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Deglobalization and International Liberal Order

Deglobalization and

International Liberal Order

With the 20th anniversary of 9/11, immediately preceded by the return of Afghanistan to Taliban control, it is hardly surprising that the future of the US-led liberal international order has come under renewed scrutiny. In recent weeks, the news has been replete with harrowing images, such as desperate individuals falling from a US Air Force C-17 as it took off from Kabul airport, the devastating aftermath of natural disasters caused by climate change, and migrants at the US-Mexico border being attacked by border guards. Meanwhile, the world is still struggling with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. While politicians in rich countries debate whether a booster vaccine is needed, much of the world has yet to receive a first jab. So, making sense of the future of the liberal international order has never been more important.
Globalization – processes of removing restrictions on free movement of goods, services, people and cultures – has been a mainstay of the liberal international order in recent decades. Since the 2008-09 global financial crisis, new political forces have emerged to challenge the globalization consensus. The UK’s vote to leave the European Union, i.e. Brexit, the backlash against the refugee crisis in Europe, and the rise of populist leaders in the United States, Brazil and India are all symptoms of deglobalization, fuelled by scepticism about free markets, international cooperation and open borders. The relative trajectories of these dynamics have widespread implications for the international system, from trade and global health to human rights and migration regimes.
While deglobalization generally refers to a decline in global interconnectedness and interdependence, the implications of such wide-ranging changes can be complex, to say the least. To help build a picture clearer of what this means on the ground, we present the opinions of experts who have explored, in their articles, the ways in which deglobalization is affecting the international order:
1. Deglobalization, US-China competition and the future of international order
John M. Owen (Taylor Professor of Politics, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and the Miller Center of Public Affairs, at the University of Virginia)
If it continues, deglobalization could produce two partially separate international orders: a liberal one (LIO) under continuing American hegemony and an authoritarian-capitalist one (ACIO) under Chinese hegemony. A hegemon builds and sustains an international order so that the international environment will help the hegemon extend its power and wealth while preserving its domestic regime and way of life. The United States set up the LIO at the end of the Second World War for this reason. China’s ruling party has long chafed under the liberal bias of the LIO, believing with reason that it handicaps China. The party is acting in various ways to make international rules and institutions, foreign states and the informational environment friendlier to authoritarian capitalism. There are signs that, rather than compete for dominance over the entire global system, the two great powers are moving toward a partition of international order in areas such as human rights, cyber and trade.
2. Impact of deglobalization on democratic backsliding of foreign policy of emerging middle powers
Umut Aydin (Associate Professor at Instituto de Ciencia Política, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
Deglobalization has contributed to and reinforced the complex domestic factors associated with democratic backsliding in emerging middle powers. First, the slowdown of trade and investment that began with the 2008–09 financial crisis, and deepened more recently has led to poor economic performance in emerging middle powers, and contributed to a surge of populism and nationalism. Second, rising anti-immigrant sentiments and policies in the US and the EU have led them to put pressure on or make transactionalist deals with emerging powers to stem migrant and refugee flows heading towards the West, damaging longer-term relationships based on trust and common norms. Third, the United States’ reluctance under President Trump to engage with allies and international organizations, and the EU’s loss of appetite for enlargement and further integration, weakened the transnational support for pro-democracy forces in emerging middle powers. This has subsequently helped their leaders justify moving away from international commitments to democracy, women’s and human rights in the name of protecting national interests and agendas.
3. Is deglobalization responsible for contemporary policies that put the human rights of migrants and refugees at risk?
Jeannette Money (Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis)
While deglobalization can exacerbate these trends, it is important to realize that the core principles of the liberal international order have consistently been poorly represented in the arena of international mobility. The flow of travellers, migrants and refugees is governed by a distinct set of norms and operating procedures that privilege countries of destination, rather than the underlying principles of the liberal order. This was not an oversight but rather an effort by the core states constructing the LIO to take advantage of cross-border mobility by modulating flows to achieve their own economic and political goals by prioritizing certain forms of migration and restricting others. Although the core states in the LIO established these rules, in the contemporary era, all destination states may now employ these tools to achieve their own domestic objectives, to the detriment of freedom of circulation and the protection of migrant rights. While it may be tempting to draw a linear association between deglobalization and restrictive migration policies, many of the restrictions that characterise contemporary migration governance were developed by and for the LIO’s key supporters.
4. Is the liberal international monetary order under threat from deglobalization?
Mark R. Brawley (Professor of Political Science at McGill University, Canada)
While globalization (especially the economic dimensions) has continued in bursts from the end of World War II until 2008, the 2008 financial crisis and Covid-19 pandemic have produced significant challenges. The financial meltdown that year prompted a slowdown in international economic activity. Financial recovery occurred, but other economic indicators suggest globalization has plateaued. Governments also face constituents who question the benefits of the LIO — because the LIO’s very success (and increased financialization in particular) has generated inequality. These crises and the Covid-19 pandemic have tempted some governments to implement illiberal policies, particularly in trade.
The pandemic has also presented new challenges. In international monetary relations, American authorities have exercised leadership to stabilize the situation despite being held back by a lack of US leadership in relation to the wider global Covid-19 response. Ultimately, while increased protectionism and the political effects of monetary liberalism have certainly limited monetary globalization, continued US commitment to monetary leadership means said effects are unlikely to threaten it in the immediate future.
The compiler of these opinions is a Lahore-based lawyer.

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