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No way to turn the cultural clock back

By Zhou Shuchun | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-15 07:06


Based on what we see happening in and to the world, and despite the positive signs we read into the G20 Summit in Osaka, we can probably say we have reached a new crossroad in history, where the international community faces a set of "to be or not to be" dilemmas, which has far-reaching implications.

The real problems or contradictions of the world are not between civilizations, contrary to what some people claim. Yet we can use a cultural perspective to analyze the challenges facing the world and promote inter-civilization dialogue to guide human progress worldwide.

But being a journalist, I'd prefer to ask, rather than answer, questions:

Question No 1: Should the world thrive as a global village or retreat into islands of isolation?

The question is whether we can undo the inter-dependency built among the economies across the world over the past centuries. At the moment, there are indeed people, albeit a very small number, trying hard to halt the momentum of economic globalization and disrupt the global division of labor. They even go to the extent of advocating the decoupling of the world's largest economies. Such efforts, no doubt, will prove to be an exercise in futility or, worst, foolishness.

Globalization is in line with the interests of all

As a result of globalization, most modern products of the world are results of international industrial collaboration. The market plays a decisive role in allocating resources and capital efficiently, making it possible for people worldwide to enjoy quality commodities and services at affordable prices. To say globalization is in line with the interests of all parties is to state the obvious, despite the fact that developed economies, which are perched at the top of the value chain, benefit most from the process.

There are problems that have come along with globalization, the growing wealth gap for one, and it makes sense to improve the global governance system for the process to be more open, inclusive, balanced and equal, so that more people can enjoy the fruits of globalization. But it is ridiculous to give up eating for fear of choking. Trying to dismantle the globalized economic system-to overthrow all economic and trade theories since Adam Smith and David Ricardo-is nothing but a fool's errand. It is impossible to artificially sever the flows of capital, technologies, commodities and talents, and for the ocean of the world economy to recede into isolated lakes and rivers, to borrow an analogy from President Xi Jinping's speech at an international economic forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, last month.

Question No 2: Should we embrace a shared future or revert to the law of the jungle?

Back in 1966, in an article titled "Why Is There No International Theory", British scholar Martin Wight expressed dissatisfaction with short-sighted realism and called for a profound historical vision. In the traditional sense, international politics is a theory of survival, and international relations today are not much different from those of the past. Zero-sum is the name of the game. It's akin to the notion of "you lose, I win", or "you die, I live".

But the world has undergone dramatic changes since Wight's time and his enquiry. The fundamental difference, as we have discussed above, lies in the ever increasing inter-dependency among the international players and, as a result of that, the emerging de facto community of interests, where selfish interests of countries are interwoven, interrelated and have inter-merged.

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