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Chatham House discuss New World Orders

Globalization, deglobalization and reglobalization: adapting liberal international order


Liberalism has been the most successful political ideology during the past two centuries in withstanding challenges and adapting to new environments. The liberal international order, set up after the Second World War and strengthened at the end of the Cold War, is going through a series of crises, propelled by deglobalization pressures, and the rise of illiberal and populist leaders, all challenging the three pillars of the liberal order: democracy, economic interdependence and international institutions. Two critical reasons for the decline of the liberal order are internal in terms of income distribution and institutional malaise. The article argues that the demise of the liberal order is not inevitable provided liberal states take remedial measures and adapt to the new environment as they did in 1919, 1930s, the second half of the 1940s, 1960s and 1991. Reformed globalization, or re-globalization is essential for facing the geopolitical challenges emanating from China and other illiberal states. The inability of other systems to offer both prosperity and freedom that the liberal order can provide is its main attractiveness. The connection between internal reforms in liberal states to address deepening inequalities and wealth distribution, a by-product of intensified globalization, and the prospects of liberal order's success is highlighted. The need for a refined welfare state taking into account the new realities to tackle the internal challenges is proposed.

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Two emerging international orders? China and the United States


If it continues, deglobalization may lead not to atomization but two overlapping international orders: a liberal one (LIO) led by the United States, and an authoritarian–capitalist one (ACIO) led by China. This equilibrium could emerge because a central purpose of international orders is to preserve the domestic regimes of their Great Power sponsors. The United States and China have markedly different domestic regimes, and so as China continues to grow in power and influence, tension over the content of international order should continue to grow. I borrow from Darwinian evolution the notion of ‘niche construction’: just as organisms alter phenotype selection by manipulating their natural environments, states can alter the ‘selection’ of domestic regimes by shaping their international environments. Modes of international niche construction include foreign regime promotion, interdependence, transnational interaction and multilateral institutions. The liberal democratic niche constructed by the United States and its allies after the Second World War preserved democracy for many decades. Today, China is attempting through various means to build a niche that will eliminate the liberal bias in international institutions and safeguard its own Market-Leninist regime. The resulting ACIO would select for autocracy and hence be partially separate from the LIO, which selects for liberal democracy.

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