A new era of disarray in global politics has arrived. It is no longer clear who is trying to defend the world order and who is seeking to disrupt it.
Over the weekend, the Group of Seven powers held their annual summit in Canada, while the leaders of member countries of the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization gathered in China for their own summit.
The G-7 meeting dramatically highlighted a crisis of unity within the grouping, which has been acting as the standard-bearer for freedom and democracy since the Cold War. The crisis was caused by U.S. President Donald Trump’s willful and wayward acts.
Trump started his disruptive behavior with an abrupt and unreasonable call for reinstating Russia as a member of the group, formerly the Group of Eight until Moscow was expelled over its annexation of Crimea.
After leaving the G-7 summit early, Trump suddenly lashed out on Twitter, declaring the United States will not endorse the communique that the seven nations had agreed on. Trump’s behavior deeply damaged the G-7’s dignity and global stature.
The United States has become isolated within the group of leading industrial nations, creating awkward alienation among the other members in Europe, as well as Canada and Japan.
The rupture between Washington and its six key allies, lampooned as “G-6 plus 1,” was especially deep over trade.
Both Europe and Japan voiced concerns about Trump’s move to impose high tariffs on imports from these countries under the pretext of national security.
Addressing a news conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the U.S. tariffs imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum as “kind of insulting.” Trump angrily reacted to his remarks by tweeting that he had told his officials not to endorse the communique.
Meanwhile, the Shanghai group–China, Russia, four Central Asian countries, India and Pakistan–adopted the Qingdao declaration opposing protectionist trade policies.
The group, which represents more than 40 percent of the world’s population, demonstrated its commitment to a widely accepted principle concerning global trade.
The declaration also refers to the importance of maintaining the Iran nuclear deal, from which the United States has withdrawn.
Certainly, the emerging powers that lead the Shanghai group, such as China and Russia, share some worrisome elements, including autocratic politics and disrespect for international law.
It is ironical that this bloc has issued a sincere-sounding statement that calls for respect for international agreements and protecting free trade.
The Shanghai bloc includes emerging powers that have no qualms about adopting dubious trade policies and outrageous intervention in other countries.
Even so, the bloc came across as a more positive force for the world in contrast with the G-7, which once acted as a bulwark against improper conduct by some countries. The Canada summit showed it to be in its worst moral shape in its history.
The traditional “developed world” is now suffering from a serious erosion of common values, which has made it difficult for these countries even to display a semblance of unity.
On the other hand, the emerging world is displaying an ability to maintain political stability despite its problems with freedom and democracy.
The shift in power to set the standards of behavior for the international community from the developed to the emerging world could accelerate in the coming years.
The Trump administration’s “America First” agenda is only fueling this change.
The G-7 framework of diplomacy is not the only thing that is at risk.
The G-6 is now facing the formidable challenge of protecting the world order at a time when the United States is ceding its global leadership and figuring out a new system to keep the world on an even keel.
This weekend offered a rude awakening to this grim reality of world politics.