June 11th, 2012 | China Daily Year of great uncertainty
China needs to actively respond to the challenges arising from changes of leadership in a number of countries
Many major powers and emerging economies have undergone or will undergo leadership transitions this year. These leadership changes will have far-reaching effects on the international community and are bound to begin a new cycle of the global political and economic evolution.
Multiple elections lead to more uncertainties in the international situation, as leadership transitions not only reshape domestic political landscapes and reshuffle political forces and social thought, but also affect the formulation of a country’s diplomatic strategy. Currently, relations among major powers, especially US-Russia relations and China-US relations and the China-US-Russia triangle, are evolving in a subtle way.
The world’s response to the European debt crisis and political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa is also being affected by these elections. The European debt crisis has been influenced by elections in France and Greece. Since Francois Hollande took office, France’s economic policy will focus on stimulus rather than austerity. Greece, the country at the center of the crisis, will hold elections in June and the possibility of a Greek exit from the eurozone is increasing significantly. It can be said that the entire eurozone is in danger of being “kidnapped” by the Greek election.
In the Middle East and North Africa, several countries have held general elections after the toppling of their former leaders, during which Islamic parties have done well. Meanwhile, extremist and terrorist forces continue to try and create instability and sectarian conflicts are increasing. This is particularly true of the situation in Syria, which is rapidly deteriorating.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is trying to keep a rein on Israel over the Iranian nuclear issue, for fear that any Israeli strikes against Iran will dent Obama’s re-election chances. How to respond to the Iranian nuclear issue will deeply affect the US presidential election.
On the Korean Peninsula, both Koreas are in a period of leadership succession. Kim Jong-un, the new leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has consolidated his power while the Republic of Korea will hold presidential elections in December. The possibility of breakout of new clashes in the future cannot be ruled out and it remains uncertain when the Six-Party Talks will be restarted.
During election campaigns, the domestic political struggles usually restrict the formation and implementation of consistent diplomatic decisions, resulting in stagnation in global governance, which desperately needs international cooperation and political compromise. Of all the global governance issues climate negotiations are likely to be the biggest “victim”.
Also as the world has not recovered from the international financial crisis, economic issues have become the most dominant issues. So some countries are actively engaging in trade and investment protectionism. But to win votes by resorting to “economic nationalism” leads to politicization of international economic issues and will intensify international economic and trade frictions. This has been shown clearly by Washington’s decision to impose hefty tariffs on imports of Chinese solar panels.
In the face of the great uncertainties brought about by the 2012 “election year”, China should be calm, confident, and inclusive and have definite goals and actively pre-empt various risks.
China’s peaceful development is facing a challenging external environment, which requires policymakers to carefully assess the situation and take advantage of any opportunity to make progress while ensuring stability.
Besides adhering to the principle of “noninterference in other countries internal affairs”, China should pay close attention to the elections in major countries, as the results will affect China’s interests, which have spread all over the world. It must respond to the tendencies and changes resulting from these elections and strengthen counter-measures to protectionism against China.
It should also develop appropriate countermeasures and respond effectively to the “China threat theory” and any attempts to bully China. It should prevent bilateral relations from being “kidnapped” by other countries’ elections, guard against the attempt to politicize economic issues, and avoid being taken as a scapegoat in other countries’ election campaigns.
Domestically, as to elections, democracy, its development model and so-called universal values, China should take the initiative in public opinion guidance and strengthen its mainstream political voice. It should keep pace with the times and continue to promote reform and opening-up and implement scientific development, equitable development and peaceful development.
The author is deputy director of the Institute of World Political Studies in the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
By Chen Xiangyang