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The need for a new US foreign policy

By Korea Herald

Published : May 2, 2023 - 08:38

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Jeffrey D. Sachs Jeffrey D. Sachs

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

US foreign policy is based on an inherent contradiction and fatal flaw. The aim of US foreign policy is a US-dominated world, in which the US writes the global trade and financial rules, controls advanced technologies, maintains militarily supremacy, and dominates all potential competitors. Unless US foreign policy is changed to recognize the need for a multipolar world, it will lead to more wars, and possibly World War III.

The inherent contradiction in US foreign policy is that it conflicts with the UN Charter, which commits the US (and all other UN member states) to a global system based on UN institutions in which no single country dominates. The fatal flaw is that the US has just 4 percent of the world population, and lacks the economic, financial, military, and technological capacities, much less the ethical and legal claims, to dominate the other 96 percent.

At the end of World War II, the US was far ahead in economic, technological, and military power. This is no longer the case, as many countries have built their economies and technological capacities.

President Emmanuel Macron recently spoke the truth when he said that the European Union, though an ally of the US, does not want to be a vassal of the US. He was widely attacked in the US and Europe for uttering this statement because many mediocre politicians in Europe depend on US political support to stay in power.

In 2015, US Ambassador Robert Blackwill, an important US foreign policy strategist, described US grand strategy with exceptional clarity. He wrote, “Since its founding, the United States has consistently pursued a grand strategy focused on acquiring and maintaining preeminent power over various rivals, first on the North American continent, then in the Western hemisphere, and finally globally,” and argued that “preserving US primacy in the global system ought to remain the central objective of US grand strategy in the twenty-first century.”

To sustain US primacy vis-a-vis China, Blackwill laid out a game plan that President Joe Biden is following. Among other measures, Blackwill called on the US to create “new preferential trading arrangements among US friends and allies to increase their mutual gains through instruments that consciously exclude China,” “a technology-control regime” to block China’s strategic capabilities, a build-up of “power-political capacities of US friends and allies on China’s periphery,” and strengthened US military forces along the Asian rimlands despite any Chinese opposition.

Most US politicians and many in Britain, the EU, Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand support the United States’ aggressive approach. I do not. I view the US approach to China as contrary to the UN Charter and peace.

China has the right to prosperity and national security, free from US provocations around its borders. China’s remarkable economic accomplishments since the late 1970s are wonderful for both China and the world.

During the long century from 1839 to 1949, China was driven into extreme poverty in a period marked by European and Japanese invasions of China and Chinese civil wars. Britain invaded in 1839 to force China to buy Britain’s addictive opium. Other powers piled on during the following century. China has finally recovered from that disastrous period, and in the process, ended poverty of around 1 billion people!

China’s new prosperity can be both peaceful and productive for the world. China’s successful technologies -- ranging from vital cures for malaria to low-cost solar power and efficient 5G networks -- can be a boon for the world. China will be a threat to the extent that the US makes China into an enemy. US hostility to China, which mixes the arrogant US aim of dominance with long-standing anti-Chinese racism dating back to the 19th century, is creating an enemy.

There is, I believe, an important lesson and opportunity for Korea (and Japan) in all of this. China’s rise is of benefit to East Asia as a whole, including Japan and Korea. Even though there are ancient enmities and current challenges of security among the three nations, China, Japan, and Korea can and should prosper peacefully together. The three nations constitute the world’s most advanced manufacturing hub for sustainable technologies -- renewable energy, sustainable transport, digital services, robotics, and more. Their economies are already deeply intertwined. Working together, the three nations can play a vital role in promoting global sustainable development.

Thus, America’s attempt to “contain” China’s rise is of no benefit whatsoever to Korea and the rest of Asia. While the US wants to enlist Japan and Korea as frontline nations in opposition to China, the real interests of Asia are to avoid another era of divisions. Current US foreign policy guarantees a cold war in Asia and perhaps a hot one as well, following the same awful trajectory that occurred in Ukraine. By declaring its opposition to China, the US creates an enemy for no reason, and threatens to draw all neighboring countries into a spiral of distrust and even open conflict.

The dangers of US foreign policy obviously extend far beyond China and Asia. The US goal to expand NATO to Ukraine and Georgia, thereby surrounding Russia in the Black Sea, helped stoke the Ukraine War. Even today, the US continues to push NATO enlargement, though it is a clear redline to Russia, and the main reason for the ongoing conflict.

Countless nations now see the danger of the US approach. Major nations from Brazil to India and beyond aim for a multipolar world. These countries should encourage the US to adopt a different approach, one based on cooperation, negotiation, and dialogue, rather than on the quest for military and technological dominance.

Most importantly, all UN member states should recommit to the UN Charter and oppose claims of dominance by any nation. We are past the age of hegemons. We are in the age of sustainable development, when global cooperation has become the most important key to our survival.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-re­nowned economics professor, bestsell­ing author, innovative educator and global leader in sustainable develop­ment. — Ed.