The emerging powers can be saviours of the global liberal order


Chinese president Xi Jinping’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in which he denounced protectionism and defended globalisation, suggests that China is positioning itself to fill the void in global leadership likely to be left by the Trump administration.

中国国家主席习近平在达沃斯世界经济论坛(World Economic Forum)上发表讲话,谴责保护主义并捍卫全球化,这表明中国给自己的定位是填补特朗普政府可能留下的全球领导力空白。

Since the election of Donald Trump as US president, there has been great concern about the future of the liberal international order. Mr Trump’s victory in November raises an important question: will the emerging powers defend the existing arrangements or will they give them one final shove over the edge?

自唐纳德•特朗普(Donald Trump)当选美国总统以来,人们对自由国际秩序的未来感到非常担忧。特朗普在11月胜选,引出了一个重要问题:新兴大国会保护现有安排,还是会充当终结现有安排的最后推手?

The waning of the international system has been on the cards for a while. The rate of global trade expansion has been slowing for some time. Another key element of the liberal order, the postwar network of multilateral institutions built and maintained by the US, was fragmenting before the advent of Mr Trump. And the global democratic revolution, which had seen the number of democracies nearly double after the end of the cold war, had peaked by 2000.


Until now, it was widely assumed that the main challenge to the liberal order would come chiefly from rising powers such as China, India and Russia. But Mr Trump’s victory and the Brexit vote in the UK suggest that it is collapsing from within.


Does this put the emerging powers in the driving seat? Not necessarily. First, Russia, China and India have different interests. President Vladimir Putin clearly stands to gain if Mr Trump’s policies undermine Nato and other US-led alliances. With Brexit weakening the EU, this is Mr Putin’s moment in international affairs.

这是否会把新兴大国推到驾驶座上?未必。首先,俄罗斯、中国和印度有不同的利益。如果特朗普的政策破坏北约(Nato)和美国领导的其他联盟,俄罗斯总统弗拉基米尔•普京(Vladimir Putin)显然会获益。由于英国脱欧削弱了欧盟(EU),现在是普京在国际事务中的得意时刻。

But there is far less interest on China’s part in undermining the liberal order. Some sections of the Chinese elite have cheered Mr Trump’s victory. They see the death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as opening the door to alternative regional arrangements, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). But the situation is not that simple. The RCEP is a multilateral initiative. Here the chief obstacle has not been TPP, but India’s difficult negotiating stance, which is unlikely to change. Japan will also push against Chinese dominance of RCEP.


There are also costs to China from any weakening of the US alliances in Asia. This could lead Japan and South Korea to seek nuclear weapons, which cannot be in China’s interest.


While Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to congratulate Mr Trump, India has little interest in disrupting the liberal dispensation if the alternative is the further empowerment of China.

尽管印度总理纳伦德拉•莫迪(Narendra Modi)很快对特朗普表示祝贺,但如果替代方案会进一步向中国赋权,那么印度就不会有任何兴趣颠覆自由秩序。

Recent tensions over India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and terrorism show that China and India do not share a common vision of an alternative world order. India is a key member of the China-initiated multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but is opposed to the mainly bilateral One Belt, One Road initiative because it undercuts Indian influence in South Asia (especially with the China-Pakistan economic corridor).

最近围绕印度加入核供应国集团(Nuclear Suppliers Group)和恐怖主义的紧张表明,中国和印度对于替代性世界秩序没有共同的愿景。印度是中国发起的多边机构亚洲基础设施投资银行(AIIB,中文简称“亚投行”)的一个关键成员,但反对主要是双边性质的一带一路(One Belt, One Road)倡议,因为它削弱了印度在南亚(特别是中巴经济走廊)的影响力。

Another factor undercutting the challenge posed by the emerging powers to the existing international order is that Mr Trump’s victory comes at a time when those powers are themselves in considerable economic and political distress. The growth of the five so-called Brics nations (Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and China) slowed from an average of 9 per cent in 2010 to about 4 per cent in 2015. Investment growth slowed from 16 per cent in 2010 to 5 per cent in 2014. In 2015, Goldman Sachs closed its Brics investment fund, which had lost 88 per cent of its value since its 2010 peak.

削弱新兴大国对现有国际秩序构成的挑战的另一个因素是,特朗普获胜之际,这些大国本身处于相当严重的经济和政治困境中。五个所谓的金砖国家(Brics)——巴西、俄罗斯、印度、南非和中国——的平均增长率从2010年的9%放缓到2015年的约4%。投资增速从2010年的16%放慢到2014年的5%。2015年,高盛(Goldman Sachs)关闭了旗下金砖国家投资基金,该基金的价值在2010年达到峰值以后下跌了88%。

Part of the reason for the slowdown was the decline in commodity prices (affecting especially Russia, Brazil and South Africa), and tightening global financial conditions following the 2008 global financial crisis. The structural transformation of China from an export driven economy to one relying on domestic consumption is also a contributing factor.


Other factors, as the World Bank pointed out last January, include declining productivity, stock market and currency volatility, and increasing debt burdens. In South Africa, for instance, the ratio of government debt to gross domestic product grew from just under 28 per cent in 2008 to over 50 per cent in 2015. Debt levels in Brazil and India are in excess of 60 per cent of GDP.

正如世界银行(World Bank)去年1月所指出,其他因素包括生产率降低、股市和汇市波动以及债务负担增加。比如,在南非,政府债务与国内生产总值(GDP)的比率从2008年的略低于28%上升到2015年的逾50%。巴西和印度的债务水平超过了GDP的60%。

It is unlikely, therefore, that the emerging powers will be able to exploit the crisis in the global liberal order through concerted action. Instead, these putative challengers to it may hold back, if not, in fact, provide greater support. While China’s approach to globalism rejects liberal political values, it may nevertheless help to ease international uncertainty as the Trump administration takes over in Washington.


The writer is author of ‘The End of American World Order’

本文作者著有《美国世界秩序的终结》(The End of American World Order)一书


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