周波:疫情是一场新的世界大战,还是大战的前奏?

来源:观察者网

2021-10-20 09:11

周波

周波作者

清华大学战略与安全研究中心研究员、中国论坛特约专家

【导读】 10月18日,俄罗斯“瓦尔代”国际辩论俱乐部第十八届年会(以下简称瓦尔代论坛)正式开幕。约140名与会者参加了开幕式,其中包括来自45个国家的65名官员和学者。本届年会主题为“21世纪的全球变革:个人、价值观和国家”。这是瓦尔代论坛在中断两年之后,正式回归其传统会址,黑海度假胜地索契。 清华大学战略与安全研究中心研究员、中国论坛特约专家周波受邀在年会首场会议—“疫情是一场新的世界大战,还是大战的前奏?”发表演讲。周波从新冠疫情对世界的影响引入,提及西方民主的全球衰退、西方的内部分裂、中美的“极端竞争”等重要话题。 观察者网联袂中国论坛,受权发布演讲中英文全文如下。

【文/观察者网专栏作者、中国论坛特约专家 周波】

感谢主席先生的邀请,让我有机会在这个重要论坛上进行发言。我当下在北京参加在俄罗斯索契举办的会议,就说明了新冠疫情如何改变了世界。

但是我们不必惊讶,纵观历史,传染病造成的死亡人数超过自然灾害或战争所造成的死亡人数。查士丁尼瘟疫(公元541-549年)是历史上第一次瘟疫大流行的第一次集中大爆发,夺去了当时世界一半人口的生命。在第一次世界大战期间,约5千万到1亿人丧生于1918年爆发的大流感——超过了同时期战争的死亡人数。由于有前所未有的迅速反应和对疫苗的大规模投入,新冠疫情造成的死亡人数已经趋缓。

病毒无国界。新冠疫情本应凝聚世界各国人民团结应对,然而事与愿违。它制造了不和,凸显了不平等,加剧了社会分裂。在国际舞台上,新冠疫情加剧了美国把中俄作为主要战略竞争对手的大国竞争。如拜登所言,如今的中美竞争已经升级为“极端竞争”。

我无法代表俄罗斯人发言,但我想,美国把中国视为主要竞争对手的原因,按照前副总统彭斯所说,是“苏联解体后,我们认为一个自由的中国将不可避免地出现”。然而,中国并没有变成一个西方式民主国家。对华盛顿来说,更糟糕的是,中国正变得越来越强大。

事实上,中国从来没有打算像彭斯等人所希望的那样,成为“一个自由的中国”。中国始终坚持走中国共产党领导的社会主义道路。美国给中国贴上“主要竞争对手”的标签,无非反证了中国长期坚持的想法:美国过去有关希望中国强大繁荣的甜言蜜语,不过是弥天大谎。

为什么中国就非得成为像美国那样的西方式民主国家呢?据全球民主监督机构“自由之家”称,自2006年以来,全球民主状况一直在衰退,即便是美国和印度等老牌民主国家也无法幸免。我坚信,未来西方式民主会继续衰退。

当一个像中国这样的所谓“威权国家”在2030年左右超过美国,成为全球拥有最大国内生产总值(GDP)的经济体时,西方民主的影响力将降到最低点。这并不意味着中国要输出自己的治理和发展模式,而是帮助人们回归常识——世界,无论过去还是现在,都是不同文明、不同社会制度、不同文化和不同宗教并存的世界。所谓民主对抗专制不过是一出神话。

西方对自由民主的自我膨胀是历史性的短视。尽管自由民主的起源可以追溯到启蒙运动时期,但它只是在工业革命和资本主义推行之后才传播开来的。西方的自由民主概念至今还不到三百年,比中国的汉朝、唐朝、宋朝、明朝、清朝或俄罗斯的罗曼诺夫王朝的时间跨度均更短暂。据“自由之家”所称,“现在世界上只有不到五分之一的人口生活在完全‘自由’的国家”。换句话说,世界从来都不是西方的。

会议现场

在充分尊重“民主”一词的语境下,我要指出,民主的明确定义尚无共识。已故联合国秘书长安南说过:“世界上有多少个民主国家,就有多少种不同形式的民主”。马里被“自由之家”列为“自由”国家,但它是一个最不发达国家。卡塔尔可以说是全世界人均国内生产总值最高的国家,但它从来就不是民主国家。这两个国家中,哪个国家给本国人民带来更多的福祉?如果一个国家不能满足本国人民的基本需求,这种民主还可取吗?

两年前,联合国秘书长古特雷斯谈到“我们的1945年时刻”,他看到世界一分为二的“大分裂”风险:地球上最大的两个经济体创造了两个相互独立且竞争的世界,两者均拥有自己的主要货币、贸易和金融规则、互联网和人工智能能力。今年9月,他进一步将中美关系定性为“完全失调”,并警告不要出现“与过去不同,可能更危险、更难以管控”的新冷战。

我看到了更多的分裂。

首先,西方正在分裂。2020年慕尼黑安全会议报告的主题为一个词,“西方缺失”。报告结论是,不仅世界没那么“西方化”了,西方自身也正变得不那么“西方化”了。慕尼黑安全会议主席伊申格尔指出,“以往自由民主规范被视为理所当然……结果却比大多数人想象的更为脆弱”。更糟糕的是,随着反自由主义的兴起和民族主义的回归,西方内部危机四起。

其次,作为“自由世界”的领导者,美国在社会问题、种族、性别和经济问题上似乎遭受着前所未有的分裂。2020年美国的“总体社会调查”显示,美国人的幸福水平处在50年来的最低点。美国民主最神圣的象征——国会山被一位即将卸任的美国总统煽动的暴乱分子所攻陷,印证了如今的美国两极分化有多严重。美国有线电视新闻网CNN称,特朗普留下了一个自内战以来最为分裂的美国。

最后,尽管拜登誓言加强美国领导的联盟,但我相信它将继续瓦解。在欧洲,由于没有明确的敌人,北约早已失去动力,法国总统马克龙称之为“脑死亡”状态。阿富汗战争的结束标志着美国全球反恐战争的结束,也标志着拜登在印太地区与中国极端竞争的开始。因此,美国不会像拜登所承诺的那样重返欧洲,反而会逐渐减少对欧洲的关注和支持。这当然会削弱北约,并反过来促使欧洲加强其“战略自治”,尽管目前这一概念仍然停留在口号上。

在亚洲,美国联盟的力量也不是理所当然地存在。大多数国家,包括美国在亚太地区的盟友和伙伴,都担心要在美国和他们最大的贸易伙伴中国之间选边站队。最近美国、英国、澳大利亚签订的AUKUS协定彰显了美国是如何在与中国的竞争中不择手段,甚至不惜失去重要盟友。然而,美国如果成功能让过去三心二意的澳大利亚对抗中国,在法国“背后捅刀子”,如法国外交部长勒德里昂所说,这会产生长期影响。

现在请允许我回到会议组织者提出的问题“疫情是一场新的世界大战,还是大战的前奏?”我不认为我们正在步入一场新的世界大战,也不处在大战的前夜,但北京和华盛顿之间在台湾海峡和南海确实存在发生冲突的危险。

拜登表示,美国与中国的对抗将采取“极端竞争”而非冲突的形式。我宁信其有,因为不管是中国还是美国都不想发生冲突,更别说战争了。但问题是,如果我们处于极端竞争中,我们离冲突还远吗?像2001年撞机事件、军舰对峙事件等事件已经发生过不少。迄今为止,所有事件均发生在中国周边,而不是在美国周边。可以很自然地得出结论:美国是麻烦制造者。

如果说,阿富汗的20年战争对美国是一场“永远的战争”,那么它与中国的竞争必定是“永远的竞争”,因为中美竞争势必会持续20年以上。在未来几年里,中美竞争势必会加剧,因为美国将此视为扳倒一个正在崛起的大国的最后机会,但美国没法保证自己一定会成功。中国崛起于现行国际体系中,而这个体系很大程度上是以美国为首的西方建立的。如今,中国已经融入了这一体系,并坚定表示要成为现有国际秩序的捍卫者。因此,美国对中国的打击不仅会损害现有国际体系,也会殃及美国自身。

尽管美军仍比中国人民解放军强大得多,但两军在西太平洋的差距正在缩小,且对中国有利。基于过去四十年中取得的进步,解放军获得了在冲突中主场作战的所有优势。正如《纽约时报》所观察到的,“美国及其盟友将军事力量投掷到数千英里之外的台湾,远比中国将军力投掷到100英里的台湾海峡对面要困难得多”,“无论AUKUS潜艇还是澳大利亚北部起飞的美国轰炸机都不大会打破这一平衡”。

中国认为,“世界正在经历百年未有之大变局”,但是中国对未来充满信心。21世纪,没有什么变化比中国的崛起更伟大。全球力量正在不可逆转地从西方转移到东方,而中国在这一过程中发挥着核心作用。尽管和平或战争并不完全取决于北京,但今天的中国在塑造环境和避免战争方面无疑处于一个更有利的地位。

(周波/清华大学战略与安全研究中心研究员、中国论坛特约专家,翻译/中国论坛 汤卓筠,校译/中国论坛 韩桦)

Substitute for a World War or a Prelude to it?

Zhou Bo:

Thanks Mr Chairman for providing me a chance to talk at this important club. The fact that I am talking from Beijing at a conference in Sochi, Russia tells how Covid-19 has changed the world. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Throughout history, infectious disease has killed more human beings than natural disasters or wars. The plague of Justinian (541–549 AD), the first major outbreak of the first plague pandemic wiped out half the global population at the time. During World War I, some 50 to 100 million people died in the 1918 influenza pandemic – numbers that surpass the death toll of the war that was being fought at the same time. Thanks to unprecedented speedy response and large-scale investment in the vaccine, the number of fatalities caused by COVID-19 has slowed down.

Pathogens know no borders. No matter how Covid should have united people around the world to fight against it, it hasn’t. Instead, it sowed disaccord, highlighted inequality and exacerbated social divisions. In the international arena, it adds fuel to the great power competition in which the United States takes China and Russia as the primary strategic competitors. Now America’s competition with China has become “extreme competition”, according to Joe Biden.

I cannot speak on behalf of Russians, but I guess the reason behind China being taken by the US as primary competitor is because, according to former Vice President Michael Pence, “After the fall of the Soviet Union, we assumed that a free China was inevitable”. But China hasn’t become a liberal democracy. Worse still for Washington, China is getting stronger and stronger.

The thing is China has never intended to become “a free China” as Pence and his likes wish. China always maintains that it is a socialist country led by the Chinese communist party. When the US brands China as “primary competitor”, it confirms what China has long believed that all the sweet talks of the US in the past about how it wished China would be strong and prosperous are but fat lies.

And why should China become a liberal democracy like the US?  According to Freedom House, a watchdog of democracy around the world, democracy around the globe has been declining since 2006, even in established democracies such as the US and India. I am pretty sure that liberal democray will continue to decline in the years ahead. When an “authoritarian state” such as China overtakes the US to become the world’s largest economy in terms of gross domestic product in around 2030, the influence of Western democracy will be looking at its nadir. This doesn’t mean China wishes to export its model of governance and development, but it helps people to come to terms with common sense -- the world, now as in the past, is always a coexistence of different civilizations, social systems, cultures and religions. There is no such myth of democracy vs autocracy.

The self-aggrandizement of the west for liberal democracy is historical myopia. Although liberal democracy traces its origins to the Age of Enlightenment, it only spread after the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of capitalism. So far the concept of western liberal democracy is less than three hundred years old, which is a shorter time span than the lengths of either the Han, Tang, Song, Ming, and Qing Dynasties of China or Russia’s Romanov Dynasty. According to Freedom House, “fewer than a fifth of the world’s people now live in fully Free countries”. In other words, the world is never western. With full respect for the word “democracy”, I wish to point out that no consensus exists on a precise definition of democracy. The late UN secretary general Kofi Annan said that "there are as many different forms of democracy as there are democratic nations in the world."  Mali is ranked as "Free" by Freedom House, but is a Least Developed Country. Qatar has arguably the highest GDP per capita in the world, but has never been democratic. Which of the two countries has delivered more to its own people? And if a country fails to meet the basic needs of its own people, is such democracy still desirable?

Two years ago, the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres talked about “our 1945 moment” in which he saw the risk of “a great fracture” of the world splitting in two, with the two largest economies on earth creating two separate and competing worlds, each with their own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, their own internet and artificial intelligence capacities. In September, he further described the relationship between China and the United States as “completely dysfunctional” and warned against a new cold war “that would be different from the past one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage”.

I see a few more fractures. First, the West is splintering.  The 2020 Munich security conference report is titled in one word “Westlessness”. It concluded that not only was the world becoming less Western, the West itself was becoming less Western, too. Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference pointed out that “a liberal-democratic set of norms that were once taken for granted… turned out to be more fragile than most could have imagined”. Worse still, the west is threatened from inside with the rise of illiberalism and the return of nationalism.

Secondly, the US as the leader of the “free world” appears more divided than ever over social issues, race, gender and the economy. America’s General Social Survey in 2020 shows that Americans are the unhappiest they have been in 50 years. The fact that the Capitol Hill, the supreme seat of American democracy, was taken over by the insurrectionists incited by an outgoing American president tells how deeply Americans are polarized today. CNN said Trump has left America at its most divided since the Civil War.

Finally, I believe America-led alliance will continue to decay in spite of Biden’s vow to strengthen it. In Europe, short of an apparent enemy, NATO has long lost its momentum to the extent that French President Macron called it “braindead”. The ending of Afghan wars marks the ending of America’s global war on terrorism and the beginning of Biden’s extreme competition with China in the Indo-Pacific. As a result, the US will not be back as Biden promised, it will reduce, however gradually, its attention on and support of Europe. This will of course weaken NATO and will in turn cause Europe to strengthen its “strategic autonomy” which has so far remains very much of a slogan.

In Asia, the strength of America’s alliance cannot be taken for granted either. Most countries including America’s allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific are worried about choosing sides between the US and China, their largest trading partners. The recent AUKUS agreement between the US, Britain and Australia shows how the US could resort to desperate measures in its competition against China, even at the cost of an important ally. But if the US has succeeded in turning a once half-hearted Australia against China, the “stab in the back” of France, as French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described, will have long term impact.  

Now let me come to the question raised by the organizer of the conference. Is this “Substitute for a World War or a Prelude to It”? I don’t think we are sliding into a world war or even prelude of it, but there is indeed danger of conflict between Beijing and Washington in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

Biden said that US rivalry with China will take the form of “extreme competition” rather than conflict. I’d love to f believe in him, because neither China nor the US wants a conflict, let alone a war. But the problem is: if we are in extreme competition, are we far away from conflict? There were already quite a few accidents including a deadly collision of military aircraft in 2001 and dangerous encounters by naval ships at sea. All the accidents so far occurred in China’s, not America’s, periphery. Naturally enough, the US is the trouble maker.

If the 20-year war in Afghanistan is a “forever war” for the United States, then its competition with China must be “forever competition”, because it will surely last longer than twenty years. In the years ahead, China-US competition will most certainly intensify in that the US will take it as the last chance to bring down a rising power, but there is no guarantee it will succeed. China’s rise is from within the current international system that was to a great extent established by the west led by the US. Today China is so integrated with the system that it vows to be a guardian of the existing international order. Therefore, America’s efforts to bash China will bring damage to the international system and hurt the US itself.

Although the US militarily is still much stronger than the PLA, the gap in the Western Pacific is closing in China’s favor. Thanks to the progress made in the last four decades, the PLA has all the advantages of being on home turf in a conflict. As the New York times has observed, “it is far more difficult for the United STATES and its allies to project power thousands of miles to Taiwan than it is for China to project power 100 miles across the Taiwan Strait”, “neither AUKUS submarines nor US bombers flying from northern Australia are likely to tip the balance”.

China believes “the world is undergoing great changes that have not been seen in a century”, but it is confident about the future. In the 21st century, no change is greater than the rise of China. The global power is shifting irreversibly from the west to the east with China playing a central role in this process. Although it is not entirely up to Beijing to choose between peace and war, China today is certainly in a better position to shape her environment and avert wars.

Senior Colonel Zhou Bo(ret) is a senior Fellow, Center for International Security and Strategy Tsinghua University and China Forum expert

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