“Unlearning Helplessness”, the theme of the 58th Munich Security Conference (MSC) held from Feb. 18 to 20, reflected the anxiety of Western countries amid multiple crises, including flare-ups of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and geopolitical tensions.
It is an important issue how to overcome global challenges, find the right path to peaceful development and prevent collective helplessness from turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy, which tests the wisdom of various parties.
The themes of the MSC have largely mirrored the real social mentalities of Western countries. From the theme of “Westlessness” of the 56th MSC held in 2020 to this year’s theme of “Unlearning Helplessness”, the conference has paid continuous attention to uncertainties.
As the Munich Security Report 2022 pointed out, many people in Western countries sensed that they are losing control over global events, and seem to conclude that it will not be possible to solve humanity’s most challenging problems.
The sense of helplessness has root causes that shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, it is a widespread feeling in Western countries that emerged from the lack of solutions to global challenges, a result of their failure to make timely adjustments to respond to major changes unseen in a century.
If countries squander the most powerful instruments for maintaining a rules-based international order and for fighting global security threats, namely institutions like the United Nations Security Council, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the World Health Organization (WHO), then their helplessness is truly self-inflicted, according to Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the MSC.
To get rid of the sense of helplessness, countries should first embrace the right concept of security. As the interests of countries in the world are more and more closely intertwined, security issues are increasingly interconnected, transnational, and diverse. The scenario described in the Kazakh proverb that goes “Someone who tries to blow out another’s oil lamp will set his beard on fire” is the reality of the times.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc across the world. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world has totaled over 400 million, while that of people killed by the disease has reached nearly six million.
In order to win the final victory over the pandemic, various countries must adhere to the approach of solidarity and cooperation.
Meanwhile, geopolitical tensions have made it more imperative to uphold dialogue and consultation and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility.
Countries around the world must champion the concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and abandon the wrong idea of exclusive security and absolute security.
As the WHO pointed out, countries in the world need to cooperate with each other to tackle the common challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Public statements should aim to reduce tensions, not inflame them,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the recent MSC.
The long-term solution to the sense of helplessness is to safeguard multilateralism and international order.
For some time, certain major country has revived the Cold War mentality and stoked confrontation between blocs, willfully imposed unilateral sanctions upon other countries and sabotaged international rule of law, formed various small circles and stirred up conflict and confrontation, been obsessed with “decoupling” and creating barriers and bucked the trend of globalization, and played up the position of strength and pursued hegemony and bullying.
Such acts run counter to the general trend of multipolarity and greater democracy in international relations.
State-to-state relations cannot be simply defined by competition. Countries in the world should never attempt to wind back the clock of history and repeat the past mistakes of building alliances and pursuing confrontation.
They must make the right choice and work together to build a new type of international relations that feature mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation; they must be committed to promoting solidarity and cooperation, jointly advocate and practice true multilateralism, safeguard the authority of the UN, and abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. No country should replace international rules with its own will or place itself above international rules.
This year’s MSC continued to include a special conversation with China, which focused on how to view China and China’s development.
In the face of the protracted COVID-19 pandemic, China, steadfast in making COVID-19 vaccines a global public good, has provided more than 2.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for over 120 countries and international organizations.
Against the backdrop of the turbulent international situation, China has followed the new thinking of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and persisted in solving various regional hotspot issues through political means, playing a constructive role in safeguarding international peace and security.
Facts have shown that China, on its journey of higher-quality development and with stronger capacity to put plans into practice and fulfill promises, will certainly inject more impetus into the post-pandemic recovery of the world and make greater contribution to international peace and stability.
As the world is going through intertwined waves of major changes and a pandemic both unseen in a century, various countries are all in a giant ship on which their shared destiny hinges, instead of riding separately in small boats.
Only when countries row the oars together and cheer up each other, rather than undercut and come after one another, can they overcome the current challenges and sail into a bright future.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy and international affairs.)
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