How to avoid lose-lose? True multilateralism gives answer

China's commitment to building a community with a shared future for mankind stands in stark contrast to the West's preoccupation with countering perceived threats and preserving its own dominance.

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Munich Security Conference (MSC) Chairman Christoph Heusgen speaks during the opening of the 60th MSC in Munich, Germany, Feb. 16, 2024. (Xinhua/Zhang Fan)

In the newly released Munich Security Report 2024, the West expressed concerns about the advent of “lose-lose dynamics,” where many governments are no longer focusing on the absolute benefits of global cooperation.

Such concerns deserve serious consideration. However, of greater importance is the imperative for the West to reflect on its role in prompting a lose-lose situation on the global arena.

It is not the first time that the West has found itself grappling with uncertainty and unease. The eruption of conflicts including the Ukraine crisis and the Gaza crisis, and their subsequent spillover effects, have unsettled the West for years. Such unease has colored several recent Munich Security Conferences with a tinge of pessimism.

Indeed, the West is largely responsible for the instability and outbreak of hostilities that have shattered world peace. Historical legacies of colonialism, interventionism, and geopolitical maneuvering have left indelible scars on regions and civilizations around the world, exacerbating grievances and perpetuating violence and instability.

The report correctly highlights the disturbing growth of zero-sum mentality in global affairs. However, it is critical to acknowledge that the West, despite its professed devotion to liberal ideas and democratic principles, is gravely bound by the shackles of the Cold War mentality that stifles growth and perpetuates divisions.

The Cold War mindset, which stems from decades of geopolitical rivalry and ideological confrontation, continues to have a strong influence on Western policies and strategic thinking. The binary mindset of “us versus them,” defined by bloc politics and zero-sum games, continues to shape notions of friend and foe, ally and opponent.

In the report, the authors also noticed a disturbing trend: countries are increasingly defining their success in relative terms, rather than prioritizing the collective well-being of the international community.

China’s commitment to building a community with a shared future for mankind stands in stark contrast to the West’s preoccupation with countering perceived threats and preserving its own dominance.

Considering China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and a series of Western plans at the BRI’s heels, the fact is self-evident.

Whether it be the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment by the Group of Seven, or the “Build Back Better World” plan by Washington, or the Global Gateway Initiative by the European Union, the Western brand-building exercise is, in Reuter’s comment, only aimed at improving “relationships with developing countries to prevent them from falling into China’s arms.”

It is no surprise that the West’s response to the BRI has been vague and met with little excitement in the Global South.

The Global South received special attention in this year’s security assessment. Since last year, the Munich Security Conference has placed a greater emphasis on Global South countries. One contributing element is the recognition of the Global South’s weak support for the West’s approach to Ukraine.

As such, some statements in the report may appear to champion the cause of the Global South, but fundamentally, they are still tightly bound by the Western tradition of bloc politics.

To overcome the current impasse that governments are “increasingly concerned that they are gaining less than others,” the report proposed such a solution — while transatlantic partners and “like-minded states” must invest in defense and deterrence, they should restrict the pursuit of mutual benefits to “politically like-minded states.”

This obsession with bloc confrontation demonstrates that the Western world is the de facto creator of the lose-lose situation.

In the global context, China sticks to genuine multilateralism and fosters a new paradigm for international relations that prioritizes cooperation and mutual benefit.

China’s proposals in recent years, including building a community with a shared future for mankind, the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative, have all contributed impartial solutions to global challenges.

While the West intends to make “politically like-minded” friends to avoid the lose-lose situation, true multilateralism, which China firmly stands by, is proving more persuasive.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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