Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has expressed concerns over the growing number of countries, including China, Russia, and the Middle East, that are aligning themselves and gaining global influence. Speaking on Bloomberg TV, Summers warned that this trend is a significant challenge for the United States. He made these remarks on the sidelines of the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington, D.C. Summers, who is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University, previously served as Director of the National Economic Council and the Treasury Secretary of the United States, as well as chief economist at the World Bank.
Summers explained that a growing number of countries are aligning themselves on the opposite side of the U.S., elaborating: “There’s a growing acceptance of fragmentation, and — maybe even more troubling — I think there’s a growing sense that ours may not be the best fragment to be associated with.” He shared an anecdote from a developing country representative who said, “What we get from China is an airport. What we get from the United States is a lecture.”
Summers cited the recent visit of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to China and his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Lula said Saturday that Brazil’s relationship with China “is going beyond that phase of commodity” exports. The Brazilian president also urged developing countries to abandon the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency. China also recently brokered talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two great oil-producing rivals of the Middle East. Iran and Saudi Arabia subsequently agreed to restore ties and reopen embassies seven years after severed relations.
Commenting on the deepening links between the Middle East and China, Summers opined: “I think what’s happening in the Middle East … the Chinese-brokered diplomatic relations between Saudi and Iran is a symbol of what I think is a huge challenge for the United States.” Moreover, OPEC+ members, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, recently agreed to cut crude oil output. OPEC+ is a group of 23 oil-exporting countries that meets regularly to decide how much crude oil to sell on the world market.
Summers added that the U.S. government must address this new challenge. “If the Bretton Woods system is not delivering strongly around the world, there are going to be serious challenges and proposed alternatives,” he warned. He also expressed his belief that the U.S. is “on the right side of history — with our commitment to democracy, with our resistance to aggression in Russia.” However, he added that the U.S. is “looking a bit lonely on the right side of history, as those who seem much less on the right side of history are increasingly banding together in a whole range of structures.”
Summers’ comments come amid growing concerns over the U.S.’s waning global influence and the rise of China as a superpower. The U.S. has been embroiled in a trade war with China, and tensions have escalated in recent months over issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and China’s crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong. The U.S. has also been at odds with Russia over issues such as election interference and the conflict in Syria.
In conclusion, the U.S. must address the challenge posed by the growing number of countries aligning themselves against it. Summers’ remarks highlight the need for the U.S. to reassert its global leadership and work to rebuild relationships with its allies. Failure to do so could lead to serious challenges to the U.S.’s global position and the stability of the international system.