Isms, such as nationalism, protectionism, populism, and isolationism, are spreading like wildfire across the Western world, creating uncertainty about the future of free trade and international economic cooperation. U.S. President Donald Trump and far-right leaders across Europe have emerged as influential voices against globalization, blaming it for the world’s problems. Amidst growing doubts about the future of the globalized international order, China has emerged as a voice of reason.
West: Build walls, not bridges.
In response to the wave of populism that is sweeping through the West, more and more countries in the Western world are adopting an explosive strategy of isolation and protectionism. Last year, Britain decided to exit from the European Union, essentially undoing about four decades of treaties and agreements. The success of Brexit helped usher in the rise of Trump, and has brought far-right politicians across Europe to the forefront of world politics.
In the U.S., Trump has vowed to take America back like Britain took back control of their nation. “They will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT,” he once tweeted. In his inaugural speech, Trump asserted: “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.” “Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” he added. After Trump took office, he took steps to roll back globalization. Trump ordered the U.S. to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and agreement; called for the construction of a physical wall on the southern border; stepped up enforcement of immigration laws; and closed America’s doors to immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.
In Europe, a similar phenomenon is taking place right now in France. National Front leader Marine Le Pen, a front-runner in the French presidential elections, has vowed to take France back if she wins the election. The populist leader is urging her supporters to follow in the footsteps of Brexit and Trump, claiming that France is under the threat of two “totalitarianisms” – economic globalization and Islamic fundamentalism. If elected, Le Pen has promised to withdraw France from NATO’s Integrated Military Command; leave the European Union; contain immigration, especially immigration by Muslims; and expel thousands of foreigners. “The divide is not between the left and right anymore, but between patriots and globalists,” she said in a speech.
China: Build bridges, not walls.
Despite turmoil, China continues to signal its willingness to promote opening up and common development. For example, China is making a huge contribution to world peace and prosperity with its massive Belt and Road project. Since 2013, China has advanced the game-changing economic and diplomatic initiative as a way to connect the world. In 2016 alone, China invested $14.5 billion in countries along the Belt and Road. Not only is the initiative bridging the region, it offers new opportunity for major-country relations. The initiative is poised to forever reshape global trade and demonstrates China’s steadfast commitment to an open global economy.
The new political divide comes at a time when the world stands at a major crossroads as a global community: build bridges or build walls. China has chosen to build bridges with the global community, and hopes that all countries will come together to build a community of common destiny for mankind. In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the world to keep to the goal of building a community with a shared future. Xi also urged the international community to view their own interests in a broader context and to refrain from pursuing them at the expense of others. “Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air,” Xi said in his speech.
What the world needs now is more globalization, not less. Countries that stand by globalization, such as China, play a key role in maintaining the international economic order. Rather than blame economic globalization for the world’s problems, the international community should step up to the plate and make the global economy work for all people.