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How the west might soon be lost

2020-9-29 17:06| 发布者: 凡心| 查看: 44| 评论: 0

摘要: Sometimes history jumps. Think of the first world war, the Bolshevik revolution, the Great Depression, the election of Adolf Hitler, the second world war, the beginning of the cold war, the collapse o ...
How the west might soon be lost
Sometimes history jumps. Think of the first world war, the Bolshevik revolution, the Great Depression, the election of Adolf Hitler, the second world war, the beginning of the cold war, the collapse of the European empires, Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening up” of China, the demise of the Soviet Union, and the financial crisis of 2007-09 and subsequent “great recession”.

We may be on the brink of an event as transformative as many of these: the election of Donald Trump as US president. This would mark the end of a US-led west as the central force in global affairs. The result would not be a new order. It would be perilous disorder.

The fact that Mr Trump can be a credible contender for the presidency is astounding. In business, he is a serial defaulter and litigator turned reality TV star. He is a peddler of falsehoods and conspiracy theories. He utters racist calumnies. He attacks the independence of the judiciary. He refuses to reveal his taxes. He has no experience of political office, and incoherent policies. He glories in ignorance. He even hints at a federal default. He undermines confidence in the US-created trade order, by threatening to tear up past agreements. He undermines confidence in US democracy by claiming the election will be rigged. He supports torture and the deliberate killing of the families of alleged terrorists. He admires the former KGB agent who runs Russia.

Evidently, a huge number of US voters have lost confidence in the country’s political and economic systems. This is so to an extent not seen even in the 1930s, when voters turned towards an established politician. Yet, for all its challenges, the US is not in such terrible shape. It is the richest large country in the history of the world. Growth is slow, but unemployment is low. If voters were to choose Mr Trump — despite his failings, displayed again in the first presidential debate — this would tell us grim things about the health of the US.

It is the world’s leading power, so this is not just a domestic US concern. What might a Trump presidency mean? Forecasting the policies of someone so unpredictable is impossible. But a few things seem at least reasonably clear.

The US and its allies remain immensely powerful. But their economic dominance is in slow decline. According to the International Monetary Fund, the share of the high-income countries (essentially, the US and its chief allies) will fall from 64 per cent of global output (measured at purchasing power) in 1990 to 39 per cent in 2020, while the US share will fall from 22 per cent to 15 per cent over this period.

While the US military might is still huge, two caveats must be made. One is that winning a conventional war is quite a different matter from achieving one’s aims on the ground, as the Viet-nam and Iraq wars showed. Furthermore, China’s rapidly rising defence spending could create serious military difficulties for the US in the Asia-Pacific region.

It follows that the ability of the US to shape the world to its liking will rest increasingly on its influence over the global economic and political systems. Indeed, this is not new. It has been a feature of US hegemony since the 1940s. But this is even more important today. The alliances the US creates, the institutions it supports and the prestige it possesses are truly invaluable assets. All such strategic assets would be in grave peril if Mr Trump were to be president.

The biggest contrast between the US and China is that the former has so many powerful allies. Even Vladimir Putin is not a reliable ally for China. America’s allies support the US largely because they trust it. That trust is based on its perceived commitment to predictable, values-based behaviour. Its alliances have not been problem-free, far from it. But they have worked. Mr Trump’s cherished unpredictability and transactional approach to partnerships would damage the alliances irreparably.

A vital feature of the US-led global order has been the role of multilateral institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation. In binding itself by the rules of an open economic system, the US has encouraged others to do the same. The result has been extraordinary growth in prosperity: between 1950 and 2015, average global real output per head rose sixfold. Mr Trump does not understand this system. The results of repudiation could be calamitous for all.

The Iraq war has damaged trust in US wisdom and competence. But the global financial crisis has been even more destructive. Many have long suspected US motives. But they thought it knew how to manage a capitalist system. The crisis devastated that confidence.

After all this damage, election of a man as unqualified as Mr Trump would call into question something even more fundamental: belief in the capacity of the US to choose reasonably well-informed and competent leaders. Under a President Trump, the democratic system would lose much of its credibility as a model for the organisation of a civilised political life. Mr Putin and other actual or would-be despots would cheer. Their belief that talk of western values is just hypocrisy would be vindicated. But those who see the US as a bastion of democracy would despair.

If Mr Trump were to win, it would be a regime change for the world. It would, for example, end efforts to manage the threat of climate change, possibly forever. But even his candidacy suggests that the US role in the global order risks undergoing a transformation. That role depended not only on American economic and military prowess, but also on the values it represented. For all its mistakes, the ideal of a law-governed democratic republic remained visible. Hillary Clinton is an imperfect candidate. Mr Trump is something else altogether. Far from making America great, his presidency might unravel the world.

历史有时会发生跳跃。想想第一次世界大战、布尔什维克革命(Bolshevik Revolution,即俄国十月革命)、大萧条、阿道夫?希特勒(Adolf Hitler)当选、第二次世界大战、冷战爆发、多个欧洲帝国的瓦解、邓小平在中国实施的“改革开放”、苏联解体,以及2007-09年的金融危机和随后的“大衰退”。

我们或许即将面临一起类似的转折性事件:唐纳德?特朗普(Donald Trump)当选美国总统。那将标志着以美国为首的西方在全球事务中担当核心角色的时代就要终结。其结果将不是形成新秩序,而是出现危险的失序。








美国领导下的全球秩序的一个重要特征是多边机构——如国际货币基金组织、世界银行(World Bank)和世界贸易组织(WTO)——所扮演的角色。通过以开放经济体系的规则约束自己,美国也鼓励了其他国家这么做。其结果就是经济的快速繁荣:1950年至2015年间,全球人均实际产出增长了6倍。特朗普不理解这种开放经济体系。抛弃这种体系,可能给所有人带来灾难性的后果。



如果特朗普获胜,这将是整个世界都要面对的一场政权更迭。比如,应对气候变化威胁的努力大概将从此不了了之。但是,他成为总统候选人就已表明,美国在全球秩序中的角色可能经历一场转变。这个角色不仅依赖于美国的经济和军事实力,也依赖于它所代表的价值观。尽管有许多错误,一个法治的民主共和国的理想依然明显可见。希拉里?克林顿(Hillary Clinton)是一个不完美的候选人。特朗普则完全是另类。他若成为美国总统,非但不能让美国变得伟大,还可能让世界分崩离析。






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