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Feb. 2, 2024

Strategic Implications of the Deterioration of the Rules-Based International Order

By R. Evan Ellis

The multiple crises currently playing out in Ukraine, the Middle East, the Taiwan straits, and even Guyana’s Essequibo region, reflect a deterioration of the rules-based international order that has served as the foundation for economic growth, technological progress, and the limitation of interstate conflict since the end of the Second World War. The current deterioration is a product of the expansion of PRC economic and other power as the country pursues its interests, complimented by the enabling effect of that pursuit on a range of illiberal states, with distinct agendas, but united by a common interest in limiting the constraints of that order as they pursue their own interests. Over the long run, the deterioration of the rules-based order undermines democracy and economic progress and facilitates transnational crime and domestic conflict. It may also expand the frequency of inter-state conflict, even in Latin America, in a system in which militarily “stronger” authoritarian regimes increasingly lack constraint in taking what they want from their weaker neighbors. Governments in the region may rediscover the relevance of their militaries in defending the nation against external, as well as environmental, criminal, and internal challenges.

Keywords: People’s Republic of China, Rules-Based World Order, Illiberal Governments