The Ending Of An Old World Order

by Patrick Liew on August 19, 2019

The Ending Of An Old World Order

1. Introduction

After World Wars I and II, the U.S. and its allies pioneered an open and rule-based world order to promote peace, human rights, and capitalism.

They had also launched many key initiatives to ensure that humanity would not have to go through the deep pain and sorrow of another devastating war.

The world order was premised on the belief that humans share core experiences, values, interests and aspirations.

They should work together to widen common spaces and serve mutual benefits.

To achieve progress, they should remove undue roadblocks to trade and commerce.

And promote appropriate exchange of ideas, knowledge, expertise, money, and talents between countries and on a global basis.

International institutions were started to craft guiding principles and rules-based systems to help countries cooperate, collaborate, and co-create solutions with one another.

For example, the World Trade Organization has helped create and implement free trade agreements.

The World Bank provided and facilitated aids to deserving countries.

2. Benefits of the world order

The world order brought about more than seven decades of relative world peace.

Created a relatively open trading environment that underpinned economic growth internationally.

As a result of growth in trade, the U.S. became the strongest superpower and the richest economy in the world.

It also helped the Americans enjoy one of the highest standards of living.

The world order had also improved the economies of many developed and developing countries.

Many poor countries benefited from foreign direct investments, technology transfer, and a more conducive trading environment.

Global competition and collaboration promoted greater innovations that enhanced efficiency and positive impacts.

Improved billions of lives and livelihoods all over the world, and lifted many out of poverty.

Through the world order, there were better understandings between nations, stronger engagements and exchanges among them.

It had helped promote better bridges and bonding between people from different cultures, communities and countries.

The world was better off collaborating for collective peace, security and progress, than competing to promote partisan ideology, strength and interest.

As it stands, there is no other model that is as widely accepted as the world order nor assumed to be able to achieve similar or better outcomes.

However, the world order had to undergo many iterations; and previous arrangements had to be improved, in order to ensure that the world order stays relevant to new realities.

The collective leadership of many far-sighted, competent and inspirational heads of states and various leaders in the U.S. and other countries led the necessary changes to bring about the Golden Age of world history.

Unfortunately, in recent times, it was also the lack of far-sighted competent and inspirational leadership that might pull the brakes on a generally positive trend of peace, progress and prosperity.

Case in point, while the drive for globalization carries many upsides, it has also many downsides, including growth of unhealthy values, unfair trade practices, and negative impacts on the environment.

Conjointly, there was a lack of coordinated strategies and major initiatives to address and resolve these downsides.

And to develop and implement an environmentally-sustainable and socially-responsible model for the global community.

3. Challenges of a new world

In the process of unfettered developments, climatic conditions and the environment in general have suffered.

Many governments were not able to distribute wealth from economic growth equitably and rewards of progress inclusively.

They had also failed to improve social spending to help those who fall between the cracks and were left behind.

Politicians were not able to mobilize key stakeholders from the political, public, private and business sectors to help workers upgrade themselves.

Adapt to the new environment, and leverage on opportunities in the global economy.

In many quarters of the global community, expectations and demands have gone up because of better education, access of information, and interconnection and interaction.

There was a growing concern about losing jobs to lower-paid workers from other countries, and the risks of disruption and displacement by advanced technology.

Social inequality and income gaps have been widening.

Many were struggling to maintain their current quality of life and feeling stagnant, abandoned or left behind.

There was a declining sense of identity, belonging, and place in society.

Multiple turbulences in a volatile, uncertain, ambiguous environment were also driving an increase in anxiety, angst and anger.

4. Beginning of the end

Astute politicians have capitalized on these fears and frustrations, and exploited human frailties to fulfil their political ambitions.

Many of them rode on waves of populism and promised to win power and overrun their oppositions.

Became more focused on domestic issues and less concerned about how to improve international relations to serve mutual interests and achieve greater good.

Case in point, Trump has been deliberately or unwittingly carrying out “Trumpexit”, an unprecedented process that is gradually breaking down the world order.

Trump is perceived to have a disdain for the liberal international order, distrust of allies, delusions about international institutions, and doubts about multilateral initiatives.

He has withdrawn or threatened to withdraw from major international institutions or agreements, including the World Trade Organization, United Nations Human Rights Council, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Paris Agreement on climate change, UNESCO, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to contain Iran.

Trump seems to be gradually withdrawing the U.S. from playing a leadership role in the global community.

He is only interested in playing an active and if not, a domineering role just so that he can put America first and make America great.

Unfortunately, Trump is not alone.

A growing number of politicians are promoting nationalism and nativism, and resorting to protective measures to govern their countries in the hope that by turning inwards, the issues at hand will be resolved.

Problems in the external environment will never impact their countries, or that these problems will somehow disappear over time.

The world order is left without authoritative voices to defend it.

There is a lack of credible leadership to reform the world order to meet the progressive needs of the Fourth Wave.

5. Clarion call for change

This is a sad phenomenon because the global community needs to work together – more than at any time in history – to refresh the current order and respond to many tectonic threats that cut across borders and boundaries.

These threats include technological disruption, pandemics, refugee issues, terrorism, climate change, cyberattacks, criminal networks, religious, racial, and other cultural conflicts, arms race and proliferation of nuclear capabilities, and financial crisis.

Although these threats may not have reached global, systemic, and unmanageable levels, they can escalate rapidly and cause severe damages and destructions to the world.

With these threats looming across the horizon, there is a greater urgency to redesign the current world order or reinvent a new order with relevant and effective principles, rules and systems to manage the fast-changing landscapes.

Refresh international institutions to enhance governance, provide assistance to needy and deserving people and communities, and strengthen sustainability of the planet.

Revitalize multilateral commitments and agreements, and reengineer existing systems and initiatives to achieve a greater good on a global basis.

The global community needs to better connect, collaborate, and co-create solutions together.

The world may just be one major crisis away from total destruction.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

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