05.04.2021 Author: James ONeill

Respect for a Real System of International Law Long Overdue


The United States propaganda war against China took on an extra dimension recently when the New York Times published an article reflecting its ongoing war against the People’s Republic of China on 29 March 2021. The article was entitled “An Alliance of Autocracies? China wants to lead the new world order”. The article was written by the New York Times bureau chief in Beijing, Stephen Myers. Myers asserts that ‘China hopes to position itself as the main leader to an international order, led by the United States, that is generally guided by principles of democracy “respect for human rights and adherence to law.”

This sentence personifies the falseness with which the United States, and its loyal adherents to the “rules based international order” such as Australia presents itself to the world. If one were to look at the history of post-World War II behaviour by the United States, respect for the “rule of law” is the last phrase that would spring to mind. Since the end of the war, the United States has been instrumental in the overthrow of at least 70 governments worldwide that not so much failed to adhere to the rule of law as pursued policies that were disapproved of by the United States government.

There was scarce respect for the rule of law when the United States government forcefully overthrew governments of which it disapproved. Not only is the United States government the most hypocritical major force in the world, it is a champion of condemning others that failed to adhere to their version of the rules-based order. China and Russia are currently the chief objects of the United States campaign to persuade the world that they follow the international order while China and Russia do not.

As his recent meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Beijing, the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi was highly critical of the United States version of the world legal order. Yi said “the so-called rules-based order by a few countries is not clear in its meaning, as that reflects the rules of a few countries and does not represent the will of the international community.”

China was challenging the United States version of the rules based international order because, he suggested, the name was misleading. It was misleading because this so-called international order was in fact no such thing. It was, he suggested, a set of rules made up by a small number of western countries lead by the United States who make the rules and then try to ascribe a universal application to them.

When said that “we should uphold the universally recognised international law.” He said that the use of “rules based international order by a few countries is not clear in its meaning is it reflects the rules of a few countries and does not represent the will of the international community.”

Rather than a narrow western defined rule of law, the Chinese prefer to refer to the United Nations Charter and related documents is more accurately reflecting the wishes of the international community.

Wang’s objection to the international rule of law as defined by the Americans is clearly because of its self-serving nature. In addition to its appalling international record regarding adherence to a rules-based system, the United States is also highly vulnerable to anyone checking on its domestic system.

In March of this year the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the outcome of its universal periodic review of the United States. The review cast and unflattering light on the appalling state of basic human rights in the United States itself. It is little wonder that the report received little or no coverage in the mainstream media of the United States or its Western allies.

Just as one illustration, the report was highly critical of the United States’ response to the COVID-19 crisis. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet commented that what stood behind the widespread protests and hundreds of United States cities last year what she called the “alarming inequalities” exposed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is not just in Covid 19 deaths that the inequalities are apparent. Racial inequality is a marked feature of the United States “justice” system, with African Americans more than six times more likely to be imprisoned then their white counterparts. Professor Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights noted the long-standing structural discrimination based on racial differences, saying that the United States remained a segregated society.

Along with a catalogue of factors evidencing the effects of racial discrimination on the lives of black people in the United States, including political violence, housing segregation, a disparity in the quality of education, labour market segregation and political disenfranchisement the different imprisonment rates stand out as a vivid denunciation of racial discrimination.

It is not just on racial grounds that the United States is a divided nation. Rural community’s lack access to basic sanitation with marked effects on health levels. As De Schutter noted in his report, almost a quarter of full-time workers and three quarters of part time workers in the country receive no paid sick leave.

It is little wonder given the indifference to its own people’s systematic deprivation that the United States shows scared regard for the crimes committed by the CIA and other military units of the United States in the countries that it has invaded and occupied over the years. Almost nobody is ever held accountable for these crimes.

In the light of the United States’ appalling record both at home and abroad, it is little wonder that the bulk of the world’s nations are less than impressed with the United States protestations of the “rules based international order.”

Lead by China they are asking, not unreasonably, that as the western notion of law is manifestly inadequate not to mention hypocritical, there must be a better way. That better way is found in the United Nations Charter, and the sooner the West recognises and adopts its principles, the sooner we will be free of their version of what is right.

For the bulk of the world’s nations, that day cannot come soon enough.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based former Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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