米尔·普京,以及英国脱欧。

而美国则造就了特朗普。

在话术上给他们贴上民族主义者或民粹主义者的标签(在中国,普世自由派则发明了“爱国贼”这个标签),未免过于简单化。他们确实怀着民族主义心理,并且诉诸于民粹主义手段,但这一切都是以普世主义秩序过于激进为背景的,后者严重限制了各国政府根据具体国情为本国人民解决问题的权力。

这些领导人之所以得到本国人民的支持,是因为人民渴望重新掌握决定国家命运的权力。以杜特尔特总统为例,他重拳打击毒品犯罪,遭到许多全球意见领袖谴责,在国内却大得民心,即使最近支持率有所下滑,但仍得到大部分饱受毒品摧残的菲律宾人民的有力支持。与之类似,波兰和匈牙利领导人维护国境安全的政策,也面临来自欧盟的巨大压力。就连诺贝尔和平奖得主昂山素季,也因处理本国复杂血腥的种族问题,而在普世价值倡导者那里失宠,甚至遭到攻击。

在越来越多的发达国家和发展中国家,传统的“全球主义”政治建制派已无法解决社会问题。因此,“民族主义者”便作为他们的反对派登场了。不久前,奥地利的“民族主义”政党在全国选举中以绝对多数票胜出。安格拉·默克尔在特朗普当选美国总统后,被建制派封为自由世界的新领袖,即便强大如斯,其政党的选民支持率仍然跌至70年来的最低水平,而德国另类选择党则飙升至历史高位。

在美国,特朗普的当选开启了持续分裂的“新时代”。美国政治建制派和主流媒体开足马力对特朗普展开攻击,程度之激烈,连前总统吉米·卡特都承认在近代历史记忆中实属罕见。就在10月,前总统小布什和参议员约翰·麦凯恩这两位共和党大佬,也加入了批特朗普的行列。小布什道出了许多美国知识精英长期坚持的观点,即美国是建立在抽象理念上的国家,是完全由意识形态定义的信条政体,任何偏离美国信条的做法都是“亵渎”。麦凯恩则认为,特朗普运动背后的民族主义情绪最终归属一定是“历史的垃圾堆”。这些字眼着实令人不安。苏联也曾经自诩为意识形态大国,并自毁民族共同历史与社会共同基础。美国的全球主义者是否正企图把美国从民族国家改造为意识形态国家,而步苏联的后尘?

中国才不会放弃国家利益

中国是个相对特殊的例子,它从不曾屈服于全球主义的普世秩序。虽然中国在贸易和经济领域实行对外开放政策,但它仍然保持了政治上的自主权,从而根据国情治国理政。一直以来,中国都在以自己的方式接入全球化。在加入世贸组织前的漫长谈判中,中国政府锲而不舍赢得了世贸组织在就业方面的让步,扩大了本国人民的就业机会。中国以市场准入换取技术转让,为国民经济的长期健康发展打下了良好基础。正如习近平主席所说,中国绝不会“吞下损害国家利益的苦果”来满足某种普世秩序的要求。

此外,中国一直主张让所有国家按照自身条件选择以何种方式加入全球化。让不同国家追求适合自己的发展道路,一直是中国秉持的世界观。这就是为什么民族主义和民粹主义席卷美国和许多其他国家,却没有对中国造成冲击——因为中国不需要用它来制衡全球主义。

过去三十年,中国正是通过在全球化环境中审时度势,有策略地追求属于自己的利益,才从贫穷的农业国家一跃为世界第二大经济体,若按购买力平价计算,中国已经成为世界头号经济体。在此过程中,中国使7亿人口摆脱了贫困。是的,中国贫富差距显著扩大,但即使最穷的人生活也比一二十年前好得多。这与美国的情况产生了巨大的反差,美国的高收入群体几乎攫取了全球化创造的全部财富,导致中产阶级和底层民众的生活水平大下滑。

中国与美国:可以合作的竞争者

正如班农所说,美国和中国是竞争对手。这是显而易见的。其实从某种程度来说,几乎所有国家都是彼此的竞争对手,美国和俄罗斯是竞争对手,德国和美国是竞争对手,印度和中国是竞争对手。除了几乎所有国家之间都存在的经济竞争,文化和文明差异,以及地缘政治的利益矛盾,都存在诱发冲突的可能。

但与此同时,中美两国的相似之处远比看上去的多。

如果班农把中美敌对关系看作核心斗争,并以此定义他和特朗普的政治事业,那便大错特错了。如今与中国相比,美国更可能被自己创造的普世秩序消解分裂。自冷战结束以来,全球主义议程已经把美国从一个冷战胜利的超级大国,变为一个在外穷兵黩武,在内贫富极化、政治衰败、社会瓦解的国家。

特朗普治下的美国与中国乃至其他潜在竞争对手之间,有着共同利益,那就是抑制全球主义泛滥以及重构世界秩序,使其更符合民族国家和社区的利益。在这条路上,中国可以说走得最成功,也是这些国家的潜在盟友。

这些新崛起的强人领袖们在勉力重整国家主权时,也许会发现,中国往往对他们的目标是支持的。毫无疑问,中国支持其他国家捍卫国界、自主决定移民政策的努力。几十年来,中国一直最坚定地捍卫民族国家所体现出的文化完整性。中国是世界上唯一对杜特尔特的禁毒战争提供精神和物质双重支持的主要大国。2017年5月,在联合国人权理事会的普遍定期审议上,各国对菲律宾一片谴责,唯有中国力挺它。

多年来,中国独自拒斥强加于自己头上的普世价值。这些普世价值的倡导者现在每天都在攻击特朗普,他们所使用的语言几乎和过去谴责中国时一模一样。同样是这些人,今年年初在达沃斯聆听习近平主席关于全球化的讲话后一片雀跃,但中国人并不盲目,反而十分清楚他们的全球主义议程与中国议程之间的区别。

在经济问题特别是贸易问题上,许多美国人想当然地认为中国站在美国的对立面。但即使在这些领域,尽管两国利益不同,但观点正在趋同。基于自身的发展经验,中国偏好的国际经济体系应给予各国一定空间,以制定适宜各国国情的贸易政策。中国正在与亚洲邻国谈判的贸易协定《区域全面经济伙伴关系协定》(RCEP),与《跨太平洋伙伴关系协定》(TPP)明显不同,后者得到奥巴马的推动,最后却终结在特朗普手里。前者为不同国家设想了不同的标准,后者则试图将普世标准推广到不同国家。

特朗普及其支持者指责中国是导致美国就业岗位流失的罪魁祸首,这种说法过于简单化。美国从全球化中获取了巨大的利益。问题的关键在于美国无法在国家内部公平分配这些利益,以使其利于本国的长治久安。他们又怎能责怪中国领导人尽心尽责地维护中国的利益呢?如果特朗普政府足够聪明,愿意坐下来和中国人谈判,很可能会发现对方愿意接受一个照顾自身利益和需要的美国。中国应该协助美国解决双边贸易失衡问题。只要利益交换适当,中国可能愿意对出口加以控制,进一步对美国商品和服务开放市场。

汪洋副总理是中美战略与经济对话的中方负责人,他于2017年7月在华盛顿发表演讲:“我们理解美国不少人支持‘雇美国人、买美国货’,因为中方也有人主张‘买中国货、用中国人’。但双方都应清醒地认识到,在两国经贸合作深度交融的今天,中国人不可能不买美国货,美国人也离不开中国货。我们都希望看到两国经贸关系强劲、平衡、健康发展。”

中美两个强大主权国家之间的双边互动,或许是前方最有建设性的道路。汪洋副总理在讲话中提到,今年前五个月中国自美国进口的液化天然气已达40万吨,而去年同期为零,而这正是中国根据自身国家利益调整对美经济关系的结果。此外,中国也解除了长期以来对美国牛肉的禁令。从长期看,中国经济正在进行结构性调整,例如限制外商参与的行业数量从六年前的180个减少至现在的63个。消费和服务在GDP增长中所占比重都明显提升。这些迹象都有利于中美贸易在中长期内逐步走向平衡,而这些政策都是中国按照本国利益调整制定的。

因此,美国的领导者们最好能克制一下妄想症,别再为中国的成长胡思乱想。中国人想要的,就是在亚洲拥有与本国体量和历史相称的卓然地位,但并没有野心成为全球霸主,中国文明没有这种基因。中国人当年修建长城是为了防止“野蛮人”侵略,而不是为了侵略“野蛮人”。在过去的100多年中,中国从来只有割地退让,从未拓展领土主张。中华人民共和国成立时,周边16个陆上邻国全都与中国有领土争端。现在除了印度和不丹两国,其他邻国都已通过双边谈判方式——而非全球多边谈判方式——与中国和平解决了领土问题。

多边外交自然有它的作用。但强大的主权国家基于长远国家利益而奉行的理性政策,也同样可以有利于和平。受全球主义意识形态驱动的多边主义,往往会加剧冲突。例如在南海问题上,某国际仲裁法庭的裁决加剧了对抗,反倒是中国和菲律宾之间通过双边谈判最终达成了协议。特朗普总统有一点可能说对了:美国为维持当前的世界秩序,耗费了太多资源。美国军队部署遍及世界,力量分散以至于难以应对国内的自然灾害。也许现在美国是时候该重整一下家园了,它应该去解决国内堆积如山的问题,同时也让其他主权国家解决各自的问题。

改革国际机构

对刚掌握权力的民族主义领导人来说,强化国家主权过程中最大的风险是把世界带回一片弱肉强食的丛林,为短暂利益牺牲长久和平。这样的做法无异于背叛那些赋予他们权力的人民。在技术和经济的双重作用下,互联互通的长期趋势不会改变。全球主义作为一种意识形态走过头了,但我们的目标不是逆转全球化,而是重塑全球化的结构和形式,让更多人从中获益。

当今这群“民族主义”领导人若想为美好未来做出贡献,他们必须超越“你来我往”的反对和抗议行为,开始创设具有积极意义的议程。改革的第一刀可以从全球性机构开始。许多机构为追求整齐划一的世界制定了严苛的规则,因而未能实现促进发展的任务。例如在过去二十年中,绝大多数发展中国家坚持执行“贸易自由”和资本流动自由的教条理论,未能在经济发展上取得应允的效果。在欧盟内部,单一货币和统一的劳工规则削弱了希腊、意大利、保加利亚等国的应变能力,产生了极其严重的后果。时至今日,世界银行存在的意义似乎主要是服务于内部官僚和普世主义鼓吹者。它繁琐、抽象的规章制度往往造成一地经济发展瘫痪的局面,大大辜负了许多发展中国家的期望。如果这些国际机构无法有效地自我改革,就应该建立新机构,启动新制度。两年前,中国冲破奥巴马政府的阻挠,主导成立亚洲基础设施投资银行(AIIB),正是成功建立新机构的案例。

经济领域以外的国际机构也面临类似的问题。国际刑事法院(ICC)为了维护抽象的原则,常常罔顾当地现实。它经常选择性地缉拿战争嫌疑犯,往往导致暴力冲突持续时间更长,在非洲类似案例无数。

各国“民族主义”运动的领袖们必须明确,他们要做的不是试图逆转全球化进程,而是要推进新一代的全球化。这些领袖和中国之间相互支持,可能成为未来的新常态。为了促进铁路建设、提升中国和中欧国家之间物流水平,匈牙利总理奥尔班去年曾访问中国。他表示:“我们需要正视彼此、直接交流,而不强求对方改变自己……西方不要以为自己代表着某种更高尚的理想,并期望其他国家接受这套反映西方理想的国际准则……中国的政治制度中国人说了算,匈牙利的政治制度匈牙利人说了算……没有谁能自封为法官干涉别国内政。”

美国总统特朗普将自己的外交政策观点总结为“有原则的现实主义”。不久前他在联合国大会上的讲话呼应了中国一贯的主张:“强大的主权民族国家让奉行不同价值观、不同文化、不同梦想的国家和平共处,并在相互尊重的基础上并肩协作。”

在追求“永恒的利益”时,国家之间难免出现竞争,一旦爆发战争,则大家都是输家。因此习近平主席提议建立“命运共同体”。在杜特尔特担任总统后,菲律宾与中国的关系走向和解,搁置南海领土争端,追求贸易和投资的共同利益。一些评论人士认为这反映菲律宾屈从于中国,但事实并非如此,杜特尔特总统在与巨人邻居打交道时仍然坚持了本国立场。菲律宾在南海问题上与中国合作,换来了中国数十亿美元的发展援助,以及对菲国禁毒运动的支持。这便是“命运共同体”的良好例子。

西方舆论领袖往往对中国取得的外交成果百般嘲弄,但过去几十年的结果如何,有目共睹。各国刚刚掌权的“民族主义者”应该有能力迎接一个更强劲的国际新秩序,而中国正是他们重要的合作伙伴。这套新秩序允许各国根据自身条件走不同的发展道路,在捍卫本国利益的基础上相互合作,维护全球共同利益。全世界民族主义者和潜在的民族主义者都应读懂一个道理:中国是你的榜样,可能成为你的盟友,至少不会是你的敌人。

(翻页查看英文版)

Fire and fury” were expected at the annual CLSA conference in Hong Kong in September. Stephen Bannon was to deliver a frontal assault on China—on Chinese soil—and advance the proposition that the United States and China are, or should be, engaged in an epic struggle for world domination in the twenty-first century, according to the New York Times.

Perhaps no one represents the “America First” ethos behind the Trump movement more than the executive director of Breitbart News. In an earlier interview, during his last days as a White House senior official, he told the American Prospect that “we’re at economic war with China. . . . One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years. . . .”

In his keynote address, however, and in subsequent press interviews, Bannon said that he had “never been anti-China,” and that we are no longer in the Cold War era. Although the United States and China are in a competitive relationship, they are quite capable of resolving their problems, even in the toughest case at the present time—the North Korean nuclear issue. He also paid rather strong compliments to the Chinese leadership, calling President Xi Jinping a “wise leader” and the world leader that President Trump respects the most.

Seemingly schizophrenic to many, this mindset should not have been a surprise. The “nationalist” movement that is roiling the United States is part of a paradigm shift that has been sweeping the globe. This is a reaction to the excesses of ideological “globalism” (as opposed to economic globalization) in the past few decades. While globalization simply means a world increasingly interconnected through trade, investment, travel, and information, globalism has hijacked that trend and turned it into an ideology. It envisions a world moving relentlessly toward the adoption of a unified set of rules and standards in economics, politics, international relations, and even morality. National borders would gradually lose relevance and even disappear. Cultural distinctions would give way to universal values. Since the end of the Cold War, the so-called liberal world order, led by America, has essentially been turned into an aspiration for a universal order, at the expense of national sovereignties.

The reaction against such ideological overreach is not limited to the United States or even the West. Even in the country often considered a major beneficiary of globalization—China—an approach based on national interests to foreign and economic policy has been the norm. China has long preferred an international framework in which states interact with each other based on their respective national interests rather than universal ideology. Indeed, a national-interests-based approach to foreign affairs is more likely to ensure continued peace and even cooperation with China, while the globalism of the Western elite is more likely to create tension both between and within nations.

The Global Unpopularity of Globalism

Increasingly, large portions of people, even many majorities, have decided that elites in Western countries—and in many developing countries as well—have prosecuted this project of globalism at the expense of their own peoples and communities. In America, Wall Street and Silicon Valley reaped the lion’s share of the benefits of globalization while the American middle class stagnated and languished.

The situation is the same and worse in many developing countries.  The Philippines, after many years of “liberal” leadership, was being turned into a massive haven for drug lords and is teetering toward becoming a narco-state, with its youth poisoned, and its economic development severely crippled. Hungary and Poland, two of the most successful eastern European countries that joined the West after the Cold War, have seen their national priorities suppressed by Brussels’ dicta. The EU has nearly prevented them from determining policies that are most fundamental to a sovereign nation, such as immigration and how to run their courts.

Now many of these countries have produced rather strong leaders who (among other things) are seeking to reassert national powers against an over-reaching universal order: the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, India’s Narendra Modi, Poland’s Law and Justice Party, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Thailand’s Prayut Chan-o-Cha, and, of course, Russia’s Vladimir Putin—plus Brexit.

And America produced Donald Trump.

To polemically brand them as nationalists, or populists, is a gross oversimplification. They are nationalistic, and appeal to populism, only in the context of an overly aggressive, one-size-fits-all universal order that has severely limited the powers of national governments to solve problems for their own peoples under their respective and unique national circumstances.

Their support among their own people is derived from the latter’s desire to get some power back, in order to determine their nations’ own destinies. President Duterte’s aggressive campaign against drug crimes, for example, has been condemned by many global opinion leaders but enjoys significant support among the long-suffering Filipino people, even after recent declines. The leaders of Poland and Hungary have likewise faced tremendous pressure from the EU over their efforts to secure their national borders. Even Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sang Su Ki, who used to be the darling of universal values advocates, is under attack from her former fans for her efforts to deal with violent and complex ethnic issues on the ground in her country.

In an increasing number of developed and developing countries alike, the conventional, “globalist” political establishment is simply no longer able to solve their societies’ problems. Hence their opposition, “nationalists,” are on the march. “Nationalist” parties have recently won a clear majority of votes in Austria’s national election. Even the mighty Angela Merkel, coroneted by the establishment as the new leader of the free world after Trump’s election, saw her party receive the lowest level of voter support in 70 years in the most recent election, while Alternative for Germany (AfD) has surged to a historic high.

In the United States, Trump’s election has begun a sustained period of division. The intensity of the attacks on Trump from virtually all quarters of the American political and media establishment has been rare in recent memory—even Jimmy Carter agreed.  Just this month, two elder Republican leaders, former President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, weighed in. Bush echoed the long-held views of many American intellectual elites that the United States is a nation of ideas—a credo polity defined only by its ideology, and divergence from the American creed is “blasphemy”. McCain consigned the nationalist sentiments underlying the Trump movement to the “ash heap of history”. Such language is troubling, to say the least. The last great power that defined itself as a state of ideas and rejected the central role of shared national history and community in its foundation was the Soviet Union. Are American globalists attempting to turn America from a nation-state into an ideological state—one that could follow the footsteps of the USSR?

China Will Not Abandon Its National Interests

China is a rather unique case in that it never succumbed to the universal order of globalism. Although opening up to the world, especially in trade and economic activity, it has been able to retain its political autonomy to implement policies based on its own circumstances. China has always engaged with globalization on its own terms. In its long negotiation to accede to the WTO, the Chinese government won hard-fought concessions that enabled it to expand employment for its people. Technology transfers were required in exchange for market access, all for the long-term welfare of its national economy.  As President Xi has said, China would not “swallow the bitter fruits of harming its national interests” to satisfy the demands of some world order.

Furthermore, China has long advocated allowing such an approach for all other countries. Letting different countries pursue their own development paths has been a steadfast motto of China’s worldview. This is why the kind of intense nationalistic populism that is sweeping America and many other countries is not happening in China—because there is no such need.

Over the past thirty years, China has transformed itself from a poor agrarian country into the second largest economy in the world, precisely through the intelligent pursuit of its natural interests in a globalizing context. China became the largest economy by purchasing power parity and, in the process, lifted 700 million people out of poverty. Yes, the divide between rich and poor has expanded dramatically. But even the poorest are better off compared to where they were ten or twenty years ago. This is starkly different from what has happened in the United States, where the top earners took virtually all of the wealth created by globalization and the middle and bottom are mostly worse off.

China and the United States: Competitors Can Cooperate

Just as Bannon said, the United States and China are competitors. This is obvious. In fact, almost all countries are rivals of each other to some degree—the United States and Russia, Germany and the United States, India and China. In addition to the economic competition that exists between almost all nations, cultural and civilizational differences combined with geo-political contentions create the potential for conflicts.

But, at the same time, China and the United States have more in common than it appears.

Mr. Bannon would be mistaken if he made America’s rivalry with China the defining struggle of his and Mr. Trump’s political enterprise. At this moment, the American nation is much more at risk of being subsumed by the Frankenstein universal order of its own making than is China. In the past quarter century, after the end of the Cold War, the globalist agenda has turned America from a victorious superpower into a nation mired in constant and endless warfare abroad and economic polarization, political decay, and social unraveling at home.

Trump’s America and China, and many other would-be competitor nations, have a common interest in moderating the excesses of globalism and reconfiguring the world order to make it more conducive to the interests of nations and communities.  In this pursuit, China is arguably the most successful, and a potential ally.

Leaders looking to restore national sovereignty will find China to be supportive of many of their goals. China would no doubt support other countries’ efforts to regain control of their national borders and determine their own immigration policies, for instance. The Chinese have for decades been the staunchest defender of cultural integrity, embodied in nation states. China is the only major world power to provide strong moral and material support to President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign. At the Universal Periodic Review undertaken by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2017, China was the only country that stood by Manila while others condemned it.

For many years, China has been virtually alone in rejecting universal values imposed from the outside. The same proponents of these universal values are now condemning Trump on a daily basis, using nearly identical language to that which they have used to condemn China for a long time. These same voices cheered President Xi at Davos, but the Chinese are not so blind. They know the difference between the globalist agenda and the Chinese agenda.

Many Americans may be too quick to assume that China is on the opposite side when it comes to economic issues, especially on trade. But even here, although their interests necessarily differ, their outlooks are converging. Given its own development experience, China would certainly favor an international economic system that allows room for different countries to implement trade policies appropriate to their national needs. The trade deal China is pursuing with Asian countries, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), is markedly different from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was championed by Obama and terminated by Trump, in that particular respect. The former envisions different standards for different countries while the latter sought to apply universal standards.

Mr. Trump and many of his supporters have blamed China for America’s job losses. But this is overly simplistic. Parts of the United States benefited tremendously from globalization. The problem has been America’s own inability to distribute these gains equitably and in ways beneficial to its long-term national interests. How can they blame Chinese leaders for doing their job in looking after their own national interests? If they can find the wisdom to sit down and negotiate with the Chinese, the Trump administration may just find a counterparty who is receptive to the notion that America, too, has its own interests and needs. And China should contribute to fixing the trade imbalances between them.  Given appropriate trade-offs, China would probably be willing to impose export restraint and further open its markets for American goods and services.

Wang Yang, China’s Vice Premier in charge from the Chinese side of the U.S. China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, put it best in a speech delivered in Washington in July 2017, “We understand that quite a few Americans support ‘Buy American, Hire American,’ just as in China there is also voice for ‘Buy Chinese, Hire Chinese.’ But it is important that both sides come to realize with cool heads that given the depth of our business cooperation, neither Chinese nor Americans can do without goods from the other country. We both have a stake in the robust, balanced and healthy development of our business ties.”

Indeed, bilateralism between the United States and China, both strong and sovereign powers, may be the most constructive way forward. Acting on its own national interests to rebalance its economic relationship with the United States, according to Vice Premier Wang, China imported 400,000 tons of LNG from the U.S. just in the first five months of 2017, from zero in the same period last year. It has also jettisoned a long-standing ban on American beef. For the longer term, China is implementing structural changes such as reducing the number of industries restricted to foreign participation from 180 six years ago to the current 63. Consumptions and services are both up significantly as a share of China’s GDP growth. All these speak to a more balanced trade with the United States in the medium to long term, and all these are being carried out in China’s own national interests.

Thus it would be wise for America’s current leaders to dial down the paranoia about a growing China. The Chinese want to reclaim their preeminent position in Asia, commensurate to China’s size and history. But they certainly do not harbor any ambition of becoming some sort of global hegemon, which is not in China’s civilizational DNA. The Chinese built its Great Wall to keep “barbarians” out, not to invade them. In the last 100 years, China has only relinquished territorial claims; it has never expanded them.  When the People’s Republic of China was founded, all of the 16 countries that shared land borders with China had territorial disputes with it. Now, all but two (India and Bhutan) have been resolved through bilateral negotiations, not through global-multilateral schemes.

Multilateral diplomacy can be useful. But strong sovereign states that pursue rational policies based on long-term national interests can be conducive to peace as well. Multilateralism, when pursued with a globalist outlook, often exacerbates conflict. In the South China Sea, for example, decisions by some over-reaching international court intensified confrontation, while bilateral negotiations between China and the Philippines have led to agreements. President Trump may be right on one thing: the United States is expending too many resources to sustain the current world order. The U.S. military is so over-stretched that it found it difficult to deal with natural disasters that have struck its own soil. Perhaps it is high time for America to pivot to solving its own myriad problems and let other sovereign nations deal with theirs.

Reforming International Institutions

The greatest risk for these newly powerful nationalistic leaders is that, in their quest to reclaim national powers, they take the world backwards into the rules of the jungle, forsaking long-term peace for short-term gain. That would be a tragic betrayal of the people who put them in power. Increasing interconnectedness is a secular trend driven by technology and economics, and it will continue. Globalism is the ideological excess. The goal should be to reformulate the structures and contours of globalization to benefit more people rather than to reverse it.

If today’s “nationalist” leaders want to contribute to a better future, they need to move beyond reactionary protests and begin generating a positive agenda. One place to start could be reforming antiquated global economic institutions. Many of them are failing at their missions to promote development because of draconian rules to standardize the world. Adherence to rigid doctrines of “free trade” and free capital flow, for example, did not bring promised developments for a vast majority of developing countries in the past twenty years. Within the EU, a single currency and uniform labor rules have crippled the abilities of countries like Greece, Italy, and Bulgaria to adjust their economies in response to changing environments, and the consequences have been dire for these countries.  The World Bank now seems to exist mainly to serve its own bureaucrats and universalist ideologues. Its cumbersome, abstract rules and the resulting paralysis have been failing many developing countries. If such institutions cannot be effectively reformed, new ones should be started. China led such an effort two years ago with the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), against strong resistance from the Obama administration.

And it goes beyond economics. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has often put abstract principles above realities on the ground. Its selective pursuit of alleged war criminals has in many cases prolonged violent conflicts, particularly in Africa.

The leaders of the world’s “nationalist” movements must make it clear that they are not seeking to reverse globalization, but to advance a new version of it.  Mutual support between them and China may become a new norm. On a visit to China last year, Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, while promoting the building of railway links to increase the flow of goods between China and central Europe, said the following: “We need to see eye to eye without asking the other side to change themselves. . . . The West (should not believe that it) represents a superior ideal and expects other parts of the world to adopt international doctrines reflecting that. . . . China’s political system is up to the Chinese, while Hungary’s is up to Hungarians. . . . Nobody has the right to interfere as a self-appointed judge.”

President Trump has called his foreign policy outlook “principled realism.” In his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly, his words echoed what China has always advocated: “strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures and different dreams not just coexist but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect.”

Competition is unavoidable when nations pursue their “permanent interests.” But in war everyone loses. President Xi has proposed building a new “community of shared destinies”. A good example is the recent rapprochement between China and the Philippines under the leadership of President Duterte, putting aside territorial disputes in the South China Sea and pursuing common interests in trade and investments. Some commentators have judged this as China subordinating the Philippines. Not so. President Duterte stood his own ground with his country’s giant neighbor. In exchange for cooperating in the South China Sea, the Philippines has secured from China unprecedented multibillion-dollar development assistance in addition to support for the anti-drug campaign.

Western opinion leaders have treated such successes of Chinese diplomacy with derision, but the results of the last several decades speak for themselves. The world’s newly empowered “nationalists” can usher in a new and stronger international order, in which China can be an important partner. They should work toward an international order that allows room for nations to pursue their own development paths, to defend their own interests, and—on that basis—cooperate to preserve the global commons. The message to the world’s nationalists and would-be nationalists: China is your example, and potentially your ally, not your enemy.

本文系观察者网独家稿件,文章内容纯属作者个人观点,不代表平台观点,未经授权,不得转载,否则将追究法律责任。关注观察者网微信guanchacn,每日阅读趣味文章。
李世默

李世默

复旦大学中国研究院研究员,春秋发展战略研究院研究员

分享到
来源:观察者网 | 责任编辑:杨晗轶
专题 > 中美关系
中美关系
网友推荐最新闻
切换网页版
下载观察者App
tocomment gotop