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博大龙:澳大利亚的平衡术,值得美国学习

2016-08-27 09:23:32

亲爱的澳大利亚:

我曾花费大量时间在澳大利亚拍摄由我主持的旅游节目——《车游天下》, 该节目在东方卫视和CCTV上播出。如果不是在中国当电视主持人,我恐怕永远没机会见证澳大利亚的美丽。当然,我写这封信,为的不是记录我在中国与澳洲的见闻,而是诚心地向你讨一些直言不讳的建议。作为美国的朋友和盟友,你怎么看待接下来的这些问题?

美国虽然是我的祖国,但她似乎忘记了,世界不属于美国,也不能任其为所欲为。这个世界从未像现在这样的紧密连接,它时刻处在巨变当中,令人在时代的漩涡中眼花缭乱。如果“和平”和“繁衍”是人类的主要任务,那么全球性变革必须符合公开交流的原则,适应多极化解决方案,要让各方都真切地感到全球事务与自己息息相关。

网络这面镜子,不应让我们对自己(对同类)心生厌恶,而应对彼此心怀怜悯。在这个喧嚣的世界上,媒体制造舆论,谩骂到处横行,军工复合体推动人们错误地互相批判,而这一切的基础是“胜者为王”的思想。我坚信必须远离它,革除这种思维范式,拥抱新思维。我们必须跳出充斥着季度收入、资本积累和官商勾结的零和游戏,用高尚的同理心和真诚的对话取而代之。

澳大利亚一直坚信,看似完全对立的体制和世界观能对接起来,共同创造出更美好的未来。而我目睹了澳大利亚如何本着这种态度,设身处地地建立对话。人类文明没有唯一的真理,而有许多套并行不悖的故事,在一个真正的多元化世界中,我们必须意识到这一点,才能在此基础上构建对话。作为曾经主导世界的西方,我们必须尽力去听、去尊重其他文明的故事,并融入人类文明的整体。要做到这样,并不简单,需要智慧、谦逊和耐心。我由衷地赞美澳大利亚这个先驱者,并恳求你和你的伙伴——新西兰——为驻扎在亚太地区的其他西方力量提供指导,帮助美国完成从自说自话到开启对话的重大转变。尤其当人类目前处于历史的十字路口,面临着自然与地缘政治的双重威胁,这种转变更加意义非凡。

在对待澳洲土著人的问题上,白人移民表现得谦逊、耐心和冷静。美国也有着类似的经历。早在美国建立之前,“北美土著”纳瓦霍印第安人就已经在这片大陆上繁衍生息了。他们的文化里流传着一句美丽的话:“这个世界不属于我们中的任何一个人,而属于我们所有人。”就像大多数土著智慧一样,这句真理言简意赅、寓意深远。英国曾经雄踞一时,后来却没落了,原因就在于它太晚才意识到这个真理。不过还好不算太迟,英国和艾森豪威尔时期的美国建立了“特殊关系”,这在很大程度上让英国在衰落过程中保存了一定的风度。如今,世界领导者的火炬即将再次易主,美国应该同谁建立“特殊关系”呢?出乎意料地,澳大利亚可能是最好的选择,对美国来说,再没有比澳大利亚更坚定的盟友了。美国和澳大利亚肩并肩,一起在二战中穿越过婆罗洲的丛林,一起跋涉过朝鲜半岛贫瘠的荒野,一起匍匐穿过战火连天的越南。无论对错,澳大利亚在原则上总和美国站在同一站线,尽管有时它不同意美国的干涉主义。

伊拉克和叙利亚就是两个最近的例子。澳大利亚曾质疑过美国的外交政策,但这并不影响它们长期维持坚定的同盟关系。澳大利亚一如既往地保持她不急不躁的姿态,乐观地认为只要假以时日,美国也将听从理性的声音:世界改变的号角将被吹响,不论曾经行善或作恶,西方必须采取一种更为谦卑的态度,因为世界人口的三分之一提出要求,把她们的叙事、历史和现实纳入到关于全球共同未来的讨论中去。我认为这个信息最好由美国最信任、最久经考验的盟友传达给她。在美国240年的历史里,从没有任何时刻比现在——重返亚太的节骨眼上——更需要盟友的谏言,一步行差踏错,便会因为缺乏沟通、一味张扬民族主义激情,而引发意料之外的冲突。

成年以后,我在亚洲生活多年,深受澳大利亚的触动。因为即使澳大利亚因冷战时期结下的战略同盟,而不得不做出与新时期安全经济现状不相符的表态,她也能与邻国保持基本和谐。澳大利亚坚定而富于变化的芭蕾舞步,成为了她在国际政治舞台上的招牌。这一点最好的例证莫过于中国如今已成为、并将在可预见的未来持续作为澳大利亚最大的贸易和文化交流伙伴。澳大利亚在波诡云谲的国际政治钢索上走得那么稳,美国应该怀着谦虚的心态,虚心向老牌盟友吸取经验。

现在,中美两国又陷入新一轮无谓的政治博弈中,而与此同时,中澳关系却迎来了史上最甜蜜时刻。尽管澳大利亚与世界排前两位的大国都走得很近,但却从未丢失自己的身份;尽管澳大利亚与伙伴们偶尔会遇到小坎坷,但对方终究还是能感受到她追求平等对话的诚意。各个国家都赞同国家间的对话是有意义的。澳大利亚这份独特的能力,意味着她对中美两国都具有无比重大的价值。在文化上,澳大利亚更接近美国,但她能在价值多元、关系复杂的亚太地区如鱼得水,既实现自身发展,又促进地区内其他国家的发展。澳大利亚以及她的人民不认为她们在亚太的地理位置和她们的西方传统之间有任何冲突,相反,她们在这矛盾之中看到了众多机遇。

在大宗商品价格不断下跌的背景下,澳大利亚还能保持GDP每年以3%的速度增长,并与中国、东盟、美国、以及世界其他国家保持稳定的关系。澳大利亚人深知不耻下问的道理。澳大利亚比美国更了解中国,并且愿意通过对话消除分歧,因此和中国打起交道来畅通无阻。现在来看,澳大利亚热衷于和中国开展更多合作。单凭这一点,我们就应该从中获得一些启发。

在澳大利亚的世界观中,增长、繁荣和进步不是零和博弈。她走了一条澳大利亚特色的道路,但谁说美国就不能从中借鉴,来改善与中国的关系呢?我对此保持乐观。

连不经意的旁观者都能明显感觉到,2016年的美国面临着一场深刻而又困惑的自省。作为世界大国,这不是美国首次陷入看似无解的国内外乱局:美国独立战争、南北战争和越南战争都是历史上的反例。在剑拔弩张的上世纪70年代,美国从一开始的模棱两可,到后来与中国重修外交关系,最终以尼克松总统与毛主席、周总理的“世纪大会面”,宣告中美化敌为友。

在共同利益上取得一致,为后来中美成为重要贸易伙伴打下基础。邓小平先是南巡深圳,然后访问美国,使中国的改革开放政策举世皆知。中美在短短30年内成为彼此的头号贸易伙伴,着实应为此感到骄傲,历史也将铭记:中国以世界前所未见的方式崛起,迎接新的荣光。共同的历史教育我们,如果外交能够多多倾听、伸出双手、保持开放心态,便能创造变革、能够跨越看似不可逾越的鸿沟。要达成这一点,澳大利亚等西方国家就必须真心诚意地接受一个事实:西方的世界观和欧美国家数十年甚至上百年前建立的各种机构,如世界银行、国际货币基金组织等,已无法继续担当国际事务的基础框架了。中美世界观存在一个长期被忽视的重大差异,即美国政策制定者一直假定:中国在未来某个时候,总归会全盘接受欧美制定的国际准则,而这些规则完全是为欧美公司和政治利益量身打造的。对于这一点,中国已多次明确地表示反对。西方的世界观不再占绝对领导权,它只是思想市场上的一员,与其他世界观平起平坐。

如今,全球领导范式的变革速度远超人们的预期,作为美国人,我能体会美国经受的阵痛——这和卫冕冠军面对现实时的无奈并无二致。在冷战及其后的一段时间内,人们从未想到世界经济“组队竞争”的节奏竟会以如此之快,彼此之间的联系竟会如此之紧密。新的规则和传统尚未形成,新的竞争者带着各自的新思路,加入了这场竞赛。作为带着旧伤的卫冕冠军,美国很难像澳大利亚那样,恭顺地迎接迅捷的后起之秀 (这个后起之秀正在重归本属于她的位置,至少从元朝开始,中国就是全球文化和经济的领导者),但美国应该尽早认识到后冷战时期的旧范式已经一去不复返了。事实证明,新思想框架的建立是个不可阻挡的趋势,而且也不见得是件坏事。在坚持原则的前提下,美国是时候虚心听取中国故事,去了解中国为科学发展作出的承诺了。科学发展是跨越意识形态的,是根据现有条件因地制宜,抛开成见寻找最佳出路的探索精神。澳大利亚在与中国打交道的过程中,努力去适应中国的方式,值得我们为她喝彩。只要坚持不预设立场,实事求是,必然能取得良好的结果。

不管美国追求怎样的民族精神,它至少应该肯定中国过去几十年内取得的成就(带领八亿人脱离了极度贫困)。这种成绩背后的组织能力、努力和国家意志,简直是人类历史上前所未有的奇迹。如果我们先验地认为中国在某些方面不配做我们的老师,那么我们需要扪心自问,是否已被偏见和固执蒙蔽了双眼。中国通过一套完全不同于西方的政治传统和经济理论,取得了巨大的经济和文化成就,这不应该让我们感到恐惧(澳大利亚就没有害怕),相反我们应倍感鼓舞,与全世界的伙伴一起集思广益,跳出固有的思维模式,深信做事情的方式方法绝不只一种,正如中国所展现出来的那样。因此,我们必须挣脱旧话语的束缚,团结全人类共同面对不远将来的重大挑战。

著名思想家和未来主义者艾尔文·托夫勒曾说:“21世纪的文盲不是那些不会读写的人,而是那些不会学习、摒弃重新学习的人。”在互联互通越来越紧密的世界上,我们要造福子孙后代,就必须学习、摒弃学习误区、重新学习并管理变化,这些能力可能是世上少数恒定的东西了。

对的,变革是唯一不变的东西。大胆的变革!我认为,西方固然不能忘本,但应该不带偏见地欢迎其他人取得优势。西方固然应该保持自身的文化遗产,但也应该注意是否影响了其他民族的遗产和权益,比如澳大利亚在土著和亚洲问题上边保持了相当高的敏感度。一方面,我们要跟随心灵,去坚守不变的原则;另一方面,也要有宽大的胸襟去接受人类文明各种平等的形态,这是全球社区多样性的本质所在。学会支持俄罗斯,学会为中国喝彩——只有当我们的心灵和思想都足够强大,能平等对待那些曾经蔑视的对象,赞美它们的成功;我们才能希望和期待世界对西方报以同样的善意。当世界同舟共济去面对危险时,和谐相处就不再是一则童话,而是关乎人类生存的必须品。

个人自由是一种目标,是一种语义符号,但不是终点,作为民主国家,我们最根本的目标是实现人民自治。我们应该明白,悠久的历史教会了中国人以长远眼光看待历史轨迹,懂得变革之路道阻且长的道理,不但需要深入理解目标,还得拿出咬定青山不放松的持久战精神。在这方面,中国比西方认识深刻。既然中国人都能拿出不耻下问的精神,去吸收西方思想的精华,我们凭什么不愿向中国学习?

在我们坚持认为民主是实现人民自治之必要条件的同时,必须谦逊地记住,如果选民消息闭塞、教育程度低下、对政治冷漠疏离,那么“民主”二字便是毫无意义的空中楼阁。在我们实现民主理想之前,应该保持低调,少对其他国家品头论足,只要它们走在通往正义社会的道路上,便无可厚非。西方没有时间对全世界进行道德评判,我们不是教导主任,而是各国测试新思想的合作伙伴。否则,美国将很快丧失全球领导地位而尚不自知。

在此引用我最爱的好莱坞大片《黑客帝国》中的一句台词:“命运总难免带有一丝讽刺的意味。”

美国人是否生活在黑客帝国的“母体”中?只要剥去政治宣传的人造假象,西方人就会意识到,中国从来没有为了商业利益远渡重洋去武力殖民。西方国家呢?中国从来没有给大批大批的人戴上镣铐,把他们运往陌生的大陆,强迫他们去田间地头劳作,让她们修建长城和大厦。西方国家呢?中国作为一个统一的民族,从未以经济或者文化征服为目标,参与国界以外的冲突,西方国家呢?中国是一片祥和、统治者全心为民的乌托邦吗?不,目前还不是,但这是个东西方都必须经历的过程。反观以美国为首的西方民主国家,难道它们是人民自治、社会正义和人权的模范吗?我相信任何一个诚实的人都会说“不”。如果是这样,我们在宣扬民主制度优越性的时候,或许应该对人类发展道路上的各种思想模式保持谦逊、开放的态度。

诚实地说,中国才是现代历史上第一个不走西方剥削殖民老路崛起的国家。中国的崛起,完全遵照自身的意愿;符合自己塑造的范式;在自主选择发展模式和时代的同时,还保持了主权独立性。我们必须承认,中国崛起的这些特质,都值得西方反思、喝彩、仰慕。这正是澳大利亚所做的。

没有哪个国家、哪种文化有资格说自己掌握了唯一的真理,或拥有唯一正确的意识形态。相反,我们应该推进全人类的对话,加深理解,彼此支持扶助而不是互相拆台。我们必须拥抱这种同理心的新思维。在多极化、紧密连接、快节奏的世界里,这种思维将给我们带来好处。不管哪种肤色、哪个种族的人民,对后代的关爱、对洁净饮用水的渴望、对和平富足的希冀,都是相同的。我们都属于人类这个大家庭。

遏制VS不设限的对话与接触

中国是拥有13亿人口的大国,而美国的对华政策是“遏制”。这个词本身不但标志着一种退步,更是对中国人(以及其他国家人民)的一种冒犯。“遏制”中国绝不是长久之道,它无法解决任何问题,而且缺乏道德和伦理基础。美国做不到、也不应该试图“遏制”全世界五分之一人口的抱负。无论是为了延续冷战时期的战略同盟,还是为了助长日本越南等新盟友的民族主义狂热情绪,都无法构成美国“遏制”中国的借口。这种策略表现出美国目光短浅和自私,它注定是要失败的。在自身240年的历史中,强国梦、革命性变革以及反抗外部干预,一直美国追求的东西,所以美国最应该理解中国的目标和发展轨道。虽然中国崛起与美国崛起的历史背景不同,但毕竟这条路是美国曾经走过的。美国应该赞许中国的抱负和勇气,而不是抱着怀疑或惶恐的态度。“遏制”中国是种偏见,是不合逻辑的。

中美两个大国固然是彼此的对手,但它们之间更存在庞大的共同利益。在全球气候变化问题上,中美两国都为保护地球尽心尽力。作为非可再生能源的两大消费国,中美有义务推进绿色科技和可再生能源的研发。能源短缺问题不容小觑,它可能引起新一轮的国际争端,中国南海问题就是个鲜明的例子。此外,中美必须合力打击极端主义和国际恐怖主义。澳大利亚和中美结成伙伴,三方都能从快速的、符合伦理标准的科技进步中获益。在各种发展工具和挑战的促进下,世界各国有良心的领导人聚集到一起,形成一个更大家庭,而他们是全人类的家长。

不要让刺耳的民族主义助长零和博弈——它们毫无意义、只会徒增争端

在伊拉克、利比亚和叙利亚等主权国家推行所谓的和平繁荣政策后,美国正式公布新的战略目标:“重返亚洲”或“亚洲再平衡”。如果美国在中东地区的“成功”是中国和世界其他国家衡量美国的标尺,那么所有人都会发现,美国这些年交出的成绩单并不理想。不管美国认不认同中国在某些事情上的强硬立场,至少没人能怪罪中国表达合理的关切。因为美国管得太宽,中国自然要做好准备。

从霸主宝座上跌落,其实没什么可耻的。勇敢的人总有行差踏错的时候,固步自封坚持错误政策才是可耻的。今年的里约奥运会首次允许无国籍运动员组成难民队参赛。这个队伍的运动员大多来自中东地区,战火剥夺了他们的家园,让他们没有国家可以代表。公平地说,难民代表团的存在完全是拜美国所赐。

是的,面对自己带来的一系列灾难性事件,美国应该放低姿态,进行深刻的反思。同时,美国也需要像国际上的伙伴们表示感谢,包括那些与我们偶有不和的国家(例如中国),以及那些还没有因为我们糟糕的外交政策而抛弃我们的坚定盟友(例如澳大利亚)。天可怜见,澳大利亚等友国、盟国没有抛弃我们,但它们时常也会猜测美国将如何收拾中东的烂摊子,以及“重返亚洲”战略将对亚太地区造成什么影响。承认错误总是困难的,但是美国必须要明确自己人民的集体意图;我们必须进行改革,并且向世界解释这些改革的内容和意义。

或许,美国首先应该在重返亚洲之前,还世界一个公开道歉。

在要求别人按我们的标准行事的时候,我们必须要放低姿态、谨小慎微。公开道歉是打开过往症结的第一步,在9·11事件后,尽管我们出于善意地想要帮助解决中东争端,但却导致数以百万计的无辜百姓丢了性命。不管合理与否,中国都能够声称美国在9·11之后破坏全球和平繁荣,失去了领导世界的“天命”。无论我们道不道歉,只要美国“重返亚太”还想照搬过去20年的对外政策,那么全世界都有正当的理由表达担忧并质问我们。

一般来说,当某人不断重复同一件事,却期待产生迥异的结果,他恐怕已患上“失心疯”。现在的美国已经十分接近这种状态了。国际上,美国选择了中国、俄罗斯等其他国家成为替罪羊,仿佛它们通过某种方式阻止美国再次走向伟大。美国或许应该先想想,是什么让自己变得“不再伟大”,想清楚这个问题对我们不无裨益。关于这方面的讨论已经变得很封闭和声名狼藉,许多清醒者因此认为美国政治主流变得缺乏远见和历史观,甚至不具备承认跌倒、站起来重新出发的勇气。

如果亚洲和中国南海争端逐渐升级为武力冲突,从许多方面来说责任应该落在美国失败的中东干预政策上:它在地区争端中的“作为”(事先预谋的入侵、干涉和企业重商主义)和“不作为”(没有给当地选民提供恰当的信息和教育;我必须再次强调“如果没有见多识广、受过教育和专注的选民作为基础,那么‘民主’二字没有任何意义”)都造成了灾难。

这个世界不属于我们任何一个人,而属于我们每一个人。

澳大利亚,你怎么看?现在,美国比任何一个时刻都需要盟友的建议。

大龙

(大龙是普林斯顿大学伍德罗·威尔逊公共与国际事务学院国际关系学者、中美媒体文化关系专家

(翻页阅读英文原文)

Dear Australia,

I have spent much time in Australia shooting episodes for my China Dragon TV and CCTV-aired travel show, Getaway. Had I not become a TV host in China I may have never seen the wonder of Australia. But this article isn’t intended to be about my sojourns in China or Australia; it is to ask a friend and ally for some candid advice. A penny for your thoughts Australia?

The country of my birth, The United States, seems to have lost touch with the realization that the world is not ours alone to do with as we please. If peace and posterity are the primary tasks of this generation, then this hyper-connected, radically shifting, vertigo-inducing moment of global change must be geared and optimized for open communication and the development of multi-polar solutions in which all players believe they have an authentic stake. We must not feel revulsion as we see ourselves (in one another) through the mirror that is the Internet. We must instead feel compassion. We must decrease our addiction to an obstreperous media-induced, invective-laced, military industrial complex- fomented, false critique founded on a “winner takes all" mentality.  

This thought paradigm must be replaced with something altogether new- as Australia has been trying to do. “Replace it with what?” One might ask. I would say, replace it with the sublime power of empathy and genuine dialogue in lieu of an obsession with zero-sum games, quarterly earnings, corporate capital accumulation and corporations' generally incestuous relationships with the governments who regulate them. This emphatic dialogue that I see Australia working to build through its incessant positive mantra that seemingly diametrically opposed systems and world-views can work together to create better. Dialogue in a truly multi-polar context must be built on the bedrock realization that there is no single valid truth that may hold sway in the sea of humanity; there are instead a series of equally valid stories we, in the formerly dominant West, must try mightily to hear, respect and incorporate as part of the new whole. This is hard work, and I applaud Australia for being at the vanguard. I would further beseech them and their partners New Zealand in an effort to provide other Western outposts in Asia Pacific, counsel, leadership, and advice on how America can begin to make the all critical transition.

Australia is still dealing with humility, patience and to my mind great aplomb, with the aboriginal issues their arrival on the Australian continent presented. We too in America share a similar experience. The Navajo Indians, “native Americans” who existed long before there was an America per se, have a beautiful saying: “The world does not belong to any of us, it belongs to all of us.” That truth, like much aboriginal wisdom, is as simple as it is profound. Britain and its Empire managed that simple realization too late to stem its demise, but it did manage its fall from grace with some degree of poise, largely because Eisenhower’s America formed with the UK a “special relationship.” But as the torch of global leadership passes this time, to whom will America look to form such a special bond? Surprisingly, it may well be Australia. America has no more staunch ally than Australia. From the jungles of Borneo in WWII to the barren fields of Korea, and again in the conflicted jungles of Vietnam, Australia has, for good or ill, stood with America on principle, even when she has questioned the ultimate wisdom of America’s interventionist decisions.

Iraq and Syria are two recent examples. Australia has at times been rightfully hesitant about American foreign policy (and when hesitant they have usually been prescient) but they remain a stalwart ally. Australia keeps her calm, ever optimistic that, given time, America will begin to listen to voices of reason, the clarion that our world is changing and for formerly dominant Western paradigms and institutions to remain both helpful and legitimate for the incredible good they do, they must begin to adopt positioning rooted in humility, as 1/3 of the world begins to rightfully expect that its narratives, aspirations and history be included in discussions of our shared global future. This message to America is, I think, best conveyed by trusted, time-tested allies. America needs this today more than at any time in its 240-year history; especially as our pivot to the Asia-Pacific raises the very real specter of unintended conflict, born largely of a failure to communicate and unhealthy manifestations of nationalist fervor, outdated paradigms, and ego.

Having spent my entire adult life in Asia, I am touched and impressed by Australia’s ability to maintain by and large excellent relations with all of her regional neighbors. This in spite of commitments to Cold War-era strategic alliances whose obligatory dictums sometimes run counter to Australia’s newly evolving security and economic context. This steadfast but dynamic ballet has become Australia’s international calling card. Their deft touch is no more obvious than in the fact that China is today and will for the foreseeable future be Australia’s largest trade and cultural exchange partner, bar none. Australia walks this circus wire with uncanny poise. As an ally who has never faltered, America should take note, with due humility and a bent ear.

For while America’s relationship with China is apparently devolving into yet another needless round of strategic confrontation, Sino-Australian relations could hardly be better. Even as Australia walks hand-in-hand with the world’s two preeminent powers, she does so with her identity fully intact; her partners, even over slight bumps in the road, ultimately feeling sincerely respected by a willingness to engage in a dialogue of equal sovereign states. Worthy objectives, well met. This singular skill-set makes Australia unique and invaluable to both great powers. Australia, while culturally similar to the United States, is quite comfortable in its Asia-Pacific “skin” able to live and let live in a diverse, highly interconnected neighbourhood. Australia and Australians see no conflict between their Asia-Pacific geography and their Western heritage; in fact, they view their position as ripe with opportunity.

With 3% year on year GDP growth, even in an era of declining commodity prices, Australia’s steady, yet dynamic relationships with China, the ASEAN community, America and the world have held her in very good stead indeed. Australians know there is no harm in learning, and absolutely no shame in admitting that one does not know everything. Australia understands China better than we Americans do. Australia is willing to work on disagreements through dialogue, and thus has no problem doing business with China. Indeed China seems to be the power with whom Australia seem most keen on doing more business. That alone is telling.

Growth, prosperity, and progress are not zero-sum games in the Australian world-view. This is the Australian way; but can it help reform America’s relations with China? I remain hopeful it can.

It is obvious to the casual observer that America in 2016 faces a moment of soul-searching and troubled introspection. This is not the first time she as a great power has stumbled into what looked like unrecoverable domestic and international turmoil: The American Revolution, The Civil War, Vietnam, are all examples. America’s ambivalence toward, then rapprochement with Chairman Mao and China during a tense 1970s that led to Nixon’s famed meeting with both Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai. Mutual interests were aligned, and eventually with a future trading partner in place Deng Xiaoping’s heralded visits to Shenzhen and then the United States where China’s “Reform and Opening-up” policies became known to the world. This, history will note, was followed by a success story in which both China and America as its largest trading partner can take pride: China’s unprecedented rise to a newer kind of glory over the past 30 years. Our shared history demonstrates clearly that if diplomacy begins with an open ear, willing heart, and outstretched hand, we can change; we can overcome seemingly insurmountable difference; but this can only continue if Western powers like Australia are sincerely willing to accept that the world-views and institutions like the World Bank and IMF created by Americans and Europeans centuries or decades ago can no longer provide the sole basis of global undertakings or agreements. The blind spot in US world-view vis-a-vis China, is that American policy-makers presume China will, over time, naturally accept, wholesale, previous international constructs that were created expressly by and for European and American corporate and political interests. To that, China has repeatedly and unambiguously said “no.” Western world-views must now be considered as but one among many valid outlooks in the marketplace of ideas.

I as an American can viscerally understand the basic psychology of the reigning heavyweight champion experiencing difficulty in acknowledging that paradigms in global leadership are evolving faster than we may have anticipated. A new faster-paced, a much more interconnected game of economic alliances, never imagined during the cold war or its aftermath are creating new yet unsettled rules and customs, and with it, new contenders with their own objectives. It is hard for the long reigning champion to pay due deference to nimble, up and comers, but as Australia has, America should recognize that the old paradigms have shifted and that the process of building new thought frameworks can be a good thing. Besides, it is practically inexorable. It is high time to move forward, principles intact, but with ears attuned to hear the Chinese nation’s story and its commitment to “科学发展” which I describe as trans-ideological scientific development, i.e. the ethos is to probe, discover, find and do what works best given prevailing conditions, without pre-conceived notions. This, Australia has struggled mightily to adapt to as they engage their Chinese partners. And I applaud them. Only good can come from such a methodology, if practiced without precondition.

Whatever ethos America aspires to, it should, at minimum, acknowledge that China’s accomplishment over the last several decades (lifting 800 million human beings out of abject poverty) is nothing short of a miracle in organization, effort, and National will; it is, in fact, a feat wholly unprecedented in the annals of human history. If we determine a priori that we’ve nothing to learn from this, then we must ask whether we ourselves are blinded by prejudice and inflexibility. That China achieved this economic and cultural feat in ways that diverge from Western political traditions and economic theories, should not frighten us (it certainly does not frighten Australia) rather it should embolden us to join with global partners in more robust outside-of-the-box thinking, buoyed by the confidence that humanity, as China has demonstrated, is not bound or limited by any one fixed or set or way of doing things.  For we must be willing to think beyond the rhetoric of the past in order to address the momentous challenges we as a planet will face together in the not-too-distant future. Renowned thinker and futurist Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” In this increasingly interconnected world, change, and our ability to learn, unlearn, relearn and adroitly manage change.  These are the only constants, if posterity is the goal.

Yes, Change is the only constant. Bold change. The West should not, in my opinion, discard its phylum, but it should welcome the vantage point of others sans prejudice. The West should maintain our heritage, but be sensitive to any effects that heritage has had on the heritage and prerogatives of others, as Australia is doing with its aboriginal population and in its engagement in Asia. Stick, where our heart tells us it must, to unwavering principles, yet also find the heart to acknowledge that there exist other modalities of equal validity, this is the essence of the word diversity within a global community. Root for the Russians, cheer for the Chinese- for only when we become bold enough in heart and mind to cheer with utter sincerity for the success of those who we have sometimes looked upon with disdain, can we begin to hope and expect the same sentiment will be sincerely returned. Harmony is not a fairy tale, it is an existential must-have as the globe unites to save itself from perils we all share equally.

Personal liberty is a goal, a semantic, not a destination, we as democracies whose primary goal is ultimately the perfection of self-governance by the People should know this: China knows the arc of history and path to change is long and requires deep contextual understanding, work, and commitment. China, with its unrivalled historical pedigree, understands this perhaps better than we.  The Chinese certainly have not been bashful about learning and applying what they consider the best of Western thought, so why are some of us uncomfortable looking in their direction as a potential model?

And while we tout our version of democracy and human rights as a sine non qua of solution to self-governance, we must remember with humility that the mere word “democracy” means absolutely nothing without an informed, educated, and engaged electorate as its functioning base. Until we ourselves have come closer to attaining that lofty ideal of self-governance, we should be less pompous in criticizing others for pursuing their self-determined trajectory towards a just society as they themselves define it. We’ve no time to be the moral educator or the school marm. We must become a partner in testing new ideas, or the mantle of leadership will pass without our having realized that it is gone.

Quoting from my favourite Hollywood movie, The Matrix- Fate it would seem is not without a sense of irony.

Has American been living in the Matrix?   Because once all the various soundbites, astroturfing, and propaganda are stripped away, many Australians and others will note that China has never forcefully colonised far-off lands or continents for mercantilist gain. Can Western powers say the same? China has never chained and transported teeming hordes of humanity from distant lands to serve as free labour, till her fields or build her great walls and edifices. Can we in the West say the same? China as a unified community has never engaged in external conflicts beyond her immediate borders for the purpose of economic or cultural conquest. Can we in the West say the same? Is China a utopia of total harmony, totally committed to the service of her people? No, not yet; it is a journey, for China and the West. But are Western democracies, and especially the United States today truly exemplars of self-government, social justice, and human rights? I think an honest observer must say no. And if that is the case, we may do well to make our pronouncements about the advantages of democracy with more humility and openness to other modes of thought vis-a-vis humanity’s course of development.

Let us be frank, China is the first country in modern history who, without resorting to the West’s outdated and exploitative “growth-via-colonization” playbook, has in unprecedented fashion continued to rise of her own accord, under paradigms of her own shaping, in modes and at times of her own choosing, as a single sovereign nation. If we are honest, these too are characteristics worthy of reflection, applause, and admiration. These points are not lost on Australia.

No. No longer can any one country or culture claim a monopoly on “truth” or ideological rectitude, yet all can choose to advance human dialogue, engage in deeper understanding, rooting for, not against each other. This is the sort of new emphatic thinking that must be undertaken. It will pay dividends in the multi-polar, hyper-connected, global order to come. All people, no matter their skin color or ethnicity love their children, all want to drink clean water and hope for a peaceful and prosperous future for their family, the human family.

Containment vs. Unfettered Dialogue and Engagement

With China, a nation of approximately 1.3 billion people: America’s policy toward the PRC is “containment.” The word itself is regressive and frankly, to the Chinese (or any other people) patently offensive. “Containment” of China can not be the long-term solution for anything. Beyond being impossible to do long-term, it lacks even the most basic moral or ethical foundation. America can not nor should it try to contain the aspirations of 1/5 of the world’s population. Whether containment is fomented under the guise of Cold War strategic alliances or new Asian alliances aimed at aiding and abetting the seeds of nationalist fervour in countries like Japan and Vietnam. These gambits are incredibly short-sighted, self-serving and doomed to failure. America, a nation whose own 240-year-old history is deeply rooted in Great Power aspirations, revolutionary change, and the desire to protect itself from unwanted foreign incursion, should of all countries on Earth quite readily understand China’s national aims and trajectory. We too have walked that road, even if the underlying causes were born of different history and circumstance- China in the 21st Century, like America as she rose in power and prominence, both boldly embraced what they considered vitally needed security-driven change. That aspiration and courage should be applauded and explored, not automatically viewed with suspicion or dismay. That is prejudicial. “Containment” of China is a non-sequitur.

The three prime directives

As the two greatest consumers of the planet’s non-renewable energy, both America and China are morally obligated to drive green-tech and renewables R&D to the fore, as scarcity of energy resource becomes yet another source of potential conflict- evident today in the South China Sea. China is leading the charge in this area with almost a 3x rate of investment in green and renewable technology relative to the United States. This long term goal is one of the advantages of being able to plan over the horizon, and it is no accident that this long-term planning has been part of China's overall success story. As both countries collaborate to meet the scourge of extremism and international terrorism, there is no great disagreement, just a yawning sense of missed opportunity by leaders of both countries as we see what has transpired in the Middle East. Australia’s two partners, China and the United States and Australia herself all stand to gain by advancing the rapid, ethical application of technological advance. These tools and challenges unite leaders of conscience all over the planet as head-of-household for a much larger family; the human species.

Do not let strident Nationalism create fictive Zero-Sum games that abet conflict.

Having completed the task of bestowing what the United States perceived to be policies of peace and prosperity on the Middle East, the once sovereign nations of Iraq, Libya and Syria have been left in tatters. America has duly announced their new strategic aim of a massive pivot or “Rebalance to Asia.” If America’s impact in the Middle East is the yardstick by which China and the world must assess America’s success there, then China and others, including every honest American must acknowledge that our recent report card is not stellar. Whether America believes China’s assertive positioning is not completely defensible, no one can argue that China could be blamed for voicing very legitimate concerns based on recent and ongoing examples of American overreach.

There is no shame in America’s falling down. Missteps are the province of the bold. Yet there is shame in perpetuating policies that have simply not worked, while in the meantime causing untold death and chaos for scores of millions. This year the Rio Olympics will have, for the first time, a team composed of nationless and homeless athletes; it is called Team Refugee. The team is largely composed of athletes from the Middle East who no longer have a home country to represent. Team Refugee, it might be fairly said, is a decidedly American legacy.

Yes, America’s litany of disaster calls for moments of self-reflection and humility. It also calls for gestures of gratitude to our partners, including those with whom we may disagree at times like China, and stalwart allies like Australia neither of whom have yet disregarded us and our abysmal foreign policy track record wholesale out of horror and fatigue. Tenderest of mercies, our Australian and other friends and allies, remain, but they are left wondering what exactly is America’s grand plan for righting utter carnage in the Middle East will be, as they imagine what America’s looming “rebalance to Asia” will mean for the Asia-Pacific region. Humble pie is always hard to swallow, but we as America must be clear and unambiguous in our collective intent; we must resolve to change and explain what those changes will mean and look like.

We might, as a start, consider a public apology prior to our grand pivot to Asia.

America must be unambiguous in its intent; it should resolve to exact a lighter footprint when attempting to entreat others to do our bidding. An apology may well be a cathartic first step, for whatever the United States government and her well-meaning People intended to remedy in the Middle East over the past 15 years, it has not worked, while millions of innocents continue to perish as a result. And it is resulting in a trope that the Chinese can, if they choose, continuously use (legitimately or not) to indicate that we have lost the Mandate of Heaven by virtue of piss poor handling of global peace and prosperity in the aftermath of America’s worst terror attack. Whether or not we choose to apologize, if the last 2 decades’ US policy pillars are to be applied again in our “Rebalance to Asia,” the entire world has justifiable reason to ask hard questions and express grave concern.

A common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while somehow expecting to produce a markedly different result. America is running perilously close to fitting that bill entirely. Internationally we have again chosen to scapegoat the Chinese, the Russians and anyone else who has somehow prevented us from “Mak(ing) America Great Again.” So I ask, would it not profit us more to ask what it is that made America so un-great in the first place? The rhetoric has become so circular and infamous, you might excuse calmer heads for thinking a good portion of America's political establishment has lost a degree perspective, history and perhaps the courage born of admitting failure, brushing off and re-engaging, thus becoming the wiser for it.

If this crescendo towards outright physical conflict in Asia and the South China Sea continues, the blame in many respects must lay at the doorstep of America’s own bankrupt policy in the Middle East and elsewhere: both in acts of commission (premeditated invasion, interference and corporate mercantilism) and omission (the failure to properly inform and educate its voting populace) for I would again argue that the mere word “democracy” means absolutely nothing without an informed, engaged, emphatic electorate as “democracy’s” functioning base.

The world does not belong to any of us, it belongs to all of us.

A penny for your thoughts Australia? America needs the advice of good friends, now more than ever.

Andrew C. Ballen

(青年观察者胡怡莹译、杨晗轶校)

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博大龙

博大龙

普林斯顿大学伍德罗·威尔逊学者,电视节目制作人

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