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Twin global crises show joint action is needed

By Alexander V. Lomanov | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-08-14 09:11
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The coronavirus pandemic has become a serious challenge for mankind, as the health crisis is accompanied not only by economic difficulties, but also by increasingly noticeable political divisions.

A woman smokes a cigarette while walking alongside other people wearing protective masks, as the regional government of the Canary Islands forbids smoking without maintaining a safe distance and makes mandatory to wear protective masks in open public spaces, during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Gran Canaria, Spain, August 13, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

In the first half of 2020, the world community failed to fully utilize the potential of international organizations to fight the pandemic. The attacks on the World Health Organization by the leading power and its withdrawal from the organization have demonstrated the lack of readiness for coordinated joint action.

The pandemic and the global economic downturn have reminded the world about the need to reform global governance mechanisms.

Previous experience does not allow us to assess the prospects for joint action with optimism. There is a lack of willingness to work together outside the frameworks of some regional economic associations. The desire of some countries to use the crisis situation to put additional pressure on their opponents in the outside world is noticeable.

It is noteworthy that the world community did not support the call of the United Nations secretary-general and the UN high commissioner for human rights to suspend sanctions, which prevent the supply of medical and humanitarian goods and basic necessities to the sanctioned countries, during the period of the pandemic.

Politicized arguments about China's responsibility for the pandemic, and the desire to use the incitement of international rivalry to distract the attention of the domestic population from its own problems, excluded the United States from the ranks of constructive participants in the joint fight against the pandemic.

Now some Western countries consider China not as a partner, but as a competitor. In the context of the new global crisis, they face a difficult choice. Cooperation between the West and China will speed up the exit from the new global economic crisis, but at the same time will inevitably strengthen China's leadership position.

On the other hand, the focus on containment policy toward China will slow down not only the shift of the center of gravity of global development from the West to the East, but also will hinder the recovery of economic activity around the world.

The political events of 2020 demonstrate that the West made an irrational choice in favor of confrontation with China. Intentional attempts to spark a new Cold War will turn into a significant additional obstacle to the recovery of the world economy.

Artificially imposing a new bipolarity on the world will exacerbate the problems of global inequality and increase the gap between developed and developing countries.

The disruption of global supply chains of goods and services occurs not only because of the shutdown of individual countries' economies due to the pandemic, but also for reasons of geopolitical and economic competition.

In the worst-case scenario, the new global depression could last until the end of this decade. Although the answer to the combined challenge of the pandemic and the economic crisis is to unite humanity and jointly create more effective tools for global governance, statements about international solidarity in the absence of real solidarity between countries do not help to overcome the global crisis.

The Western world is afraid of change, believing that changes will mean further weakening of the West. The attempt of the single superpower to launch a new Cold War against China leads to a dangerous split of the world community in this period of double crisis.

The problem is that countries outside the Western world have less and less confidence in the impartiality of the West, which retains a dominant position in global institutions.

On the other hand, proposals to reform these institutions in accordance with the new pattern of distribution of economic power on the planet are perceived by the West as an unacceptable attack on the foundations of the "liberal world order".

The "zero-sum game" mentality has become the foundation of the foreign policy of the most powerful and influential nation in the modern world. Such a policy is not sustainable.

The strategy of subordinating the interests of the world community to the interests of one nation is doomed to fail in the long term. The problem is how to maintain global stability and economic growth in the short and medium term.

In the first place we have the task of restoring trust among nation-states. The only alternative to blackmail is dialogue. The only alternative to the arbitrary application of sanctions is a reliable and effective mechanism for world trade. The only alternative to unilateralism is adherence to international law.

All these problems are not new, and they were discussed a lot before the current crisis.

However, the severity of these problems in previous years has never been as high as it is today.

The author is deputy director for scientific work and head of the Center for Asia Pacific Studies of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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