As the world is going through profound changes unseen in a century, Covid-19 has emerged as a catalyst, reinforcing the ongoing trends and giving rise to instability and uncertainty in international dynamics.
Humanity is grappling with the worst pandemic in a century. The world economy is in the deepest recession since the 1930s Great Depression. The international order has never been as seriously affected by unilateralism, protectionism and acts of bullying as it is today since the end of World War II. Some even surmised that the world has entered a dark moment, it is unable to go back to where it was, and that there is no future in sight.
Everything has two sides. Covid-19 has reminded the world in a hard way that the interests of all countries are closely interwoven, and that humankind shares a common stake. Indeed, the world is an indivisible community with a shared future. No country can insulate itself from global challenges. To overcome the current crisis, the international community must work together. To prevent future crises, global governance needs to be improved.
With great capability comes great responsibility. China and the US are the largest developing country and developed country respectively and the two largest economies with 40 per cent of the world’s total output. Both are permanent members of the UN Security Council with an important role in maintaining global peace, security and development.
The two countries worked together to fight terrorism in 2001, tackle the global financial crisis in 2008, contain the Ebola outbreak in 2014, and pull off the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2016. They gained a lot of successful experience in jointly dealing with common challenges. History has made it clear that China-US cooperation can make great things happen for both countries and the world.
When the new US administration takes over, China-US relations will come to a new starting point. The international community widely expects the new US administration to adjust its China policy and work with China on tough global challenges. Many in the strategic community suggest that the two countries start with global issues and gradually expand cooperation, so as to contribute wisdom and strength to the world and at the same time strengthen their relations.
President-elect Joe Biden believes that the US is faced with historic crises such as Covid-19, economic recession and climate change. He has made them the priority of his administration.
In fact, these issues are a microcosm of the global challenges that the US cannot resolve on its own but needs to cooperate with China and the whole international community to address.
Another major issue before China and the US is where humanity will go after the pandemic. Many compare today’s global crisis to the Great Depression, and no one wants to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s and 1940s. The choices and actions that the two countries make today will have a crucial impact on peace, stability and prosperity of the world in the years to come.
China and the US are two major countries bound by a common future. How to contain the pandemic and step out of the recession as soon as possible? How to make the post-pandemic world better? How to maintain peace and stability in this volatile world? All this requires that China and the US bear in mind the common interests of humankind, look beyond the changing landscape, cooperate with each other, and jointly shoulder their responsibility and mission as major countries of our times.
The two countries should jointly advocate multilateralism. The core principle of multilateralism is that international affairs should be addressed by all countries through consultation. Multilateralism is more about action than about rhetoric. The most pressing task at the moment is to jointly combat Covid-19.
The US should work with China to support the leading role of the World Health Organisation, promote international joint response efforts, push for coordination of macroeconomic policies, and help the world defeat this common enemy of humanity at an early date. Multilateralism should unite, not divide, the world. No one should use it as a disguise to build exclusive circles or incite antagonism for self-interests.
The two countries should jointly push forward global governance. The gap between rising global challenges and insufficient global governance is the main challenge in today’s world. China and the US should identify their common interests and seek to eliminate the global governance deficit. They should, in the principle of promoting consultation, cooperation and shared benefits, facilitate the political settlement of regional and international hot spot issues, and support World Trade Organisation reforms to enhance its effectiveness and authority.
They should jointly act on the international consensus on climate change, and enhance dialogue and cooperation in public health, poverty reduction, disaster relief, non-proliferation, energy security and financial security. They should fight all forms of trans-national crimes and terrorism, and turn new frontiers, such as the internet, outer space, deep sea and polar regions, into new areas of international cooperation.
And when they have differences, they should address them through dialogue rather than the threat of hot, cold or trade wars.
The two countries should jointly safeguard the international order. Built with the joint efforts by China, the US and other countries, the post-war international order has ensured the long-term stability and prosperity of the world. It should naturally be maintained and carried forward. The world has only one system, which is the UN-centred international system. It has only one set of rules, which is the basic norms governing international relations based on the UN Charter.
As big countries, China and the US should take the lead in upholding the international system and rules, safeguarding the international order based on international law, promoting greater democracy in international relations, and advancing international fairness and justice. They should not seek exceptionalism or exercise double standards, let alone bring down the international order or replace it with something else.
The two countries should jointly lead development in the post-pandemic world. Development is the master key to all problems, and it should be used to usher in a better future after the pandemic. China and the US should work together for an open world economy featuring free trade, fair competition, secure and stable global industrial and supply chains, and green and sustainable development.
They should seize the opportunity of digital transformation of the world economy, expand international cooperation in technological innovation, strengthen dialogue and coordination in artificial intelligence, smart cities and digital currencies, and promote the formulation of global digital governance rules. They should foster an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for digital development, help unleash the potential of the digital economy, and contribute to better and more resilient development of the world.
Human history runs like a long and still river, and its critical junctures are just a few. The world has once again come to a historical crossroads where it cannot afford to err or hesitate. It is up to the US to make the right choice, work together with China to live up to the historical responsibilities as major countries and jointly make the world a place more open, inclusive, stable, prosperous and beneficial for all.
Zheng Tao is a Beijing-based international observer. The views don’t necessarily represent those of China Daily.
CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK