Obama must exercise restraint in second term

Updated: 2013-01-16 22:39


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Multi-polarization means the world has a completely different "balance of power". Adapting to the requirements of the times needs enough willpower, strategic awareness and a cool head, says an article in People's Daily. Excerpts:

United States President Barack Obama's second presidential term is about to begin. Some public opinion in America takes the view that Obama has done better job on the diplomatic front than in dealing with internal affairs. The American international image has improved, laying the foundation for Obama to make a bigger difference in the international arena during his second term.

Obama came into power at a time when the US was being dragged down by its war on terrorism and its credibility was in sharp decline. In order to get rid of the diplomatic burden left by his predecessor, Obama tried a diplomatic transformation. The US should bear in mind two fundamental things: First, waving goodbye to hegemony is a general trend of the times; second, regardless of how a great a power, there are things beyond its strength. Obama has a better understanding of these two points than George W. Bush.

Obama's diplomacy during his first term started with "error correction", and paid more attention to the combination of both hard and soft power and to the coordination between major powers. However, the premise for the US to promote a multilateral system is to keep its firm grasp in being the dominant power.

The US has never given up imposing its values around the world, and it is to maintain its moral high ground and significant strategic interests through its control of the world financial system, the international system established after WWII and its commitment to its allies.

But such an adjustment is not reliable, as future developments or psychological imbalance will prompt the US to return to its old methods, relying heavily upon the armed forces. The outbreak of war in Libya is a case in point, which is in contrast to Washington’s efforts to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the next term, there are two points that merit the attention of Obama's diplomacy. First, while adjusting global governance mechanisms, dealing with regional hot-spot conflicts, pushing forward the Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy and responding to various global challenges, to what extent can the US exercise restraint and join the cooperation process as a more equal participant, and even get ready to transfer part of its predominance. Second, whether the US will become more inward looking because of its simmering domestic issues.

When it is unable to do what it hopes to do, American diplomacy often shows anxiety and rashness. After all, as the world's only superpower, if US foreign policy lacks systematic consideration, it will have a big impact on the world.

The complexity of contemporary international relations not only lies in the rapid shift of the balance of power among major powers, but also the unprecedented adjustments of rules that handle international affairs. To adapt to the requirements of the times requires strong willpower to resist outdated thinking and inertia and the self-restraint to open a new space for cooperation and be mindful not to repeat the mistakes of previous US administrations.

All countries should remain vigilant of some countries' attempts to create trouble so as to kidnap emerging powers and established powers.

Being fully aware of these points, the diplomacy of Obama's second term will not only carry out "error correction" on the operational level, but also make some constructive achievements.