This world has no rules-based order

This world has no rules-based order

“ … attacks against the rules-based order are intensifying … Let me be clear — the United States is not seeking to uphold this rules-based order to keep other nations down.   The international order we helped build and defend has enabled the rise of some of our fiercest competitors.   Our aim is simply to defend, uphold, and revitalize that order … “ said U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Multilateralism (U.S. Dept of State 2021 May 7).

‘Rules-based Order’ (RBO) has gradually become a term in fashion used by the West since Mike Pompeo’s tenure as the State Secretary (read his speech ‘Reforming the Rules-Based International Order’ in Brussels on 2018 Dec 4)

.What are the rules?  Who set the rules? How are the rules enforced?  Both diplomats and scholars are keen on discussing all these questions and providing answers.  

The originator may be the UK: “The maintenance and enhancement of the international rules-based system (IRBS) has been an essential British interest in the 75 years since the end of the Second World War (Foreign Policy Centre 2020 Sep 8).

Catching up fast is Australia: “… (Foreign Minister) Payne’s framing of the rules-based order as the site of ideological competition would accord well with a Biden administration in the US …” (Lowy Institute 2020 Nov 2).

Singapore of course refuses to lag behind: “ … ‘RBO’ itself is redundant.  Order must be established through rules that constrains the players.   But proponents in the West may make assumptions about translating the legal structures from their domestic systems into the international system …” (RSIS 2019 March 12)

See how U.S. Secretary Blinken explained it: “ … ‘Our administration is committed to leading with diplomacy to advance the interests of the United States and to strengthen the rules-based international order,’ he said.   The alternative, he continued, ‘is a world in which might makes right and winners take all, and that would be a far more violent and unstable world for all of us.’   China, he seemed to be saying, is not only to dismantle the U.S.-led order but also out to bring back the days of ‘might makes right’ ……”   But some Harvard scholars guessed “China wants a Rules-Based International Order, too …” (Harvard Belfer Center 2021 March 31)

While one may find many many more discussions on this ROB, let me be cruelly straight: no ROB is feasible except Winston Churchill’s rule — no lasting friends, no lasting enemies, only lasting interests (in world politics).

Three reasons, at least.

Firstly, even though many post-WWII rules were set by the UK and the US, they themselves are selective of the rulings.   The latest case of test is the Chagos Islands dispute between Mauritius and the UK in which the 2015 United Nations court ruled that the UK should return the islands (already leased to the U.S. as a military base) back to Mauritius (BBC 2020 Oct 19: Mauritius calls US and UK hypocrites).  

Secondly, the USA has had a record of jumping in-and-out of the institutions, agreements, deals, etc.   Jerry Grey, a British born Australian living in Guangdong, has explained this point well and said, “… To conclude, when we look closely, we find the USA is either not a member, never been a member, or has withdrawn from membership of any and all the organizations that uphold internationally accepted ‘Rules of Law’.  We also find that, when it comes to breaking internationally accepted laws or breaching accepted conventions, the USA does so with impunity and refuses to submit to international investigations or prosecutions of citizens who may have also done so …” (Newsgd 2021 May 12).

Rules can never be binding whenever and wherever the inked sheets are not in the interest of a self-sufficient nation, let alone a powerful nation.    In plain words, these rules are simply writings on sheets.

Thirdly, in a multi-polar and cyber world like what we have at this moment, no single power can dominate all the arenas, and therefore rules cannot be enforced.   The Harvard scholars are right, both the U.S. and China want some sorts of rules-based order, but in reality it does not work.   As always, it is chaos to torture the peoples on the Earth.   Open a history textbook if you do not believe so.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China News.

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Categories: Politics & Law

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  1. This world has no rules-based order - The Washington County Auditor

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