Rebalancing the global order
Major emerging economies should institutionalize their cooperation to strengthen their say in global affairs
Global issues and problems have arisen one after another in the era of globalization. But the United Nations, instead of seeing its central role reinforced, has often been challenged by the United States, which, as the world's sole superpower and placing its own interests above those of the global community, is unwilling to contribute to global governance. Especially in recent years, its hegemonism, bullying, unilateralism and protectionism have greatly undermined the international order with the UN Charter at the core.
Against this backdrop, emerging economies, all beneficiaries of globalization and the biggest victims of the anti-globalization tide, should strengthen their cooperation for a greater role in global governance and international affairs.
Among the G20, members - China, Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey - are major emerging economies. To release their huge development potential, they should work together in support of globalization and against anti-globalization, while ensuring that more people share the fruits of globalization.
Cooperation among emerging countries helps improve international rules. As the norms governing the behavior of all countries, international rules should be nondiscriminatory. However, developed countries, based on their composite national strength, have formulated many rules that work for them and against developing nations. When improving international rules, emerging nations should voice their opinions louder and gain more representation to safeguard their common interests.
So how do emerging nations cooperate? First and foremost by eliminating the trust deficits. As the foundation for peaceful coexistence between countries, trust is a prerequisite for emerging economies to increase their cooperation. Though there is strong desire for cooperation, they find it hard to reach consensus and speak with one voice when it comes to vital issues that concern their immediate interests, thus affecting the extent to which they can cooperate.
To reduce the trust deficits, developing countries must seek common ground while reserving differences by enhancing dialogue and consultation based on mutual respect, rejecting ideological prejudice and the Cold War mentality, and reducing suspicion. They must pursue the greater good and shared interests while expanding their converging interests. They must honor commitments and abide by international rules. They must stay alert to those countries trying to sow discord among them.
For now and in the foreseeable future, there are two ways for developing countries to cooperate: multilateral cooperation based on an umbrella organization and non-institutional bilateral cooperation.
Multilateral cooperation based on an umbrella organization can be either institutionalized or non-institutionalized. Institutionalized, the organization has a charter embodying its mission and a permanent secretariat for operational matters. Non-institutional cooperation has neither. A case in point being BRICS.
Non-institutional bilateral cooperation refers to the cooperation between two emerging countries, which is broad in scope, simple in format, and cost-effective institution-wise. Such cooperation has a long history and fruitful results in the fields of politics, economy, trade and people-to-people exchanges.
The following ways might be considered for better cooperation among developing countries.
First, an organization may be set up to enable all developing countries to participate in multilateral cooperation based on institutional arrangements. The 11 emerging economies in the G20 may create a G11 and proceed step by step toward institutionalization. As the first step, a permanent secretariat might be in order.
A G11 would not only enable these nations to participate in institutionalized multilateral cooperation, but also coordinate their positions within the G20 by speaking with one voice in dealing with developed nations to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests.
Second, elevate BRICS cooperation to a new level. BRICS has been an effective platform for cooperation among the five members - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - since its establishment 14 years ago. However, the cooperation outcomes are not so satisfactory considering the enormous diplomatic resources invested and the high expectations, which might be attributed to the following factors. First, it is impossible for the BRICS countries form a free trade zone for better cooperation in economic and trade fields, since Brazil is a member of the Southern Common Market and India opposes free trade. Second, previous BRICS summits declarations show that there are actually too many areas of cooperation, which has led to fragmentation in results. Third, BRICS countries have yet to reach a high degree of strategic consensus on major issues, such as UN reform, counterterrorism and global economic governance.
It is thus urgent that BRICS countries further expand economic and trade cooperation and push for global governance reform. Although they should refrain from being too ambitious, and maximize strategic political consensus.
Besides, the BRICS members could also establish a permanent secretariat to make it more organized and institutional and consider including more emerging economies. Third, remove obstacles to bilateral cooperation. In theory, such cooperation is actionable and productive, but it is inevitably affected by old and new problems in bilateral relations. For instance, China and India, both emerging countries and BRICS members, still have border issues that remain unresolved. As neighbors, good relations are in the fundamental interests of the two countries and their peoples. To this end, they need to make joint efforts to manage their border dispute. In compliance with bilateral agreements, China is committed to resolving border issues through negotiation and consultation and maintaining peace and stability in the border areas.
The author is a distinguished Professor at Shanghai University. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.