Who Is Responsible for the European Refugee Crisis?

Many European scholars and politicians have recently claimed that the European refugee crisis is a global phenomenon, a serious threat to international security and a crisis of responsibility for the international community; therefore it requires a global solution. They said that major countries including China should not act as if they were not involved, that they should volunteer to take on some of the burden.

What is worrisome is this: If the refugee crisis persisted, some people in the West could use their media advantage to manufacture a so-called global responsibility theory as a new standard of morality. This is so they can add pressure to related countries. Recently, some people have cited a speech by the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in order to make European refugees a global issue, while others have criticized China as indifferent and not responding to the crisis. These views are far-fetched and show ulterior motives.

In examining the European refugee crisis, it is worthwhile to look at the core of the issue and conduct some reflection instead of just assigning blame. Both the timing and the severity of the refugee crisis and the democracy movement in the Middle East and North Africa as started by the West are closely related, exposing the three structural flaws in the European and American-led global governance system.

One. After the Cold War, Western countries waved a banner of their values to export their system to other countries, resulting in exactly the opposite of what they wanted and causing chaos to the global order. The existing political systems in some Middle East and North African countries have evaporated, leading to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The scourge of terrorism and the loss of shelter for their citizens have led to a large number of refugees fleeing to Europe, which is the underlying reason for the refugee crisis. It is a sign of the failure in unilaterally exporting one’s values and systems.

Two. The huge number of refugees entering Europe seemed to surprise the EU, who neither predicted the crisis nor had an emergency plan, which demonstrated that its governing system has a broken alarm and a broken emergency response mechanism.

Three. Forced regime changes and use of force in international conflicts have not produced democracy as Western countries have hoped. Rather, the tactics have threatened the force of democratization in Europe. This further proves that using force or threats to solve international issues does nothing. In fact, it would lead to uncontrolled chaos in the international and regional communities.

Based on the above, while the international society should work together to solve the European refugee crisis, they should not rush to divvy up the chores. They should be aware that the Western-centric way of global governance is the cause of the crisis, or at least the main cause. European scholars and government officials should further reflect on their roles, instead of describing their regional crisis as a global phenomenon. They should not assign the blame to everyone, act as if they are on the moral high ground, or that they have the upper hand in the press and pressure other countries.

Seen from another perspective, China is indeed taking on more and more responsibility in solving international dilemmas. Unlike Western nations who adore armed resolutions, China is against exporting one’s institution, against interfering in other countries’ affairs and against using force in solving international conflicts. China’s effectiveness and attitude is related to whether the matter can be peacefully resolved. If the involved countries were not trying to be bullies or use force, China could be more effective.

This may bring a deeper insight for a long-term solution of the European refugee crisis: In international relations, it is not enough to rely on value diplomacy and the export of one’s institution, as it will only bring a security and humanitarian crisis for all as well as sink oneself into a moral and responsibility quandary.

Author is the party chairman at the Shanghai International Studies University.

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