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World Powers' Relations Feature Cooperation, Competition in 2006
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In 2006, the relations between the world's big powers featured a mixture of cooperation and competition. Amid constant interaction, the big powers have employed various means to keep a relative balance between such subtle relations.

US unilateralism VS international multilateralism

As the only superpower on the world stage, the United States has been bogged down by a resurging violence spree in Iraq. With skyrocketing military expenses, the US casualties also soared. By now, the US death toll in Iraq has reached 3,000.

On other issues, such as Iran's nuclear standoff, Taliban's insurgence in Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, unilateralism long practiced by the Bush administration has also suffered setbacks.

Against such a backdrop, the Bush administration has shifted, if not totally scrapped, its go-it-alone approach to more dialogues and consultations with other countries.

As another player wielding a significant influence in the world's political landscape, the European Union, a bloc now consisting of 27 members, has been more actively involved in international affairs as a single entity.

Deutsche Welle said in a Dec. 5 broadcast that the EU has been promoting effective multilateralism and improving the EU-US and EU-Russian relations. The ultimate goal for the bloc is to speak with one single voice.

Russia, on the other end of the world political spectrum, has been trying to regain its influence in the Central Asian region. As President Vladimir Putin said in a recent television address, the Russian government has taken the issue as one of its priorities.
On the one hand, Russia has used all means at its disposal, including high-level exchanges of visit and consolidating economic cooperation, to strengthen its links with the former Soviet republics.

On the other hand, Russia also engaged itself actively in negotiations on the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, Iran's nuclear standoff and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, in a bid to regain its waning influence after the former Soviet Union collapsed.

As an important country in Asia, Japan also tried to show itself in a new light. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited China and South Korea in October and conducted frequent bilateral talks with leaders of other Asian countries on the sidelines of the November APEC summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Cooperation coupled with competition

With the development of political multilateralism and economic globalization, the world powers' interests have been more intertwined, which forced them to cooperate more frequently with each other.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, Iran's nuclear standoff and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue helped promote the trend. In 2006, the big powers engaged in intense diplomacy in a bid to settle disputes. Shared interests and common threats were two driving forces behind the cooperative trend.

On another front, the countries also faced common threats from economic insecurity, infectious diseases, natural disasters, drug smuggling, cross-border crimes, environment pollution and population expansion, all of which forced the world powers to cooperate more closely.

Meanwhile, alongside the cooperation, an undercurrent of competition remains. Based on the strategic concerns over geo-politics and energy security, the big powers have started a power game in Central Asia, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa.     

Unconventional diplomacy favored

Apart from traditional diplomatic means, the big powers have shifted part of their efforts to focus on unconventional diplomacy, characterized by cooperation in energy, economy and cultural exchanges.

For example, Russia played the energy card when dealing with international relations in 2006. As the world faces a global energy shortage, Russia has realized that energy would play an ever-important role in fine-tuning and dealing with its relations with other countries.

The year of culture came as another important factor among unconventional diplomacy, which helped deepen understanding and mutual trust between the countries.

To summarize, amid all the hustle and bustle in the world's political landscape, one thing is certain that the world's powers will continue along the irreversible path of cooperation while jostling for their own interests and power. 

(Xinhua News Agency January 4, 2007)


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