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To jointly build equal, orderly multipolar world

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Th Meeting Of Brics National Security Advisers And High Representatives
The 13th Meeting of BRICS National Security Advisers and High Representatives on National Security in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Zhang Yudong)

By Huan Yuping, 

Multipolarity is the general trend of the world today. However, the international community has yet to reach a consensus on how to advance the process of multipolarization in a drastically changing world, and in what way countries should participate in and facilitate this process. 

China advocates an equal and orderly multipolar world, which meets the common aspirations of most countries and all people. This charts the course for the international community to move from turmoil to long-term peace and stability, and provides an important path to making the global governance system more just and equitable and building a community with a shared future for mankind.I.

In international relations, “pole” typically refers to a political and economic force with significant influence. Since the end of World War II, the world has once stuck in a long-standing pattern of bipolar antagonism, but the trend of multipolarity has already budded, undergoing a lengthy and intricate historical process.

As early as the 1950s and 1960s, a vast number of developing countries began to seek independence and autonomy, giving rise to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Group of 77, which advocated the establishment of a new international political and economic order. 

In the early 1990s, with the end of the Cold War and the complete dissolution of the bipolar pattern, the world accelerated its steps toward multipolarity. For more than 30 years, countries and regions around the world have aspired to gain a place in the international landscape and play a greater role in international affairs independently and autonomously through their own development. 

The overwhelming majority of the international community calls for a multipolar world, opposing unilateralism and power politics. They reject the old path of bloc confrontation and zero-sum games. 

The international balance of power is undergoing a profound shift, providing impetus to the process of multipolarization. 

Since the end of the Cold War, a number of developing countries have seized historical opportunities to achieve rapid development, resulting in a significant increase in their comprehensive national strength and international influence. 

Statistics show that in 2008, the GDP of emerging markets and developing economies accounted for 51.3 percent of the world’s total, surpassing the share held by developed economies. In 2022, this figure further increased to 58.3 percent, 16.6 percentage points higher than that of developed economies. 

In addition to promoting their own development, developing countries have also continuously strengthened solidarity and cooperation over the past decades. The ongoing development of cooperation mechanisms, such as the ASEAN, the African Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, has further enhanced the influence of developing countries in regional and global affairs. 

There has been a profound change in the international balance of power, leading to a historic shift in the long-standing dominance of developed countries in international affairs. The process of multipolarization has become an irreversible trend.

In recent years, profound changes unseen in a century have been evolving rapidly in the world. The Global South is gaining a stronger momentum, gaining strength to multipolarity. Global South countries have continuously improved their voice and influence in international affairs, becoming a strong force driving the world’s multipolarity in the right direction.

Global South countries are actively defending their legitimate rights and interests, and promoting global governance reform. At the Munich Security Conference, they called for adherence to multilateralism and the strengthening of collective action. At the 3rd South Summit of the Group of 77, there was a call to change the unjust international order and break free from the disadvantaged position imposed by the West for centuries. The 19th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the NAM highlighted the need to fully respect international law, as well as international consensus and principles. 

In recent years, faced with attempts by a few major countries to provoke bloc confrontation and create divisions, Global South countries have been adhering to strategic autonomy, firmly opposing taking sides, and supporting the promotion of a multipolar world. 

Sarang Shidore, director of the Global South Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, noted as the unipolar world that emerged after the Cold War gradually weakened, Global South countries have once again become active. They unhesitatingly emphasize national interests and condemn power politics, with a strong desire for strategic autonomy and a greater voice in the international system, he said. 

Multipolarity is the general trend and direction of progress of historical development. Compared to a unipolar or bipolar world, a multipolar world better reflects the international community’s shared pursuit of justice, fairness, and win-win cooperation. It aligns with the practical need to safeguard global peace and development, and contributes to the reform and improvement of the global governance system. The international community should participate in and promote the process of multipolarization, steering the world toward a brighter future.

II.

The multipolar world should be based on equality, which means all countries, regardless of their size, are treated as equals. 

Over 370 years ago, the Peace of Westphalia established the principle of equity and sovereignty. In the ensuing history, sovereign equality has evolved into the most important norm governing state-to-state relations. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping has emphasized that the essence of sovereign equality is that the sovereignty and dignity of all countries, whether big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, must be respected, their internal affairs allow no interference and they have the right to independently choose their social system and development path.

Both history and reality have proved that any deviation from the principle of sovereign equality in the practice of international relations leads to injustice and instability. In order to ensure equal rights, opportunities, and rules for all countries, it is crucial to adhere to the principle of sovereign equality in the process of multipolarization.

For a long time, the narrative of multipolarization has been regarded as a few major countries, which has once gained acceptance in the international arena. However, this narrative does not align with the expectations of the majority of the international community for a multipolar world. 

What the majority advocate for is a multipolar world in which every country or group of countries can find their place in the global multipolar system. The aim is to enable more countries to actively contribute to international affairs, rather than creating hierarchies among different nations. The concept of “major powers dominating the world” is not the desired approach.

To promote an equal multipolar world, it is crucial to firmly oppose hegemony and power politics, reject the monopolization of international affairs by a few countries, and effectively advance the democratization of international relations. 

All countries are equal members of the international community. No country has the right to dominate global affairs, control the destiny of others, or keep advantages in development all to itself. Even less should one be allowed to do whatever it likes and be the hegemon, bully or boss of the world. 

A few major powers have long been inclined to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries in order to safeguard their own interests, imposing their own ideologies on others, and resorting to various coercive measures to restrain and suppress the development of other nations. These practices seriously deviate from the principle of sovereign equality and pose significant obstacles to an equal multipolar world. 

To promote an equal multipolar world, it is important that global affairs should be handled through consultation and the future of the world should be decided by all countries together.

The principle of sovereign equality among all nations should not be an empty slogan but should be implemented in the practice of handling international affairs and improving global governance.

Certain or a few powers should not monopolize international affairs. Countries should not be categorized according to their strength. Those with the bigger fist should not have the final say. And it is definitely unacceptable that certain countries must be at the table while some others can only be on the menu.

It must be ensured that all countries, regardless of their size and strength, are able to take part in decision-making, enjoy their rights, and play their role as equals in the process toward a multipolar world.

In his book World Order, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger expressed that “ultimately, all of the major players must have a stake in the new world order “. Only by working together to promote an equal multipolar world, ensuring the collective involvement and benefits of all countries, can the process of multipolarization embrace stable and long-term development.

III.

The multipolar world should be based on order, which means that the progress toward greater multipolarity should be generally stable and constructive.

Regarding the prospects of multipolarity, a researcher from the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations said that a more dangerous multipolar world is rapidly emerging, one that will play by the traditional rules of power politics. In the post-Cold War era, there has been minimal competition among major countries, and the undisputed hegemonic position of the United States has temporarily suspended geopolitical rivalries, the researcher added. 

Such narratives that equate multipolarity with “disorder” emerge from time to time, closely tied to how certain major countries covertly propagate the so-called “hegemonic stability theory” to weave a rational cover for their dominance over international affairs.

As a matter of fact, the notion of “stability under hegemony” is not objective at all. It completely disregards the conflicts and turmoil caused by hegemonic powers in many countries and regions, and fails to meet the international community’s pursuit of equality and justice.

Multipolarity should be a historical process in which countries choose solidarity over division, communication over confrontation, cooperation over conflict, and win-win results over lose-lose situations.

Currently, there is a noticeable increase in international concerns over the “cooperation deficit” and the “order deficit.” The Munich Security Report 2024, titled “Lose-Lose?” highlighted the potential damage to global partnerships if countries prioritize relative gains. 

In this era where countries see intertwined interests and shared destinies, promoting common development and progress through win-win cooperation and resolving conflicts and differences through dialogue and communication remains the only correct choice. 

The process of multipolarization must align with the international community’s shared pursuit of solidarity, dialogue, cooperation and a win-win approach. Any approach that leads to division, confrontation, conflicts or lose-lose situations should be opposed. This is necessary to ensure that every country can benefit from an international environment that’s more conducive to its development during the process of multipolarization.

To promote an orderly multipolar world, it is crucial to adhere to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and uphold the universally recognized basic norms governing international relations. 

The purposes and principles of the UN Charter serve as the fundamental guidelines for managing international relations and the cornerstone of maintaining stability in the international order. They must be unwaveringly upheld in the process of multipolarization.

The surfeit chaos in the international arena, and the mounting challenges to world peace, development and international justice, are caused not because the UN Charter’s purposes and principles are outdated. Rather, the situation happens because these purposes and principles have failed to be effectively implemented.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointed out that if countries fulfilled their obligations under the UN Charter and international law, every person on Earth would live in peace and dignity. The problem is that many governments are ignoring these commitments, he added.

Only when all countries genuinely abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter can the international community prevent multipolarity from becoming an unregulated “jungle world” as some have depicted it.

To promote an orderly multipolar world, it is crucial to jointly practice true multilateralism and uphold extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in global governance.

The principle lying at the core of the existing international system and order is multilateralism. When multilateralism is well observed, the well-being of humanity gets preserved and advanced. When multilateralism is under attack, chaos breaks out and the law of the jungle returns.

Multipolarity doesn’t mean multiple blocs, fragmentation, or disarray. All countries must act within the UN-centered international system, and pursue cooperation under global governance.

In recent years, a few countries have pursued self-interest and established “exclusive clubs” under the guise of multilateralism, creating divisions and confrontations in the world. 

Faced with the risks and challenges brought by unilateralism, the international community is yearning to strengthen multilateralism. Countries should adhere to true multilateralism, uphold the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and make the global governance system more just and equitable. This will make the process of multipolarization a historical endeavor for the international community to collectively address the challenges of the time and achieve common development and prosperity.

Xi pointed out that the world today is not peaceful. Bearing in mind the future of mankind and the well-being of its people, China has, as always, endeavored to contribute its wisdom and solutions to the cause of peace and development of mankind, called for an equal and orderly multipolar world and an inclusive economic globalization beneficial to all, and promoted the building of a community with a shared future for humanity, so as to jointly build a better world.

Anchored in the direction of historical development and facing up to the challenges of the times, China will strengthen solidarity, coordination, and cooperation with all parties, to write a new chapter in the progress of world civilization, and make new and greater contributions to safeguarding world peace and promoting human progress.

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