In international relations, the liberal international (economic) order (LIEO, LIO), also known to the G-20 as the rules-based international order, or the US-led liberal international order, is a notion that contemporary international relations are organized around several guiding principles, such as open markets, multilateral institutions, liberal democracy, and leadership by the United States and its allies. The order was established in the aftermath of World War II, and is often associated with Pax Americana.
The debate about liberal international order has grown especially prominent in International Relations. Influential scholars Deudney and Ikenberry list five components of this international order: security co-binding, in which great powers demonstrate restraint; the open nature of US hegemony and the dominance of reciprocal transnational relations; the presence of self-limiting powers like Germany and Japan; the availability of mutual gains due to "the political foundations of economic openness"; and the role of Western "civil identity." The more supportive views of scholars such as Ikenberry have drawn criticism from scholars who have examined the imperial and colonial legacies of liberal international institutions. The contributions of non-Western actors to the formation of the liberal international order have also recently gained attention from scholars advancing global International Relations theory. In the case of Latin America, for example, "From as far back as the 1860s, Latin American jurists have made prominent contributions to international jurisprudence, the ‘mortar’ that binds international order. ... However, in other ways, historically the LIO has been—and remains—superficial in its reach in Latin America."
International organizations play a central role in the liberal order. The World Trade Organization, for example, creates and implements free trade agreements, while the World Bank provides aid to developing countries. The order is also premised on the notion that liberal trade and free markets will contribute to global prosperity and peace. Critics argue that the liberal order has sometimes led to social problems such as inequality and environmental degradation.
Critics also argue that the liberal order tilts the scales in favour of the United States and its Western allies, as seen in voting shares in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.[citation needed ]
Some see China as a potential challenger to the liberal order, as its initiatives such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and One Belt One Road Initiative appear to compete with existing international institutions.
Van Niewenhuizen is categorical that Xi Jinping, then General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, seeks to supplant the LIEO. Xi distinguishes his own concept "国际关系法治化", which can be translated as "rule of law in international relations", from international law "国际法" and international rule of law "国际法治". Van Niewenhuizen writes that
Xi’s use of the character hua (化) here is instructive: it signifies a change in state, meaning the Chinese government does not believe international relations are characterised by the rule of law, and this requires revision.
Nisha Mary Mathew remarks that the quest for dominance of the Eurasian land mass in which China finds itself causes Iran to be a favourite. In 2017 alone, the Chinese signed deals for Iranian infrastructure projects worth more than US$15 billion. Joint projects include "high-speed rail lines, upgrades to the nation’s electrical grid, and natural gas pipelines". From 2019 to 2025 the two nations seek to increase bilateral trade to US$600 billion.