by xinhua writer Liu Chang
BEIJING, July 6 (Xinhua) -- For almost a decade since the birth of the Group of 20 (G20) mechanism in 1999, it only gathered finance ministers and central bankers, and served only as a supplement to the Group of Seven bloc, an exclusive club of wealthy nations dominated by Western powers.
It has all changed when the United States and some European countries found it hard to withstand merely by themselves the tidal waves of the 2008 global financial tsunami.
Therefore, they had to join the developing world and expand the consultative body to a platform for leaders of the world's major countries to negotiate ways to arrest the adversities of the financial crisis and to rationalize global economic governance.
As this year's G20 summit will be held later next week in Hamburg, Germany, the evolution of the summitry over the past years has reflected the fact that the West-led world order that has existed for more than 200 years needs to be refashioned.
WORRIES OF THE WEST
When the Cold War ended, many political and business elites in the West used to assume that the Western style democratic political system combined with free market economy could be mankind's ultimate form of governance, or in the words of U.S. political scientist Francis Fukuyama "the end of history."
Yet the so-called "liberal world order" they have taken for granted in the post-war period seems to be unraveling before their eyes.
Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, wrote that "the hopes of a brave new world of progress, harmony and democracy, raised by the market opening of the 1980s and the collapse of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991, have turned into ashes."
In Europe, Brexit, the rise of ultra-right political groups represented by figures like Marine Le Pen, leader of France's National Front, and the increasingly frequent terrorist attacks are clouding Europe's further integration.
Across the Atlantic, though Washington has vowed to remain committed to a strong alliance between the United States and Europe, their differences over trade and climate change, as well as relations with Russia have unnerved the European leaders, who are on tenterhooks over whether U.S. President Donald Trump has any interest in maintaining his role as the "leader of the free world."
However, the deeply-challenged Anglo-Saxon world order still stands only part of the Western establishment's wildest worries. What they also fret most is a theory that a rising China could step into America's shoes, and replace the old set of rules with its own.
THE CHINA CONTROVERSY
In fact, the reason why China's rise has unsettled many in Europe and the United States is that the West has dominated the world scene for so long that it is in one way or another not comfortable with its own illusion that someone is going to take its place.
Thus, policy makers in the West want more than anything to rein in those they suspect as "potential usurpers," and make sure that they abide by the game rules the West has made.
In the 1980s, they jittered about Japan's fast economic expansion, and hyped up a theory that the country had a secret plan to take over the United States. Therefore, it would not be a surprise for the West to view China, a country with a different political and economic system, an ever bigger challenge or even a threat.
However, the China skeptics need to understand two important things.
One is that China has over the past 30 plus years worked hard to integrate itself into the international community, which is vital for the country to generate a huge economic success during that same period and become the world's second largest economy.
Srikanth Kondapali, professor of the Center for East Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in India, told Xinhua that "China is a major beneficiary of the international order in terms of finances, markets, technologies, arms control and disarmament and as a member of the United Nations since 1971."
The second thing is that China has no intention of pulling down the current world order and build a new one based on its own propositions.
Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Kissinger Associates and former U.S. secretary of state, said China does not want to undermine the current world order, but "a stronger voice" and "a bigger vote."
Boris Volkhonsky, a Russian political scientist and an independent analyst said that China plays "an important role" in defending the interests of developing countries on many international platforms and forming new structures of a better global governance.
REASONS TO REFORM
However, the U.S. and European policy makers need to be aware that the West-led post-war world order is seriously flawed and needs to be reformed to accommodate the changes and challenges such as terrorism and global warming that emerge with the rise of multi-lateralism and growing interdependence.
One major problem with the Western powers is that they tend to care more about their self-interests than the common interests of all mankind. They still incline to follow the zero-sum Cold-War mentality in making and enforcing foreign policy.
The installation of the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea at the urge of the United States, as well as some Washington hardliners' attacks on China's sovereign rights in the South China Sea are just some of the notorious examples to validate the West's arrogant political tribalism.
Another problem is that the system has failed to reflect the legitimate rights of the developing countries for development and modernization.
Gerishon Ikiara, senior lecturer of International Economics at the University of Nairobi, said the existing world economic order is criticized for worsening trade imbalances and widening wealth gap between the developed and less developed countries as the less developed countries continue to be the weaker partners in international relations.
India's Kondapali also holds that the institutional arrangement in the post-war era needs to be reformed.
"The Bretton Woods system which controls most of the finances for development and economic regulation principles of institutions such as the World Trade Organization and others has not been reformed or reorganized to represent the changed international landscape," he said.
A SHARED FUTURE
It is now a growing consensus around the world that the global governance system needs to be improved to serve not just the Western powers, but all other nations.
To help shape a better world for all, Chinese President Xi Jinping has proposed the notion of building "a community of shared future," and the Belt and Road Initiative to materialize his vision.
The initiative, coupled with the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS new development bank, aim to upgrade infrastructure and boost trade for nations along the ancient Silk Road and beyond.
Beijing holds that by building highways, railroads, bridges and ports, different parts of the world can be better connected, and the potential for stronger development would thus be released. That is fundamental for countries in regions like the Middle East and Africa to fix their chronic social, economic and security problems and deliver benefits to their peoples.
China has also been trying to join the developing world in bringing sensible changes to the global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, so as to ensure that their voice can be heard and vital stakes can be protected.
In the security area, Beijing insists that dialogues as well as other peaceful and cooperative means should be a major path to cool global hotspots, while collective security of a few countries, often achieved at the price of undermining that of others, is a bane for overall global security.
China also seeks to shoulder its fair share of responsibility as a major country. It has pledged to abide by the Paris climate agreement and has contributed a lot to the global fight against such pandemic diseases as Ebola and has been the second-largest funder of the UN peacekeeping operations.
There are now some voices in Europe and the United States urging that the liberal world order need to be saved from doom. In fact, what they truly intend to preserve is the continuation of more than 200 years of Western privilege to dominate international relations.
Yet just as what President Xi said in his speech at the UN Office at Geneva in Switzerland this January, "We should advance democracy in international relations and reject dominance by just one or several countries."
"All countries should jointly shape the future of the world, write international rules, manage global affairs and ensure that development outcomes are shared by all," he noted.
For Ikiara in Kenya, he understands that to deliver all the necessary changes to the current world order is not "an easy task."
But more importantly, "it requires genuine commitment of the majority of both developed and the developing countries to support appropriate international structures and institutions and to share global resources" for a common cause, he noted.
(Xinhua reporters Yang Shilong and Li Tao in Washington, Hu Xiaoming in New Delhi, Shi Hao in Moscow and Wang Xiaopeng in Nairobi also contributed to the story)