Workers transport a second batch of vaccines developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm at an airport in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba on March 30 to advance the country's mass immunization campaign against COVID-19 (XINHUA)
The world has never been homogenous. Over the ages, the plurality of man has been blamed as the root of various conflicts. But it must also be acknowledged that it is through such diversity that mankind managed to compete and progress, ultimately contributing to what it is today.
The waning and waxing of human cooperation has characterized the history of mankind. Nonetheless, it is obvious that mankind risks its very survival if coordinated collaboration continues to remain so weak in the face of existential threats. We know that no man is an island. This is particularly true as the world is ravaged by the prevailing pandemic.
In the past year, the global community has generally failed to make a concerted fight against COVID-19. Multilateral international collaboration has left much to be desired. The unipolar hegemon was, for the first time in the past seven decades, conspicuously absent from the international web of collaboration; let alone providing leadership in the fight against the deadly contagion.
On the other hand, incensed by the threat of being displaced as the unipolar superpower by the meteoric rise of China, the U.S. has grown intolerant, if not paranoid of, any outreach initiatives by China engaging the international community.
The level of intolerance has reached a record high. Even the successful containment of the epidemic in China is discriminated against with ideological prejudice. Chinese aid in terms of personal protective equipment to several of the countries hit worst by the pandemic has also been labeled a "geopolitical Trojan horse."
The specter of McCarthyism is being resurrected at the expense of multilateral international cooperation. Indeed, the COVID-19 outbreak has heavily polarized the global community. Instead of enhancing the synergy of human resources and endeavor, the contagion has become a political poker to stoke a fresh cold war, pushing the world to the brink of conflict.
The end of Pax Americana
From the American perspective, realizing the dwindling of its global geopolitical influence, the unbridled spread of the contagion across the U.S., as well as among its allies reminds the superpower and the world of the "Suez Moment." This has led many to trumpet the end of Pax Americana—the relative peace thought to be brought about by the preponderance of the U.S. power after World War II. The rise of China and its increasing role in geopolitics has now been labeled a new potential threat.
Against such a biased geopolitical backdrop, no amount of persuasion or preaching the virtues of international cooperation could ever convince prejudicial minds obsessed with the arrogance of power preponderance. The Pax Americana, compounded with the notion of American exceptionalism, has over the past seven decades bred ubiquitous American dominance. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite Eastern European bloc further boosted the U.S. status as the sole unrivaled hegemon.
From the Chinese perspective, the rules-based paradigm in global governance has time and again been abused by the U.S. to unilaterally impose its ideology throughout the world under the cloak of liberal democracy. Any alternative model of governance, deemed not in sync with the Western model of democracy, is given short shrift under the prevailing U.S. global order.
Given the escalating polarization, the concept of forging a community with a shared future for humanity, espoused by China, is a timely wake-up call for the international community. Even more so when faced with increasing existential crises that no single nation can handle alone.
Recognizing such imperatives, resistance to inclusive global cooperation motivated by geopolitical interests is not only irrational, but suicidal. The international community has to realize that schisms along ideological divides have no place when faced with cataclysm, particularly when the survival of the planet is at stake. Multilateral international cooperation can only be marshaled against the common threats if genuine inclusiveness is upheld.
In this perspective, working toward an inclusive world should be made the goal of our community with a shared future for humanity before it is too late. It is simply ridiculous to contend that the goal runs contrary to the existing global order merely because it did not originate from the West but from a nation with a different model of polity and civilization. After all, the post-war international order has never dictated that international cooperation is the exclusive privilege of Western democracies.
In this regard, universities or research-based institutions of the Belt and Road Initiative participating countries can play meaningful roles in shaping an inclusive world. Hosting forums and seminars designed to explore the human aspects of forging a community with a shared future for humanity must be matched with more implementable initiatives to showcase the building of inclusive collaboration.
Powered by China
China, with its wide gamut of technological innovations, should endeavor to promote its innovative forte beyond mere market applications for its cutting-edge tech products. Knowing the constraints restricting technology capacity building in most developing countries, China has a lot to contribute in shaping inclusive collaboration. More tech-based innovations with a local cultural touch could be produced in the developing world in the name of joint research.
Instead of marketing Made-in-China products in developing world markets, China could easily seek to make locally produced tech innovations "powered by China" and share intellectual property with the host country.
By so doing, China is powering the local technology and supply chain through technology transfer, in addition to boosting the self-confidence and national pride of the partner nation. This would further endear the ideal of forging a community with a shared future for humanity to the populace of the developing world which constitutes the bulk of humanity.
This could be a real litmus test for China's soft power and its willingness to share its technology with the rest of the world. It is not difficult to envisage how such a gesture of altruistic sharing would ultimately reshape the world, not merely in terms of improving the quality of life, but also in setting the stage for genuine global collaboration in anticipation of more imminent crises impacting our survival on Earth in times to come.
The author is chairman of the Centre for New Inclusive Asia Studies, a think tank based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
(Print Edition Title: Working Toward an Inclusive World)
Copyedited by Ryan Perkins
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