By: Prof. Josephus Moses Gray
If there’s a single consistent aspect to President Donald Trump’s strategic vision, it’s this: United States of America (USA) foreign policy should always be governed by the simple principle of “America First, Make America Great Again,” with America’s vital interests placed above those of all others. “We will always put America’s interests first,” Trump declared in his 2017 inaugural’s speech. The principle “America First” was persistently echoed during the American’s 2016 decisive presidential election which brought the Republican flag bearer to power.
While on the other hand, China’s strategy for conducting its foreign relations is tailored to the specific circumstances of countries or regions with which it wishes to do business or … a foreign policy that does not frighten neighboring nations or the world’s great economic and military powers, most notably the United States and that of other global powers. Power shifts have brought into sharp focus the significance of the U.S.–China relationship in the early twenty-first century, both need each other.
The purpose of this instructive article is to provide, to some greater extend, specific useful diplomatic strategies how the CDC led-government can balance its foreign policy and international relations with the rival world blocs, the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China on one hand and European Union on the other-hand, and further looks deep into new other emerging diplomatic maneuvering across the globe.
But what diplomatic methodologies can President George Weah’s administration put into place to balance Liberian foreign policy and international relations with the two opposing world blocs- China and America? While at the same time to keep Weah’s regime on a positive standing with both countries without being consider as darling child of the other or play second fiddle to one of the rival blocs.
This is a crucial question, since sound strategy depends on an accurate assessment of the capabilities and intentions of the two potential rivals. Significantly the Weah’s government should play its cards very well, critically evaluate statements or speeches as relates Washington and Beijing to avoid diplomatic suicide (meaning disheartenment Liberia interest with China and the USA). Although at present, public statement should consider a balance with the two countries national interests, and not statements that would perhaps drag the Weah’s government into a state of strategically vulnerability.
Africa nowadays has become a continent of strategic importance for the two opposing world blocs –USA and China, for several reasons; many scholars and political pundits believed that the new U.S., China’s growing affection for Africa go with a deep interest to hunt for Africa’s riches, using several strategies and tactics to ensure and expand their influences.
The two opposing world blocs use tools of soft power in different ways to their benefits and with varying effects. Many experts argue that China‘s policies of non-interference and no political attached strings‘ have resonated so strongly among African countries which have become so wearied of those sanctimonious clichés about democracy, human rights, and good governance being proposed by the United States and its western partners, while the USA attached specific strings to aid .
Keeping a balance with Washington and Beijing will reinforce Liberia’s domestic policies and programs that fortify the bedrock of prosperity and stability will also enhance domestic control and its influence home and overcoming the primarily economic vulnerability that the government, state and people of Liberia are faced. President Weah needs to consider an official trip to Washington and Beijing to strengthen diplomatic ties with American and Chinese leaderships, Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping of the CDC led-government commitment to Liberia-USA and Liberia-China bilateral ties, since diplomacy today is an appropriate instrument to attract investments and businesses back home, and, simultaneously, prove to be politically and economically profitable to all governments, states and people.
Meritoriously, the Sino-Liberia and U.S. Liberia ties rapprochement will definite helped to create the unique conditions that led to the limited apprehensions but contributed and move the exiting relations to another levels of exceptionality.
Liberia’s balance ties with America and China perhaps most important, will be a great help strengthening the Weah’s regime domestic sources of national control in several vital areas especially human capital development, quality education, job creation, recognized health delivery system, pave roads, efficiency political system, research and development.
President Weah administration need to effectively exercise what I described as “diplomatic equilibrium” in its dealings with the two rival world blocs to avoid being seemed as weighting heavily towards one bloc. In this case, the government should move faster and put its diplomats to work, define China and USA interests and use the country’s bilateral ties to the advantage of the government.
The Weah’s regime should solemnly understand the new level of diplomatic maneuvering across the globe as relative Beijing and Washington. China views development and foreign aid as practical policy instruments to promote political friendship and economic cooperation, and only tied aid to one China policy while the U.S. attaches clearly stated goals, stringent conditions, and strict criteria including democracy, respect for rule of law, human rights, and good governance, to its development programs
But Beijing’s amazing aggregation of national power over the past 40 years has been a basis of wonderment among major state actors and non-state actors in the international system, as political experts are at a loss to expound the persistence of Communist Party rule despite its more open market order while economists have been astonished by China’s steadily high rate of progress while historians have describe China’s spectacular rise as unprecedented.
Nevertheless, there are other concerns especially the one coming from the United States of America regarding China’s emerging influence in the world especially its dealing with third world African states. But to the U.S. national security community, China’s rapid ascent up the global power ladder has been a source less of amazement than of cumulative unease.
During his recent inauguration, President Weah made known his administration foreign policy and domestic agenda constructively as he reached out to friendly countries and Liberia’s international partners especially to Washington, Beijing, European Union, ECOWAS, African Union, United Nations, World Bank International Monetary Fund and Arab League countries, among others.
President Weah need to keep to his commitment regarding Liberia-America bilateral ties as he stated in his esteemed speech which touched the relations between Liberia and the United States of America on one hand and Liberia-China productive and mutually rewarding relations.
Foreign policy takes into consideration emerging events across the globe since foreign policy formulations and implementation takes into consideration domestic policy of a state because politics deals not only with government or state but also several dynamics that occurring at other states levels.
While international relations is a strategies of self-interest adopted by a state to protect national interest and respect to its sovereignty including independence, regulation, power, authority, government with the much needed goal in international system. Let us not forget that foreign policy and domestic policy are both interconnected because foreign policy formulation is originated from the inner of state programs which determines government developmental priories based on budgetary appropriation.
Liberia’s Foreign Policy is firmly rooted in its political ideology of liberalism and democracy while the guiding principles of Liberia’s foreign policy has been the maintenance of national security and the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, the promotion of peace and harmony based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.
The fundamental thrust of Liberia’s foreign policy objective before the mid-1960s was predominantly the maintenance of national independence, due to threats posed by the former colonial powers to the Lone Star of freedom and Liberia’s support to independence movement in Africa. The foreign policy objective, during the colonialism was the independence of African states and a devotion to economic, social and political development across the continent.
In order to cement Liberia’s bilateral ties further higher with the current powers in Washington and Beijing, the Weah’s administration should attempted to build close cooperative relations with the two countries using diplomatic, thus keeping a vigorous communication channel with the two economics powers and the rest of the free world to the advantage of the CDC-led government pro-poor agenda, the interest of Liberia above other interests.
However, the diplomatic equilibrium can only be achieved if the rightful individuals assigned at Liberia’s embassies and diplomatic missions abroad are demanded to perform a national duties since the president or the foreign minister cannot be presence every were at once to project the nation’s images. Those currently in the field requires a strong background of a multidisciplinary perspective since diplomacy today is an appropriate instrument to attract investments and businesses back home, and, simultaneously, prove to be politically and economically profitable to Liberia.
Considerable literature has appeared in recent years speculating on future Sino-American cooperation, competition, or conflict. While there is no shortage of theories of international relations to inform conjecture on likely future scenarios, two in particular highlight the sharp contrasts in approach and perspectives that characterize this debate regarding Washington and Beijing.
These two perspectives promote very distinct U.S. approaches for dealing with the challenges posed by a rising China. Realists, who believe that states operate in an unsentimental and unforgiving environment, would advise current American President Donald trump to keep ample powder dry, to leverage existing and acquire new allies, and to occasionally accommodate when relevant U.S. interests are much less than those of China.
The current government domestically remained popular which the government should use to reinforce its foreign policy and international relations with the outside world especially Liberia’s development partners and friendly nations and governments. Accurately, Liberia would not have received the worldwide benevolence it got during the 12-year of former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration if not for apt diplomatic initiatives and had serious negotiations not taken place sometimes long hours to balance the country’s diplomatic dealing with Washington and Beijing.
The current administration primarily need to focus on economic diplomacy in the formulation of the CDC-led government foreign policy and the practice of international relations with Washington and Beijing on one hand and the West on the other hand especially Europe and Africa.
Those who are given the responsibility to project Liberia’s images in the international system especially countries accredited at the various embassies and diplomatic missions abroad must be sharp, cognizant of global prevailing dynamics political and diplomatic issues to drive the desire results back home, and not just sit and wait to be tele-guided (push and start). They need to understand that diplomacy goes far beyond sparkling red and white wines, champagne, ceremonial dinner and soliciting financial and other hand-outs for personal enrichment.
The noble profession which goes with greater demands is not an end but a means; not a purpose but a method. It seeks, by the use of reason, conciliation and the exchange of interests to prevent major conflicts arising between sovereign states and other civil organizations.
But nowadays diplomacy and international relations are wrapped up with domestic policy-making and political demands about governance across an extended spectrum of pressing national issues such as President George M. Weah’s administration pro-poor agenda and jobs creation for the greater population.
In an advanced technically era, diplomats sometimes are merely the messengers of their governments rather than important advisers and policy makers, since technology has brought about a psychological warfare and propaganda that has become a powerful weapon to diplomacy and foreign policy.
For the purpose of efficiency and productivity, the Weah’s administration should institute decisive measures that the serious issue of diplomats negotiating which missions to be assigned should be halted; they should be posted to counties by those with the appointing powers, the president and the foreign minister.
This was one of the major weaknesses of the former Sirleaf’s regime. It was common for these so-called influential diplomats to lobby for posting to “prestigious” diplomatic missions in Europe, Asia, America and multilateral organizations, as greater numbers were not willing to be posted to African missions, especially the underdeveloped ones, while the stayed of a diplomat at one mission in most instances rendered the diplomat or Foreign Service officer inefficient.
Can this administration regularly rotate diplomats every four years, just as hundreds of states continue managed well. For example, nowadays most of the countries from Africa to America and Asia to Europe and South America to Meddle East regularly rotate diplomats; after four years at one diplomatic mission, the individual is brought home to render service at the foreign ministry while his successor move to replace the person; this strategic is intended to ensure effectiveness and not complacency.
While another concern is the existence of too many diplomatic missions abroad, which place a heavy financial burden on the scarce resources of this poor country Liberia, decisively, maintaining more contacts with non-African states. Studies have shown that Washington, Paris, London or Beijing wouldn’t post diplomats to countries of their choice or where diplomats do not have command over the language of the host state or uninformed diplomats to countries of strategic importance in a particular region or continent.
Considering Liberia’s current economic burden and scarce resources, President Weah need to establish a core group of financial, legal, foreign policy and diplomatic experts and political connoisseurs to review the past regime action to maintain existence of too many embassies and diplomatic missions in one region while the country has no embassy or diplomatic mission in other region or continents.
For instance, the existed several missions in the Middle East countries including Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, while Liberia has no diplomatic missions or embassy in South America, Central America, Australia, Scandinavia and Oceania regions.
At present, diplomats are engaged in an expanding range of functions, from negotiation, communication, consular, representation, and reporting to observation, merchandise trade and services promotion, cultural exchange, and public relations. Diplomats restrict their interactions and deal solely with other members of an exclusive club, comprised of governmental officials, fellow diplomats, and, occasionally, members of the business community.
A nation’s diplomat required function as his or her country’s eyes, ears, and voice abroad, must be aware of national interests and values while being able to understand foreign politics and cultures. At the same time, the skills required of professional diplomats include intelligence, tact, discretion, circumspection, patience, self-control, teamwork, adaptability, creative imagination, the ability to signal and communicate messages precisely to the target audience.
In certain cases, diplomats also give occasional speeches to members of the community of their host country. It is admirable profession of integrate, intelligent, honesty, political and edification elegance, free of corrupt and other unwholesome practices especially greed for financial gains. But, now new issues such as technical matters are coming to the forefront. Out of this sphere of unfolding developments and uncertainties a diplomat, in this modern era, should obtain the ‘requisite tools’ of education, skills, and a marketable reputation.
Evidently, diplomat presents his or her government’s policies to the foreign and domestic publics in a persuasive and persuading tone, not a demanding one, as such; a diplomat always represents the interest of the nation but at the same time cannot ignore the public opinion on national and international issues that go beyond defined borders.
Diplomat should be fully aware of work every day to be able to partner with local businesses and companies in host country to enhance economic growth back home in his country. That is why those tasked with economic activities at embassy must be sharp, cognizant of global prevailing wheeling and dealing; keep check of the financial movers and shakers, be well-schooled and knowledgeable of economic diplomacy which encourages greater cooperation and relations that protect investment and bilateral ties between two states or among companies.
Diplomacy serves states in three useful channels of communication including means of negotiating agreements between states, a source of information about what is happening in host states and representing the interest of the sending state.
But considering Liberia’s present poor economic situation, economic diplomacy should be given greater priority in our international relations with powerful states and government since economic diplomacy is now key factor in the development of contemporary international politics. It is clear that economic and commercial interests, particularly those related to investment, trade , exports, protection and assistance could be essential aspects of the diplomatic activities of a considerable number of countries.
Diplomacy today takes place among multiple sites of authority, power, and influence; at its essence is the conduct of relationships, using peaceful means, by and among international actors, at least one of whom is usually governmental. The typical international actors are states and the bulk of diplomacy involves relations between states directly, or between states, international organizations, and other international actors.
In the modern world, the issues of economic interests, trade, protection of nationals, and security have become much more difficult, with major challenges affecting the practices of diplomacy being influenced by major actors and powerful states, and some time the continued experiment of global, continental and regional groupings. Other factors such as bad political decisions in domestic politics, economic growth, and technological development, among others have greatly affected the international system.
At the same time, the skills required of professional diplomats include intelligence, tact, discretion, circumspection, patience, self-control, teamwork, adaptability, creative imagination, the ability to signal and communicate messages precisely to the target audience.
The Weah’s leadership foreign policy and international relations should base its interaction with states and international players on interest since international relations is the study of relations between political entities such as states, empires, international non-governmental organizations, among others.
The CDC led-government foreign policy and international relations, by all account, should be formulated solely for the national interests and its primary and obvious objectives should entails the maintenance of national security and the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, the promotion of peace and harmony based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and respect for international orders. This will led to securing the much-needed strategic partnerships with international players in support of the Weah’s administration agenda.
The expectations of Weah’s leadership are sky-high among Liberians who believe are positives that the president will deliver on his promises of pro-poor agenda equality, rule of law, unity and better living standard for the poverty-stricken population.
About the Author: Josephus Moses Gbala-hinnih Gray is an Assistant Professor at the University of Liberia Graduate Studies Program. He is a native born Liberian, hails from the Southeastern village of Kayken Chiefdom in Barclayville, Grand Kru County. He is an author, professor, journalist, diplomat and scholar with a wealth of rich credentials. He has authored two books, published Two Graduate Studies Theses and a 600-page Doctoral Dissertation on the theme: “Geopolitics of African Oil and Energy: China and America New Strategic Interests in Africa”. He has written extensively and published over 50 articles on variety of contemporary issues. He can be contacted at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Prof. Josephus Moses Gray
Assistant Professor of International Relations