Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT
There have been unprecedented upheavals in globalization and global governance this past year, first with the UK's referendum to leave the EU and now with the election of Donald Trump as the next US President.
This trend is swelling and gaining momentum in Europe too, from Italy to France and in Germany and beyond, affecting their political ecosystems and causing social division that overrides traditional rifts along racial and gender lines. To quote an anonymous US scholar "America may begin to enter the 'class society' as described by Karl Marx. How ironic!"
The trend is baffling many, especially elites, in the US and other Western nations as to why it has happened and what it means for the future of America with its liberal democracy and economic neo-liberalism as well as for the future of globalization.
Is the US entering an isolationist mode along with a continued worldwide retrenchment? Will Trump lead an anti-globalization movement that will cripple global free trade and investment? Will this induce a roll-back in globalization or usher in a new era of globalization with new paradigms?
Meanwhile, China has kept its fast growth, and its development model has caught the attention of many nations. With its expanding global influence China has plunged into global governance with enthusiasm and determination.
President Xi Jinping recently delivered a much-welcomed speech at the Lima Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting outlining China's continuous efforts to promote global free trade and investment with particular reference to quicken the pace of negotiations on an APEC Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
The US is no doubt a major force in the future of globalization as the debate of whether "globalization is Americanization" indicates.
There are two things that appear to be influencing the US' engagement in globalization and global governance. The feeling that globalization is no longer on the track of Americanization is one, hence Trump's "America First" slogan, presaging the new US Administration's push to jettison multilateral FTAs and renegotiate bilateral FTAs to have manufacturing return to America. It is a different story whether such efforts will succeed.
The other is a continuation of overall American strategic retrenchment focusing on a domestic political and economic agenda with an inward-looking approach to international affairs that started in 2009.
The world will likely witness another round of American strategic retrenchment and further withdrawal from global engagements which will create new paradigms for different regions of the world and for globalization if President-elect Mr. Trump "makes America great again," though his sentiment entails strengthening American military capability to maintain US military superiority over Russia and China. You can say it is both inward and outward looking. Of course everything is still in the domain of the unknown and American policy toward major powers like Russia and China and globalization needs to be closely watched.
What can be safely predicted is that the US under Trump will backpedal in critical areas like the commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Some experts suggest, China will have to become the de facto leader in tackling global challenges. The pressure for China to do so will mount, but we need to tread carefully. The best way out is to continue to engage the US and not let it off the hook easily.
On a positive note, we can rest assured that globalization will not disappear overnight because, for the past several decades, globalization has promoted economic growth for all to an unprecedented degree and knitted nations together.
The focus should be how to "make globalization great again," rather than ponder the demise of globalization.
The US, despite Trump's talk, can't wriggle out of the web of common interest with its economic and political partners. To be fair, we do need more effort to address "global governance deficiency" in promoting social justice and fairness, such as narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor both domestically and among nations. Also, we need to start thinking in earnest about the relationship between capital and labor as suggested in "The Capital in the Twenty-First Century" by French economist Piketty.
With possible retrenchment and partial withdrawal from global engagement from the US, China's role will become more prominent and decisive. Expectations are on the rise as to how China can make globalization great again. This will not only be an onerous task for China, but will also impact the future of globalization.
China should continue to engage the US when the Trump administration enters office and enhance cooperation on issues of common concern.
We all know that a basic consensus and overall cooperation by the US and China is critical in determining the pace and direction of globalization for the next decades.
The author is counselor of Beijing-based think tank Center for China and Globalization and former Chinese Vice Foreign Minister. firstname.lastname@example.org