A rules-based world order: Unmasking American hypocrisy
Bobby M. Tuazon
A general view of the U.S. Capitol Building and the National Mall at sunrise, in Washington, D.C., September 29, 2021. /CFP

A general view of the U.S. Capitol Building and the National Mall at sunrise, in Washington, D.C., September 29, 2021. /CFP

Editor's note: Bobby M. Tuazon is the director for policy studies of a Philippine think tank, Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), and a professor at the University of the Philippines. He is also an editor and co-author of 15 books. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.

U.S. President Joe Biden's commitment to a peaceful and more secure global community under American leadership is a hollow rhetoric and packs more dangers. In his interim national security strategy issued last March, Biden assures the U.S. will steer clear of wars but will keep using sanctions to rein in China, Russia, and other "rogue regimes" to comply with a rules-based world order. Further sanctions will be used to compel China to respect human rights in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Xizang (known as Tibet) Autonomous Region and Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region, the strategy revealed.

Setting the tone to define his national security strategy, Biden's sanctions tool will in fact create more instability and bring the world closer to a "new cold war" as many countries have sounded out.

Sanctions have been in the arsenal of U.S. foreign policy alongside war interventionism at great cost to human lives and economies of many countries. As a result, many countries are calling on the sole superpower to renounce this weapon even as the U.S. faces investigations at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN for war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the U.S. remains nonchalant.

For the 29th consecutive year, the UN General Assembly last June voted 184-2 for ending the U.S.' 60-year embargo on Cuba. Only two – the U.S. and Israel – voted against the resolution with three abstentions. The delegation of Indonesia, ASEAN's leading member, said the blockade violated international law and the sovereign equality of states and hinders Cuba's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For decades, the U.S. is the only country that has used indiscriminately economic sanctions including embargoes and tariffs on states that threaten American unilateralism, its self-proclaimed democratic model, and economic supremacy. In recent years, it has also resorted to lawfare to blunt competition from other countries in the guise of protecting the world economic order.

In the case of Cuba, for instance, the U.S. supported the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion by Fulgencio Batista followers while imposing an economic embargo the year before to preempt the island country south of Florida from becoming a socialist state. Cuban socialism was beginning to inspire other countries in South America, threatening America's proverbial sphere of influence.

In the 20th century, the U.S. has figured in at least 70 wars of aggression in as many countries. The wars of aggression combined the use of economic sanctions including against countries that may not necessarily qualify in America's list of enemies.

Arguably the country most brutally affected by U.S. economic sanctions since the 1950s is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), with new trade and financial embargoes imposed in 2006 by George W. Bush, who named the DPRK in his "axis of evil." Tagged by Donald Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton as "beyond the axis of evil," Syria continues to be subjected to strong trade restrictions.

U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., February 24, 2021. /Getty

U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., February 24, 2021. /Getty

Economic sanctions also continue to bear on Afghanistan in the wake of the withdrawal of U.S. forces. In mid-August, Biden caused the freezing of Afghan central bank assets amounting to $9.5 billion and, taking the cue, the IMF and World Bank halted Kabul's access to funds. The Taliban remain on the U.S. Treasury Department's sanctions designation list.

Closely tied to economic sanctions is lawfare – the strategy of using or misusing American law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective. Facing intense competition from Chinese IT technology, then President Trump in December 2018 asked the Canadian immigration authorities to arrest, detain and extradite Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou. Meng, who spent nearly three years in house arrest for trumped-up fraud charges involving her company, was released last month following a deal with the U.S. Justice Department.

Lawfare as used by the U.S. to preserve American monopoly capital and technology has imperiled foreign companies – not only Chinese and Russian – but also French, British, German, and Swedish companies that are forced to pay tens of billions of dollars in "fines" for alleged legal wrongdoing. The misuse and extension of American law throughout the world belies the U.S. claim of promoting a ruled-based free market.

The abuse of economic sanctions and lawfare not only leaves foreign companies defenseless but above all brings about the loss of human lives and economic catastrophes. The U.S., however, is wrong in assuming that coercive mechanisms will bring down the economies of what it perceives as rival countries. Countries targeted for punishing sanctions and lawfare are eventually brought closer to each other into economic and security blocs with the U.S. itself increasingly isolated from the global arena. This explains the changing global order with unilateralism being replaced by multilateralism.

The U.S. should gag its mouth in hankering about a rules-based international order. Hypocrisy and double standard have no place in a stable world order.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at

Search Trends