The hegemonic bus driver on tenterhooks

By Luo Huaiyu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 17, 2014
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[By Yang Yongliang/] 

The statement that "China is a free rider for the last thirty years" is obviously a falsehood. What is really meaningful and worth discussing is whether the hegemonic driver at the helm of this metaphorical bus should change his style. Let's just look at the record of this driver and see what he is up to.

First, this bus driver has a vague sense of his destination but no idea of how to get there. The President's State of the Union addresses and reports to congress are almost always peppered with exciting catchwords like freedom, democracy or human rights. However, seeing that no efforts have been made to realize these goals other than toppling unwelcome regimes, supporting pro-American opposition and stirring up populist fervor for general elections, people cannot help but suspect that this bus driver's claims about core values are half-hearted, and that the driver is truly only after its selfish interests. The wars waged by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan are still fresh in our memories. Have these countries become better off than they were before? Mired in the conflict between the Shiites and the Sunni, which has been compounded by the ISIS offensive, Iraq has come to the verge of collapse. Afghanistan is having a fragile presidential election and, with NATO withdrawing their forces this year, its own forces' abilities to maintain national stability remain a big question mark. In the case of Libya, no effective government system has been established since Qaddafi was overturned by the opposition with the help of the United States and other Western countries, and now, as this article is being penned, the situation there is spiraling out of control.

Second, this bus driver has a high regard for rules, but only expects others to follow them. It asks China and other developing countries to take on more responsibilities for global climate change, but it rejects the widely-accepted Kyoto Protocol. It demands that China resolve maritime disputes with Japan and the Philippines by following international law, but it has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which has been accepted by more than 150 countries. It urges China to fully open its market to U.S. businesses and investments and create a level playing field, but it restricts high-tech exports to China and sanctions China's competitive enterprises, citing so-called security concerns.

Third, this bus driver professes justice, but treats passengers unequally. In the highly sensitive Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it has long stood behind Israel. It vows to take no sides in the maritime disputes between China and Japan in the East China Sea, but everybody can see it actually sides with Japan. President Obama became the first U.S. president to openly declare that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty covers the Diaoyu Islands, which may easily be interpreted as an act of provocation against China. The U.S. government also gave Japan the nod on the dangerous move to lift its constitutional ban on the right of collective self-defense, unphased by the political consequences and effects on public sentiment in China and South Korea that such an action will have.

As the only superpower in the world, it is not strange for the U.S. to assume global leadership. However, a real leader should respect others and treat them as equals. A leader who is unjust performs his duty poorly. Over the past two decades or so, global governance has shown little sign of improvement. Terrorism is becoming more rampant after an unprecedentedly broad anti-terrorist campaign; the Middle East situation is as complicated as ever; and destabilizing factors are accumulating in Asia as the U.S. rebalances towards the Asia-Pacific zone.

President Obama was not unobjective when he said "people look to America in ways they don't look to China." But though he made that remark proudly, I seriously doubt that many people would look to the United States with genuine respect and appreciation. America has been driving the bus of the world for nearly three decades. But it is important for this driver to realize that it is first and foremost a rider itself, Furthermore, it must recognize that no one on board is really a free rider, because only through solidarity and cooperation can the bus reach its final destination.

The author is a columnist. For more information please visit:

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