Media  Global Economy  2023.01.23

Limitations of Controlling U.S.–China Conflict and Russia–Ukraine War and Role of Moral Education

Tolerance, compassion, and sincerity: Complementing order formation through shared morality

The article was originally posted on JBpress on October 18, 2022


1. Vicious cycle in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

On October 8, the Crimean Bridge was partially destroyed in an explosion. In retaliation, Russia launched missile attacks across Ukraine, killing dozens of civilians. It is an event that symbolizes the cruelty of war.

According to Russia experts, as the invasion of Ukraine has not produced the expected results, President Vladimir Putin and his war on Ukraine have become a subject of severe criticism from Russian hardliners.

Against the backdrop of this domestic situation, President Putin declared the annexation of four Ukrainian oblasts (Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson) on September 30.

This action triggered the bombing of the Crimean Bridge, which led to the recent tragedy.

To begin with, President Putin decided to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, and the unexpectedly prolonged war has resulted in the loss of many lives throughout the country.

The recent events are an extension of the war, and the decision made by President Putin has created a vicious cycle between domestic politics and the invasion of Ukraine.

2. Vicious cycle of U.S.–China conflict

A similar vicious cycle between domestic politics and foreign affairs is occurring in the escalating U.S.–China conflict.

Donald Trump’s administration employed a domestic political strategy designed to garner support from anti-establishment voters in the U.S. by denying the achievements of the previous administration.

U.S. “Engagement” policy toward China had promoted the liberalization and marketization of the Chinese economy and produced certain results, but the Trump administration denied its significance.

It demonized China and argued that the previous U.S. administration’s policy of helping China’s development was wrong.

This was believed and supported by the general citizens and politicians in the U.S. who had no understanding of the real situation in China. The American public was incited by government propaganda to become emotionally anti-Chinese.

This prompted the Trump administration to carry out a series of hardline measures against China, including tariff hikes, technology friction, investment restrictions, criticism of the expansion of military power in the South China Sea, criticism of human rights issues in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and criticism of the authoritarian regime. Consequently, U.S.–China relations continued to deteriorate.

These policies boosted anti-China sentiment within the U.S.

Accordingly, the subsequent Joe Biden administration has had no choice but to manage its policies attaching greater importance to domestic politics that take extreme anti-China sentiment among the people into account, and the basic hawkish stance toward China has been maintained.

Under the Biden administration, the U.S.–China confrontation in areas such as investment, technology, and security has been intensifying, and now the conflict over Taiwan is becoming more serious.

There are fears that the Taiwan issue could, in the worst case, develop into armed clash between the two countries.

In response to this escalation of Washington’s hardline China policy, Beijing has also taken an increasingly hawkish stance toward the U.S. against the backdrop of nationalism in China that has been growing since around 2010.

This is an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” response. Neither the U.S. nor China can show its own citizens a weak attitude toward the outside world.

China has continued to demonstrate its opposition to U.S. policy toward China by implementing retaliatory measures in response to tariff hikes and technological friction, further strengthening its military power in the security field, tightening control over political activities in Hong Kong, etc.

Beijing’s response has also become even more aggressive, as evidenced by the “wolf warrior“ diplomacy that emphasizes criticism of the U.S., diplomatic support for Russia, and stepped-up military drills around Taiwan after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

China’s hawkish stance has not only intensified its confrontation with the U.S., but has also alienated it from Japan and Europe, with which it had maintained good relations even during the Trump administration.

Looking back at the history of the U.S.–China conflict as described above, we find that in U.S.–China bilateral relations, as in the case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, decisions made by both the U.S. and China have caused vicious cycle one after another.

3. Limitations of the current world order formation mechanism

If the above actions by Russia, the U.S., and China could have been stopped at the beginning or at some point along the way and the vicious cycles could be prevented from occurring, neither the invasion of Ukraine nor the U.S.–China confrontation would have been as damaging and risky as they have been.

However, despite the fact that many experts and intellectuals around the world were aware of the damage and risks posed by each of those events, no one was able to stop them, and here we are today.

An increasing number of experts fear that if the situation continues to deteriorate, there will be a third world war on the horizon.

It is originally expected that international partnership organizations such as the United Nations (UN), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), G7, and G20 would encourage the countries involved not to destabilize the world order.

Nevertheless, the U.S., China, and Russia all give priority to their own interests and give no heed to the adverse effects of their actions on world peace, cooperative economic development, and the promotion of the well-being of the people of their enemy country.

They simply repeat their own arguments unilaterally and criticize their enemy country, and there seems to be no effort made to engage in constructive and exhaustive discussions to achieve stability in the international community.

Considering the fact that despite international peacekeeping frameworks such as the UN, G7, and G20 are existing, we are now unable to control two major risks threatening world peace, namely Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the U.S.–China conflict, I believe it is necessary to rethink the international mechanisms.

However, even if the international community sets rules, it is impossible at this point to establish a mechanism to ensure that all countries comply with those rules.

Since national sovereignty is the basic premise, even if a leader of a country breaks the rules agreed upon among nations, we cannot arrest and punish him/her in the same way as against a domestic criminal.

That being said, small countries are often forced to follow the rules because sanctions posed by the international community can be fatal to their state operations.

By contrast, in the case of large countries, the effectiveness of sanctions is limited, as they can use their powerful economic and military forces to take various countermeasures against other nations.

This is why Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the U.S.–China conflict remain uncontrollable.

4. Ensuring world order through shared moral education

From the above, it is clear that we need a new framework for peacekeeping.

A new framework for the world order formation is also essential to tackle the global challenges that countries around the world will face going forward.

However, it is not realistic to build new institutions to replace the current institutional framework of world order formation established over the long history of the international community.

It is considered realistic to make an incremental improvement to the existing framework.

Even in the case of gradual improvement of the existing framework, it will be necessary to formulate new rules based on consensus among nations.

Given that conflicts of interest may arise among nations in the process of developing such rules, it will be difficult to reach an international consensus even for incremental improvements.

I would therefore like to propose another complementary approach.

It is the sharing of morality across national borders through education.

Through this effort each country is expected to voluntarily create a spiritual foundation that emphasizes international cooperation and collaboration.

The leaders of each country who grow up with such moral education will take the initiative in promoting cooperation and collaboration among nations. By achieving international cooperation and mutual support beyond the rules, we aim to compensate for the limitations of the existing institutional framework.

In many cases, conflicts between nations develop into armed clashes and economic sanctions because each country puts its own interests first and does not contribute to ensuring peace, economic stability, and a secure living environment for the people of the other country or countries around the world.

In light of an individual’s life, many people recognize that a selfish person who always puts his/her own interests first will be isolated from those around him/her, will have no one to help him/her in times of need, and will lead an unhappy life.

The importance of altruism, i.e. to do one’s best for others, is the world’s common understanding.

It is desirable to apply this concept beyond the national framework, to modify the idea of putting one’s own citizens first, and to strive to realize a world in which nations have the philosophy of altruism in common with an awareness of the people from other nations.

With that said, while it is easy to form a common understanding among people within a nation regarding ideas, religion, ideology, political systems, economic interests, and livelihood stability, it is not as easy to do so among nations because they are often not on the same page regarding those issues.

The necessary conditions for practicing altruism among people with different points of view is a shared tolerance toward the differences in each country’s way of thinking, to respect others, and to have compassion for others and be sincere. The foundation of altruism is benevolence, compassion, love (friendship, love, and agape), etc.

These basic ideas that support altruism can be shared by many people beyond national and religious differences.

Primary, secondary, and higher education institutions around the world should aim to provide education that emphasizes altruism that transcends differences in national and religious standpoints as well as the morality that support it.

Those who agree with this proposal will work together across national boundaries, each acting on his/her own initiative in his/her own country, and will persevere in their efforts over the long term to ensure that the schools in their countries provide moral education.

When people having received such moral education in countries around the world are able to empathize with each other across national borders, the idea of giving priority to their own country and disregarding people from other countries will be modified little by little, with leaders who attach importance to international cooperation and collaboration increasing in number in each country.

If such leaders work together across national boundaries and repeatedly and strongly urge the regimes of major powers such as the U.S., China, and Russia to act with an emphasis on global stability, it will be possible to compensate for the failure in the existing framework for the formation of world order.

In particular, the younger generation, who are becoming more familiar with global cooperation through new means of communication such as the Internet, can strongly feel the importance of sharing morality beyond national borders in the same way as they do in their domestic lives.

Amid worsening problems of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the U.S.–China conflict and growing fears of a third world war, the challenge of creating a complementary world order-forming function by promoting shared moral education across national borders is of great significance for the maintenance of international peace.