No. 09 | 22.08.2021
The decay of the “liberal international order” and the hope for a pluralist future
Zhu Yunhan
Zhu Yunhan is a professor at the Department of Political Science at Taiwan University and a scholar at the “Academia Sinica” in Taiwan, China. Zheng Yongnian is an expert on Chinese politics and international affairs and the first director of the Advanced Institute of Global and Contemporary China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen.
In their new book, The Decline of the Western-Centric World and the Emerging New Global Order, Zheng Yongnian and Zhu Yunhan observe that the liberal international order, formed by the post-WWII collusion between the US and the UK, remains fundamentally a system of hegemony and subordination – or of the dominators and the dominated. This order attempts to integrate the model of social democracy, state intervention, and financial and capital regulation with the free trade system. But while the liberal international order claimed a “complete victory” with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, it also set the scene for its own decay. Neoliberalism has devolved into market fundamentalism, drastically expanding the income and wealth gap in Western societies. Moreover, Western democracy has become incompetent in the face of the growing power of capital. From the perspective of the West, the liberal international order is faltering largely due to the rise of other powers, especially China and Russia, and the revival of the great power competition. Even still, many non-Western countries have never approved of the liberal international order led by the West. And since there is not much more the US and the West can do to promote this order, a pluralist order based on sovereignty is returning to view.
What might China’s role be in Taliban-run Afghanistan?
Pan Guang
Pan Guang is the director of the Center of Shanghai Cooperation Organization Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and a senior advisor at the China Association of Middle East Studies.
Recent events in Afghanistan exemplify the decline of the US-led liberal international order. Since the retreat of US forces, speculation about the possibility of China intervening has deepened with the recent meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Afghan Taliban Political Commission. In this interview, Pan Guang points out that China’s ties with the Taliban began before 911 and that China has never identified the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist organization. China accepts the importance of the Taliban in Afghanistan and expects it to play a significant role in the nation’s reconstruction. Amid the hasty withdrawal of US troops, China has openly engaged with the Taliban to prepare for the role it too might play in post-war Afghanistan. Meanwhile, China and Russia have strengthened military cooperation as the situation in Afghanistan poses security concerns for its neighbors. Pan believes that although China might make defensive moves, it will not send joint forces to Afghanistan as speculated; indeed, the restoration of permanent peace in Afghanistan requires an international coordination mechanism. Pan asserts that a maxium of three ways for China’s involvement in Afghanistan are to protect Chinese nationals there, assist in the country’s post-war construction and development, and once security is guaranteed, continue to advance the major projects of Chinese companies in Afghanistan and the Belt and Road Initiative.
Online debate: “Coexistence” with Covid-19 doesn’t contradict China’s “zero-tolerance” strategy
Zeng Guang
Zeng Guang is an epidemiologist and chief scientist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He is also a member of the High-level Expert Panel of National Health Commission.
After the onset of China’s latest Covid-19 outbreak, virologist Zhang Wenhong wrote on social media that “the world needs to learn how to live with the virus.” His remarks sparked many debates online, including ideological discussions, about whether China should shift from its “zero-tolerance” strategy to one of “coexistence.” Among the commentators was former health minister Gao Qiang, who argued that the “coexistence” approach reveals the flawed political system of Western countries. In this interview, Zeng Guang states that these two approaches do not contradict each other. Due to the uncertain global epidemic situation and the incomplete vaccination rate of China’s population, China should stick to its “zero-tolerance” strategy for the time being despite the rising cost. As the international epidemic situation changes, so too will China’s strategy, although Zeng suggests that China should not be the first to open its border. Zeng believes that “coexistence” will be the long-term outcome of humanity’s struggle against the virus. For the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, Zeng suggests that China adopt a similar epidemic prevention policy to the one used during the Tokyo Olympics.
There is no shortcut for solving the “bottlenecks” in China’s technological innovation
Feng Kaidong
Dr. Feng Kaidong is an associate professor at the School of Government, Peking University. His research covers the evolution of innovation systems and the political economy of science, technology, and organizational evolution.
China is facing a “bottleneck problem” (卡脖子问题 kǎbózi wèntí) brought about by US efforts to suppress its technological advances. Despite this, many are optimistic that China can overtake developed countries to lead the ostensible Fourth Industrial Revolution because of its growing dominance in emerging technologies like mobile internet services, big data, and AI technology. In this article, Feng Kaidong asserts that we have not yet entered a new phase of development where disruptive technologies are fundamentally changing the world. We are still in the Third Industrial Revolution, characterized by the application and spread of information and communication technology (ICT). Because emerging technologies cannot bring about significant industrial economic changes, China can take no shortcuts to surpass other countries. Feng points out that since reform and opening up, China has been integrated into the international economic system, and Chinese firms have been positioned as users of foreign technology and as global product manufacturers rather than as technological innovators. This has created many “bottleneck” problems for China’s innovation. Feng concludes that it is not enough for China to achieve breakthroughs in a single technological field; China’s highest priority should be to build domestic innovation systems and make structural changes to reduce reliance on foreign technologies and markets.
How was China’s socialist industrialization developed?
Huang Qunhui
Huang Qunhui is the director of the Institute of Economic Study at the China Academy of Social Sciences, a member of thf National Manufacturing Strategy Advisory Committee, and a member of State Council’s Anti-Monopoly Committee.
Reflecting on the past 100 years of the CPC, Huang Qunhui walks us through the development of China’s socialist industrialization and the global significance of its industrial achievements. Huang emphasizes the role of the CPC’s unwavering perseverance in industrializing the nation. In 1944, Mao Zedong called for industrial development, urged Party members to study industrialization, and emphasized the importance of industrialization to national independence – a notion that persists today. The early phase of China’s socialist industrialization from 1949 to 1978 prioritized heavy industry; the successful “Two Bombs, One Satellite” (两弹一星 Liǎng dàn yì xīng) project is one example. During the reform era, China rapidly developed industrialization based on the socialist market economy, promoting low-cost export-oriented industries and accelerating industrial upgrading through “learning by doing.” Since 2015, China has transitioned to innovation-driven, inclusive, and sustainable industrialization. Huang claims that China’s socialist industrialization is not only a vital step in fulfilling the “Chinese dream of national rejuvenation” (中华民族伟大复兴的中国梦Zhōnghuá mínzú wěidà fùxīng de zhōngguó mèng) but also of great global significance. For countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s industrialization has promoted industrial upgrades and fueled economic growth and industrialization. Moreover, China’s experience provides an alternative solution for countries seeking to industrialize while maintaining national independence.

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