In mid-November 2010, Chinese Ambassador HE Yafei gave the keynote address launching the "Global Challenges Forum" in Geneva, Switzerland (see here). There, he described how the line between national and international issues had become blurred, requiring a new approach to international security as we entered the new millennium. "Global challenges need global solutions," declared Ambassador HE, "no country can handle these challenges single-handedly, no matter how powerful that country is." It was time, Ambassador HE concluded, for "a new global partnership."
But what kind of "new global partnership"? International agreements exist today that have brought nations together in the interest of mutual security for a long time. Yet these organizations have tended to form among limited sets of actors within specific regions, especially in tandem with the powers of North America and Western Europe. NATO is a paramount example: formed as a regional security alliance among "North Atlantic" nations, it is now stretched to provide collective security in increasingly far removed and troubled areas of the world, such as Afghanistan, and carries out those tasks in collaboration with partners "across the globe." While transatlantic cooperation, through organizations such as NATO, is the most robust on the planet, it is nevertheless limited in its ability to address the complex and multiplying challenges springing up around the globe: challenges from terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and piracy to humanitarian relief, resource scarcity, cyber security, and even economic stability. A global partnership to address global security challenges, rather than a series of limited regional partnerships, must improve our capacities to address the challenges of the 21st century. The modalities of global partnership, from all angles, should be examined carefully.
One of the principal features of the new century - the rising prominence of a re-invigorated China - offers a hint of what new partnerships are possible. Transatlantic outreach to China serves a number of important goals in international relations, but perhaps most importantly, it offers a vast new array of both human and material resources to counter the new century's endemic problems. China's re-emergence as an influential actor on the global stage is a welcome opportunity for improved global governance.
At the same time, on the North American side of the Atlantic there are those who constantly remind us that the 21st century is the "Pacific Century," that the United States and Canada are Pacific powers, and thus need to prioritize in that direction. There is a rising need for Atlanticists to challenge this argument, which is posed mostly by Asian specialists in academia and government. Their approach helps to create new dividing lines. It projects especially America's interests with China into a very brittle framework (e.g., everything stops over who the Dalai Lama met with last week). It is fundamentally unsound, in that it overlooks opportunities to strengthen China's security dialogue and cooperative military engagement with the rest of the world through more neutral venues for discourse. Transatlantic engagement with China can provide that neutral venue. The US-China bilateral security dialogue by comparison is much more prone to each side engaging in self-referential hegemonic discourse in an echo chamber of mutual suspicion. Neither side comes out ahead.
Building on the launch speech of the Global Challenges Forum in November 2010, a series of transatlantic multi-stakeholder conferences in 2011-12 could be proposed to explore the opportunities, realities, and means for creating closer transatlantic security cooperation with China. This cooperation, viewed in light of its potential to improve the global response to shared challenges, must address several issues:
First, what are the advantages or potential disadvantages of expanding transatlantic and Chinese cooperation to each respective region? Second, in what specific ways might this cooperation be advanced? In addition to the reasons working for or against increased cooperation, experts must envision feasible means for establishing such cooperation. Four initial topics are suggested for conference dialogue between security experts in the transatlantic region with colleagues from China:
- Establishing an enduring Track II academic dialogue among institutions in the transatlantic security community with China concerning shared global challenges;
- Exploring joint training modalities for NATO and China to prepare for peacekeeping and peace support operations, with special attention to Africa;
- Examining ways to deepen military cooperation for humanitarian aid operations and maritime security, such as joint efforts in military medical and health diplomacy; and,
- Linking NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) training centers with opportunities to collaborate on a wide array of topics with entities that might eventually be identified as collaboration partners under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Ambassador HE's speech made clear that the Chinese are ready to acknowledge a new kind of global cooperation. Is the West? In order to address the increasingly global nature of 21st century security challenges, the transatlantic actors and the Chinese may mutually benefit from closer cooperation. The international community must define new ways for pursuing cooperation and for bringing these two important regions together. As Ambassador HE stated, "We need a new global partnership that is more equal, that is more balanced, that has mutual and shared benefits. We survive or we sink together."
Walter L. Christman is Associate Professor of Global Public Policy at the US Naval Postgraduate School.
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