How Can a Superpower Shirk Its Responsibilities?



“[T]he Americans have always been internationalists […] but their internationalism has always been a by-product of nationalism.” These words by Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, provide perfectly suitable commentary on the recklessness of certain Americans at the moment.

Unilaterally inciting and escalating trade conflicts, backing out of group after group, continually slipping into a protectionist and unilateralist abyss; some Americans who have fallen under the spell of ‘America First’ are taking overdrafts on the United States’ international credit. They are recklessly damaging international order and influencing international economic cooperation.

On Aug. 1, just one day after the 12th round of Chinese-U.S. high-level trade negotiations wrapped up in Shanghai, the U.S. announced that, starting Sept. 1, it would increase tariffs by 10% on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, completely disregarding its own assertions that the talks “were constructive.” International public opinion was tumultuous, and the global market suffered a serious setback. Shockingly, some Americans stated they didn’t care about the negative effects on the stock market. It’s hard to understand how an internationally influential world power could be so irresponsible.

Day by day, people in the U.S. have been calling out against tariff “Big Stick” policies with greater intensity. “This new 10% tariff is a direct hit on consumer products and family budgets … American families shouldn’t be a pawn in this trade war,” said Hun Quach, vice president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Matt Priest, the head of Footwear Distributers and Retailers of America, said that “President Trump is, in effect, using American families as a hostage in his trade war negotiations.” Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said that new tariffs will raise prices on “everything from computers to backpacks to clothes as kids go back to school.” Faced with opposition from U.S. House members, citizens and industry associations, Washington, D.C., responded, “We believe that the effect on American consumers will be negligible, and we have related models to prove it.”* The question is, how can Washington’s models compare with the experience of consumers?

A global power is responsible for creating global stability and predictability, and also for providing conditions and opportunities for countries to develop together. However, some Americans’ actions are having the opposite effect. The International Monetary Fund recently published its “World Economic Outlook.” The IMF lowered its global economic growth forecast for the third time this year, and predicted a 2.5% growth in global trade for 2019, which was lower than April’s prediction. Tense conditions and long-term policy uncertainty caused by the U.S. have become primary factors affecting trust in the market, and this is crippling the global economy. According to the IMF’s previous assessment, if the trade war and protectionist measures continue, it will cause global economic growth to fall 0.5% in 2020.

Today, some Americans openly indulge in exercising American privilege, and do not hesitate to do so at the expense of international law and order. Observers have commented that the U.S. “brags about holding the world’s steering wheel, but has no sense of direction, and even less sense of responsibility.”* The fact that the U.S. withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and the United Nations Human Rights Council shows its extreme irresponsibility, they say.

A person without credibility will become powerless; a country without credibility will become isolated. The lack of responsibility by a few Americans is a symptom; their disdain for common sense and trust is the root cause. These Americans should wake up!

*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, the source and content of this statement could not be independently verified.

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