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At the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly last month, there was a widespread sense of foreboding among world leaders.Even before the summit began, Europeans, Canadians, Mexicans, South Koreans and Japanese had been consulting in earnest about the need for a new alliance to save the multilateral system.In the late 1960s, former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson looked back at the immediate postwar era and felt as though he had been "present at the creation" of a new world based on shared rules and multilateral institutions. To Trump's mind, multilateral institutions tend to strengthen the hand of weaker powers vis-a-vis the U.S., and are thus facilitating China's bid for global dominance.But Trump is far from the only threat to the multilateral order.Chinese President Xi Jinping has sought to portray himself as a savior of the international system, and yet his goal is not to defend the institutions on which global governance depends, but rather to bolster China's power. Moreover, Trump and Xi are just two among a larger group of alpha leaders who are challenging the traditional Kantian international order.On trade, for example, multilateralists will need to work with China to defend the WTO; but they also need to reform the WTO so that it is equipped to curtail China's problematic trade and investment practices.
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