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Toward a not so stable 2012

12-21-2011 16:01 BJT

Editor's note: 2011 has been, to say the least, an eventful year. So what will the global order in 2012 be like? And how can the world's problems be solved? A report, "Towards a Stable Global System", prepared by Institute of Modern International Relations, Tsinghua University, tries to answer the questions. Excerpts follow:

Perhaps 2011 can be best described as one of turmoil and chaos. With the global crisis flowing out of the financial sector into social and political spheres, social unrest first erupted in the Middle East and North Africa and then spread to developed countries like Spain, Greece, Israel and Britain. Even the United Sates could not escape the rising tide of social unrest, as reflected in the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.

The year 2012 is likely to be even more tumultuous than 2011. As the world's largest economy, the US has not been able to recover under the pressure of high deficiency, high unemployment and low growth, and is moving toward recession.

The situation is worse in Europe where the debt crisis has deepened. Being unable to solve their own problems and trapped in the debt crisis, some European Union member states are looking up to their rich neighbors and institutions to bail them out. But the latter have been unable to find a long-term solution to the problem, dimming hopes of overcoming the situation. For example, as the largest economy in eurozone, Germany could help the crisis-ridden EU states to recover, but it is not so eager to loosen its purse strings.

Political frictions between major powers have the potential to intensify further next year. Many major world powers such as the US, Russia and France face general elections in 2012, while Japan is likely to continue its practice of changing prime ministers. Next-generation leaders have already taken power in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), while China will also have a new leadership next year.

To garner more support, political leaders will focus on domestic rather than international affairs and their mutual visits to one another's countries will decline, which may not be helpful in resolving conflicts.

Furthermore, political leaders could adopt harsher foreign policies to please their electorates, as has been seen during past elections. For example, to win the 2012 election, US President Barack Obama may resort to stronger economic policies against China by intensifying the conflicts over East Asian security, currency exchange rate, trade imbalance and opening financial markets.

Also possible is a clash between the US and Russia over democracy, strategic stability and Middle East problems, and the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK) could attack each other politically with a change in leadership. As for Japan, the government in trying to win domestic support could not only clash with China on historical questions, but also intensify territorial disputes with China, Russia and the ROK. And tensions could return to the Taiwan Straits if the Democratic Progressive Party wins the election in the island province.

Apart from global frictions, we are likely to see more violence and armed conflicts over domestic issues, which can become serious and spill over state boundaries because of foreign intervention.

That is precisely what happened in the Middle East and North Africa earlier this year, where social turmoil have led to foreign intervention, serious armed conflicts and civil wars. Peace and order has not been restored in any of the countries. In Libya, for example, contradictions among the powers that joined hands to overthrow Muammar Gadhafi have not yet been resolved, and can easily turn into a new conflict. In Egypt, the continuing mass protests after order was restored briefly could worsen in 2012.

Developed countries may be safe from armed conflicts, but the protests against social and economic disparity can become violent. In fact, social turmoil could become violent in any country, developed or otherwise.

That's why it's important that, as the world's second largest economy and a rising power, China play a role on the global stage that is consistent with its power and influence. It's time China modified its foreign policy and took steps to advance global governance reforms to establish a new order.

China should promote the principle of "consistency of rights and responsibilities" as the most important principle for reforming international institutions and making them efficient. According to the principle, China has to shoulder responsibilities and enjoy the rights that come with its rising status. Beijing is not averse to more powerful states taking up leadership in certain areas, but it should not shy away from shouldering more international responsibilities in areas where it enjoys an advantage.

Moreover, Beijing should endeavor to reduce tension in international cooperation as far as possible. When intervening in social unrest in some states, the international community should at least abide by the principle that they should not subvert the governments by providing military support to the opposition parties. Or else the crisis will deteriorate and even lead to wars.

The last principle it should follow is to prevent the politicization of economic disputes, which is especially important in these times of global crisis. In solving economic problems, it should ensure that the international community focuses on solutions, instead of blaming one party or the other to prevent international conflicts from escalating.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: China Daily

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