International Developments

Comparative Regionalism as a Complement to Global Governance

Comparative regionalism emerged with European integration. In the 1990s, many scholars concentrated on regional organizations in comparative perspective and considered Europe to be the most advanced case. As the research goes further about comparative regionalisms, comparative regionalism has consolidated as a field of study. And many outstanding scholars in this field have emerged, like Amitav Achaya, Shaw Timothy. The study of this field focuses on “regional integration”. Achaya notes that the notion of regional structures has emerged in world politics and that regional systems are playing an increasingly important role in global governance. The in-depth study of regionalism is helpful to global governance. Comparative regionalism argues that the relationship between globalization and regionalization is more complex, that different governance models exist in different regions, and that a comparative analysis of these different governance models is therefore needed. The current phase of comparative regionalism research focuses on explaining the demand and supply of regional institutions, especially for the guarantee of regional security and peace, while ignoring the role of regionalism for global governance.

Global governance is an inevitable requirement and logical outcome of globalization and the development of global issues. Global governance is a process in which various actors in the international community, including sovereign states, international organizations and global civil society, participate in the management of global affairs through coordination, cooperation and consensus building in order to achieve common goals and promote common interests. It is the sum of the many ways in which individuals and institutions, public or private, manage their common affairs and a continuous process of reconciling conflicting or divergent interests and taking cooperative action. Global governance has become an important option for solving the “common problems and affairs” that arise in the international community today, but with the deepening of globalization, the problem of global governance failure has become increasingly serious. In the context of globalization, global challenges are increasing.

Global governance failure refers to the inefficiency of the existing global governance organization and institutional system in solving existing issues, especially in solving global development issues, global governance faces various difficulties. The post-war global economic governance system based on the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank established the basic rules of the post-war international economic order. However, the purposes, charters, rules and procedures of these organizations were formulated to meet the political and economic goals of developed countries themselves, and are the embodiment and incarnation of the national interests, needs and values of developed countries in Europe and the United States. The European and American countries use their political, economic and cultural superiority to export their own economic development models and values, with the intention of constructing a “highly homogeneous” world. However, this has not led to a balanced development of the global economy, and the Western model has been frequently frustrated in non-Western regions, and the gap between regions has been increasing. It is against this backdrop that comparative regionalism has emerged.

The development of comparative regionalism is based on two major contexts. The first is that globalization has not created a homogeneous world. On the contrary, with the deepening of globalization, the differences between regions have been increasing, and the development models and experiences based on Western economies cannot be applied to all countries and regions in the world. In particular, since the 2008 economic crisis, the world economy has stagnated and global economic arrangements and cooperation have struggled, making regionalism a useful complement to global governance. Secondly, the rise of non-Western international relations theories has provided a new perspective for comparative regionalism. The established regional integration theories are mainly based on European integration theories and experiences, which can hardly meet the needs of a pluralistic world. Regional institution that has local characteristics and meets the needs of local practice is gradually becoming an important consideration in guiding behavioral practices in less developed countries and regions. Thus, comparative regionalism, as opposed to the traditional regionalism of the past, emphasizes an equal view of different regions, integrates the practices and experiences of regional integration, and breaks away from the shackles of established Western theories to form a set of theories that transcend the West.

Ulrich Beck believes that a community of risk has emerged at the global level, making national borders meaningless and the international community a necessary utopia. The theory of global governance is a theory based on the “solution of shared risks and problems”, but as an anarchic society, the inequality of power between nations is a key obstacle to achieving the “ideal state of global governance”. The COVID-19 pandemic presents a particularly daunting challenge to international cooperation, global governance cooperation has been difficult to promote. The “logic of power” is still an important logic of behavior in the field of international relations. Therefore, for the less developed regions and developing countries, regional integration has become a better choice to gather local consensus, enhance regional risk resistance, and strengthen their own voice and bargaining power in international affairs. However, although less developed regions and countries share similar characteristics in terms of historical background, economic status and values, the integration process in other regions of the world is more tortuous and difficult compared to Europe. Therefore, comparative regionalism has become a key approach to eliminate the conflict between the “Eurocentric” and “regional centric” theories of established regionalism and to find a theoretical model applicable to the integration of the region.

Through the use of comparative regionalism, it is possible to break through the limitations of Western theory and experience, to treat all regions of the world equally, to focus on the non-Western world, and to move from a centralized globalism to a decentralized globalism. Comparative regionalism is a focus on particularities rather than universals, and it aims to empower regions and countries with particularities to match global modernity with a model of power that gradually achieves de- Westernization. For global governance, comparative regionalism is also an important way to compensate for the uneven development between regions, to build development models and institutional mechanisms that match their own elements through the study for regional culture and values, which is conducive to the optimization of regional institutions to achieve better global governance.

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