It’s not yet the time to talk about ‘lose-lose’

NATO is pushing for tension, while the Global South are striving for peace and cooperation.
February 21, 2024
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Gao Yingshi
CGTN Journalist

On Feb. 12, 2024, The Munich Security Conference released its annual report, painting a gloomy picture of current global affairs, reflected in its theme of “Lose-Lose.” This report suggests that the cooperative optimism of the post-Cold War era has deteriorated into a zero-sum game, with major global players increasingly dissatisfied and withdrawing from collaborative engagement. While it is true that the current world system is facing more and more uncertainty, declaring a systemic lose-lose scenario is premature. It disproportionately highlights current geopolitical tensions, overshadowing areas of progress, particularly in the Global South, where opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation still exist.

The report’s first chapter focuses on the Ukraine crisis, symbolizing Europe’s anxiety over the diminishing “liberal democratic order.” However, this perspective is not universally shared, especially in the Global South, which is home to over 6 billion people. Here, there’s a prevalent belief that the West prioritizes itself over those suffering in long-standing conflicts in regions like Africa and the Middle East. This viewpoint stems from the observation of significant aid directed towards Western crises, starkly contrasting the apathy towards tragedies elsewhere. Hence, while Europe may perceive the Ukraine crisis as a threat to the so-called rules-based system, the Global South remains skeptical of these claims, concentrating instead on enduring economic challenges ranging from food insecurity to debt sustainability.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Munich Security Report 2024 focuses on escalating tensions between China and the United States. This perspective, however, simplifies a more complex reality. Despite the tensions between China and the United States, with the U.S. attempting to coerce and persuade some countries to pick sides, cooperation between Asia-Pacific nations and China still outweighs disagreements. This is evidenced by the significant attendance of Asian leaders at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, indicating strong regional ties and collaborative interests. In 2023, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was fully implemented among its 15 member states, marking a significant milestone in regional economic integration. Notably, China’s trade with the other 14 RCEP members reached an impressive $1.8 trillion, cementing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as China’s largest trading partner. Despite the China-US tensions, nations in this region continue to rely on their deep economic connections and established institutional frameworks, such as ASEAN, to maintain and strengthen their ties with China. These enduring relationships suggest a regional landscape that is far more cooperative and interconnected than the lose-lose scenario depicted in the report.

Regarding China-US relations, the report rightly expresses concern that escalating tensions could negatively impact global environmental initiatives. While these concerns are valid, there are also emerging signs of both nations attempting to manage and contain this competition. The ‘wandering balloons’ incident, for instance, did not prevent the two countries from engaging in a summit meeting between their leaders at the APEC meeting in San Francisco in 2023. During this meeting, they reached consensus in over 20 different areas, indicating a willingness to find common ground despite broader tensions.

Particularly noteworthy is the progress in the realm of climate change. The signing of the Sunnylands Statement by China and the US, which commits to enhanced climate dialogue and cooperation, is a positive development. This growing climate cooperation could potentially lead to beneficial effects in other aspects of their relationship, serving as a counterbalance to future bilateral challenges. However, it’s important to remain cautiously optimistic. The complexities of the China-US dynamic mean that progress in one area does not automatically translate to overall relationship improvement. Both countries’ abilities to manage risks and navigate these complexities will be crucial.

In contrast to the tensions highlighted in major geopolitical arenas, the Global South demonstrates a burgeoning trend of positive-sum cooperation. The deepening economic and trade relations between China and Latin American countries exemplify this. Over the past two decades, this partnership has evolved into a robust economic collaboration, with bilateral trade growing from $180 billion in 2010 to around $450 billion. It is projected to surpass $700 billion by 2035, signifying increased economic activity and a shared commitment to mutual prosperity. The involvement of 21 Latin American countries in China’s Belt and Road Initiative further underscores this trend, aligning with a shared vision for development and economic growth. This relationship, based on complementarity in market demands and mutual development goals, stands in contrast to the zero-sum approaches often seen in traditional power politics. It exemplifies a new paradigm in international relations where cooperation, mutual benefit, and shared development objectives drive the interactions in the Global South, setting a positive example for global economic interactions.

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Gao Yingshi
CGTN Journalist
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