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Probing into the “Chinese Solution” for the Transformation of Global Governance By ShenYamei

Publish Date:2018-01-09 Source: [Large Small]

In the domain of global governance, the Central Committee of CPC with Comrade Xi Jingping at the core has proposed over the past five years to the world a series of views on development, security, civilization and cooperation based on China’s experiences in development and the status quo of globalization as well as rooted in deep accumulation of Chinese civilization, offering a Chinese solution to cope with global challenges, which has made China the “most active and positive force in the process of global governance”.


I. Dynamical Sources for the “Chinese Solution” for Global Governance


As the world is in a period of great development, transformation and adjustment, the international power comparison is undergoing profound changes, global governance is reshuffling and traditional governance concepts and models are confronted with challenges. The international community is expecting China to play a bigger role in global governance, which has given birth to the Chinese solution.

A. To Lead the Transformation of the Global Governance System. The “shortcomings” of the existing global governance system are prominent, which can hardly ensure global development. First, the traditional dominant forces are seriously imbalanced. The US and Europe that used to dominate the global governance system have been beset with structural problems, with their economic development stalling, social contradictions intensifying, populism and secessionism rising, and states trapped in internal strife and differentiation. These countries have not fully reformed and adjusted themselves well, but rather pointed their fingers at globalization and resorted to retreat for self-insurance or were busy with their own affairs without any wish or ability to participate in global governance, which has encouraged the growth of “anti-globalization” trend into an interference factor to global governance.

Second, the global governance mechanism is relatively lagging behind. Over the years of development, the strength of emerging economies has increased dramatically, which has substantially upset the international power structure, as the developing countries as a whole have made 80 percent of the contributions to global economic growth. These countries have expressed their appeal for new governance and begun policy coordination among themselves, which has initiated the transition of global governance form “Western governance” to “East-West joint governance”, but the traditional governance mechanisms such as the World Bank, IMF and G7 failed to reflect the demand of the new pattern, in addition to their lack of representation and inclusiveness.

Third, the global governance rules are developing in a fragmented way, with governance deficits existing in some key areas. With the diversification and in-depth integration of international interests, the domain of global governance has continued to expand, with actors multiplying by folds and action intentions becoming complicated. As relevant efforts are usually temporary and limited to specific partners or issues, global governance driven by requests of “diversified governance” lacks systematic and comprehensive solutions. Since the beginning of this year, there have been risks of running into an acephalous state in such key areas as global economic governance and climate change. Such emerging issues as nuclear security and international terrorism have suffered injustice because of power politics. The governance areas in deficit, such as cyber security, polar region and oceans, have “reversely forced” certain countries and organizations to respond hastily. All of these have made the global governance system trapped in a dilemma and call urgently for a clear direction of advancement.

B. To Innovate and Perfect the International Order. Currently, whether the developing countries or the Western countries of Europe and the US are greatly discontent with the existing international order as well as their appeals and motivation for changing the order are unprecedentedly strong. The US is the major creator and beneficiary of the existing hegemonic order, but it is now doubtful that it has gained much less than lost from the existing order, faced with the difficulties of global economic transformation and obsessed with economic despair and political dejection.

Although the developing countries as represented by China acknowledge the positive role played by the post-war international order in safeguarding peace, boosting prosperity and promoting globalization, they criticize the existing order for lack of inclusiveness in politics and equality in economy, as well as double standard in security, believing it has failed to reflect the multi-polarization trend of the world and is an exclusive “circle club”. Therefore, there is much room for improvement. For China, to lead the transformation of the global governance system and international order not only supports the efforts of the developing countries to uphold multilateralism rather than unilateralism, advocate the rule of law rather than the law of the jungle and practice democracy rather than power politics in international relations, but also is an important subject concerning whether China could gain the discourse power and development space corresponding to its own strength and interests in the process of innovating and perfecting the framework of international order.

C. To Promote Integration of the Eastern and Western Civilizations. Dialog among civilizations, which is the popular foundation for any country’s diplomatic proposals, runs like a trickle moistening things silently. Nevertheless, in the existing international system guided by the “Western-Centrism”, the Western civilization has always had the self-righteous superiority, conflicting with the interests and mentality of other countries and having failed to find the path to co-existing peacefully and harmoniously with other civilizations. So to speak, many problems of today, including the growing gap in economic development between the developed and developing countries against the background of globalization, the Middle East trapped in chaos and disorder, the failure of Russia and Turkey to “integrate into the West”, etc., can be directly attributed to lack of exchanges, communication and integration among civilizations.

Since the 18th National Congress of CPC, Xi Jinping has raised the concept of “Chinese Dream” that reflects both Chinese values and China’s pursuit, re-introducing to the world the idea of “all living creatures grow together without harming one another and ways run parallel without interfering with one another”, which is the highest ideal in Chinese traditional culture, and striving to shape China into a force that counter-balance the Western civilization. He has also made solemn commitment that “we respect the diversity of civilizations …… cannot be puffed up with pride and depreciate other civilizations and nations”; “facing the people deeply trapped in misery and wars, we should have not only compassion and sympathy, but also responsibility and action …… do whatever we can to extend assistance to those people caught in predicament”, etc. China will rebalance the international pattern from a more inclusive civilization perspective and with more far-sighted strategic mindset, or at least correct the bisected or predominated world order so as to promote the parallel development of the Eastern and Western civilizations through mutual learning, integration and encouragement.

D. To Pass on China’s Confidence. Only a short while ago, some Western countries had called for “China’s responsibility” and made it an inhibition to “regulate” China’s development orientation. Today, China has become a source of stability in an international situation full of uncertainties. Over the past 5 years, China has made outstanding contributions to the recovery of world economy under relatively great pressure of its own economic downturn. Encouraged by the “four confidences”, the whole of the Chinese society has burst out innovation vitality and produced innovation achievements, making people have more sense of gain and more optimistic about the national development prospect. It is the heroism of the ordinary Chinese to overcome difficulties and realize the ideal destiny that best explains China’s confidence.

When this confidence is passed on in the field of diplomacy, it is expressed as: first, China’s posture is seen as more forging ahead and courageous to undertake responsibilities ---- proactively shaping the international agendas rather than passively accepting them; having clear-cut attitudes on international disputes rather than being equivocal; and extending international cooperation to comprehensive and dimensional development rather than based on the theory of “economy only”. In sum, China will actively seek understanding and support from other countries rather than imposing its will on others with clear-cut Chinese characteristics, Chinese style and Chinese manner. Second, China’s discourse is featured as a combination of inflexibility and yielding as well as magnanimous ---- combining the internationally recognized diplomatic principles with the excellent Chinese cultural traditions through digesting the Chinese and foreign humanistic classics assisted with philosophical speculations to make “China Brand, Chinese Voice and China’s Image get more and more recognized”. Third, the Chinese solution is more practical and intimate to people as well as emphasizes inclusive cooperation, as China is full of confidence to break the monopoly of the Western model on global development, “offering mankind a Chinese solution to explore a better social system”, and “providing a brand new option for the nations and peoples who are hoping both to speed up development and maintain independence”.


II.Path Searching of the “Chinese Solution” for Global Governance


Over the past years’ efforts, China has the ability to transform itself from “grasping the opportunity” for development to “creating opportunity” and “sharing opportunity” for common development, hoping to pass on the longing of the Chinese people for a better life to the people of other countries and promoting the development of the global governance system toward a more just and rational end. It has become the major power’s conscious commitment of China to lead the transformation of the global governance system in a profound way.

A. To Construct the Theoretical System for Global Governance. The theoretical system of global governance has been the focus of the party central committee’s diplomatic theory innovation since the 18th National Congress of CPC as well as an important component of the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, which is not only the sublimation of China’s interaction with the world from “absorbing and learning” to “cooperation and mutual learning”, but also the cause why so many developing countries have turned from “learning from the West” to “exploring for treasures in the East”. In the past 5 years, the party central committee, based on precise interpretation of the world pattern today and serious reflection on the future development of mankind, has made a sincere call to the world for promoting the development of global governance system toward a more just and rational end, and proposed a series of new concepts and new strategies including engaging in major power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, creating the human community with common destiny, promoting the construction of new international relationship rooted in the principle of cooperation and win-win, enriching the strategic thinking of peaceful development, sticking to the correct benefit view, formulating the partnership network the world over, advancing the global economic governance in a way of mutual consultation, joint construction and co-sharing, advocating the joint, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept, and launching the grand “Belt and Road” initiative. The Chinese solution composed of these contents, not only fundamentally different from the old roads of industrial revolution and colonial expansion in history, but also different from the market-driven neo-liberalism model currently advocated by Western countries and international organizations, stands at the height of the world and even mankind, seeking for global common development and having widened the road for the developing countries to modernization, which is widely welcomed by the international community.

B. To Supplement and Perfect the Global Governance System. Currently, the international political practice in global governance is mostly problem-driven without creating a set of relatively independent, centralized and integral power structures, resulting in the existing global governance systemcharacterized as both extensive and unbalanced. China has been engaged in reform and innovation, while maintaining and constructing the existing systems, producing some thinking and method with Chinese characteristics. First, China sees the UN as a mirror that reflects the status quo of global governance, which should act as the leader of global governance, and actively safeguards the global governance system with the UN at the core. Second, China is actively promoting the transforming process of such recently emerged international mechanisms as G20, BRICS and SCO, perfecting them through practice, and boosting Asia-Pacific regional cooperation and the development of economic globalization. China is also promoting the construction of regional security mechanism through the Six-Party Talks on Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, Boao Forum for Asia, CICA and multilateral security dialog mechanisms led by ASEAN so as to lay the foundation for the future regional security framework. Third, China has initiated the establishment of AIIB and the New Development Bank of BRICS, creating a precedent for developing countries to set up multilateral financial institutions. The core of the new relationship between China and them lies in “boosting rather than controlling” and “public rather than private”, which is much different from the management and operation model of the World Bank, manifesting the increasing global governance ability of China and the developing countries as well as exerting pressure on the international economic and financial institution to speed up reforms. Thus, in leading the transformation of the global governance system, China has not overthrown the existing systems and started all over again, but been engaged in innovating and perfecting; China has proactively undertaken international responsibilities, but has to do everything in its power and act according to its ability.

C. To Reform the Global Governance Rules. Many of the problems facing global governance today are deeply rooted in such a cause that the dominant power of the existing governance system has taken it as the tool to realize its own national interests first and a platform to pursue its political goals. Since the beginning of this year, the US has for several times requested the World Bank, IMF and G20 to make efforts to mitigate the so-called global imbalance, abandoned its commitment to support trade openness, cut down investment projects to the middle-income countries, and deleted commitment to support the efforts to deal with climate change financially, which has made the international systems accessories of the US domestic economic agendas, dealing a heavy blow to the global governance system. On the contrary, the interests and agendas of China, as a major power of the world, are open to the whole world, and China in the future “will provide the world with broader market, more sufficient capital, more abundant goods and more precious opportunities for cooperation”, while having the ability to make the world listen to its voice more attentively.

With regard to the subject of global governance, China has advocated that what global governance system is better cannot be decided upon by any single country, as the destiny of the world should be in the hands of the people of all countries. In principle, all the parties should stick to the principle of mutual consultation, joint construction and co-sharing, resolve disputes through dialog and differences through consultation. Regarding the critical areas, opening to the outer world does not mean building one’s own backyard, but building the spring garden for co-sharing; the “Belt and Road” initiative is not China’s solo, but a chorus participated in by all countries concerned. China has also proposed international public security views on nuclear security, maritime cooperation and cyber space order, calling for efforts to make the global village into a “grand stage for seeking common development” rather than a “wrestling arena”; we cannot “set up a stage here, while pulling away a prop there”, but “complement each other to put on a grand show”. From the orientation of reforms, efforts should be made to better safeguard and expand the legitimate interests of the developing countries and increase the influence of the emerging economies on global governance.

Over the past 5 years, China has attached importance to full court diplomacy, gradually coming to the center stage of international politics and proactively establishing principles for global governance. By hosting such important events as IAELM, CICA Summit, G20 Summit, the Belt and Road International Cooperation Forum and BRICS Summit, China has used theseplatforms to elaborate the Asia-Pacific Dream for the first time to the world, expressing China’s views on Asian security and global economic governance, discussing with the countries concerned with the Belt and Road about the synergy of their future development strategies and setting off the “BRICS plus” capacity expansion mechanism, in which China not only contributes its solution and shows its style, but also participates in the shaping of international principles through practice. On promoting the resolution of hot international issues, China abides by the norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and insists on justice, playing a constructive role as a responsible major power in actively promoting the political accommodation in Afghanistan, mediating the Djibouti-Eritrea dispute, promoting peace talks in the Middle East, devoting itself to the peaceful resolution of the South China Sea dispute through negotiations. In addition, China’s responsibility and quick response to international crises have gained widespread praises, as seen in such cases as assisting Africa in its fight against the Ebola epidemic, sending emergency fresh water to the capital of Maldives and buying rice from Cambodia to help relieve its financial squeeze, which has shown the simple feelings of the Chinese people to share the same breath and fate with the people of other countries.

D. To Support the Increase of the Developing Countries’ Voice. The developing countries, especially the emerging powers, are not only the important participants of the globalization process, but also the important direction to which the international power system is transferring. With the accelerating shift of global economic center to emerging markets and developing economies, the will and ability of the developing countries to participate in global governance have been correspondingly strengthened. As the biggest developing country and fast growing major power, China has the same appeal and proposal for governance as other developing countries and already began policy coordination with them, as China should comply with historical tide and continue to support the increase of the developing countries’ voice in the global governance system. To this end, China has pursued the policy of “dialog but not confrontation, partnership but not alliance”, attaching importance to the construction of new type of major power relationship and global partnership network, while making a series proposals in the practice of global governance that could represent the legitimate interests of the developing countries and be conducive to safeguarding global justice, including supporting an open, inclusive, universal, balanced and win-win economic globalization; promoting the reforms on share and voting mechanism of IMF to increase the voting rights and representation of the emerging market economies; financing the infrastructure construction and industrial upgrading of other developing countries through various bilateral or regional funds; and helping other developing countries to respond to such challenges as famine, refugees, climate change and public hygiene by debt forgiveness and assistance.


III.Challenges Facing the “Chinese Solution”


The Chinese solution meets the world expectations of China, which also aroused questioning. The traditional Western big powers of the US and in Europe still have seen China playing a bigger international role as a “challenger” to them based on binary opposition logic. The US media expressed flatly, “it is really hard to understand how China has made so huge a change in such a short period of time”, and “we have to wait to see if the Chinese solution would benefit the world”. Specifically speaking, the Chinese solution faces challenges mainly in three aspects.

A. In Leading the World out of the Low Growth Dilemma. The international influence of the Chinese solution is, to a large extent, rooted in the vitality of China’s political system and the vigor of its economic growth, as well as depends on whether China could become an important force leading the world economy out of the low growth dilemma. Currently, the world economy is sluggish in growth, with uncertainties and instabilities increasing, while China, although also confronted with economic downturn, is promoting long-term and healthy development of its economy by sticking to the innovation-driven development, advancing structural reform on the supply-side and converting pressure into driving force. Just based on the thought of domestic development, China has proposed the “five in one” overall layout and path proposition for creating the human community of common destiny, as an international extension of its five major development concepts, namely “innovation, coordination, green, open and sharing”, which has enhanced China’s influence in the realm of global governance development.

Nonetheless, some politicians and voters in the US have attributed their domestic economic difficulties and especially the unfair distribution system to China out of prejudice and misunderstanding, seeing the Chinese Dream as a challenge to the “American Dream” and “linking it with the decline of American overseas power and domestic living standard”. Quite a number of people have even gone so far as to disparage that China is plundering resources in Africa, damaging the environment, and intensifying the disparity between the rich and the poor in local societies, which can be termed as “neo-colonialism”. They also asserted that “China cannot be allowed to smooth everything out with its economic strength”. With the Chinese economy entering the new normal of medium-low growth, those “bad-mouthing” China have become more active and questioned China’s development prospects. Objectively speaking, with China’s advantage in low labor cost relatively declining and the popularity of automation application, the economic foundation that supports the Chinese solution needs to be further consolidated. This, to some extent, needs to be defined by practice, following a process of practice first, tested by results later and followed by theorization.

B. In Getting Rid of the Inertia of the Geopolitical Game. As early as 2011, the US Secretary of State then Mrs. Clinton warned the US Senate, “China and the US are engaged in a competition for influence globally”, “competition between the two countries is not only for moral leadership, but also directly related to geopolitics”. From then on, the American academia has avoided talking about the intense agitation of Obama’s Asia-Pacific “rebalancing” strategy to the Asia-Pacific regional security and sedulously de-emphasized the impact of uncertainties of Trump’s diplomacy toward the geopolitics, while pointing the spearhead to China and believing that as China “is seeking to shape itself into a leader of Asia equal to the US or even stronger than the US”, the US dominance in East Asia that has never been challenged since the Cold War is eroding, which has led to dangers of conflicts in East Asia. China proposing the “Belt and Road” initiative and establishing the AIIB have been suspected to have ambition of geopolitical expansion and believed to be “a geopolitical and geo-economic agenda intended to strengthen China’s global power and legitimacy”, whose “ultimate goal is to turn Eurasia into an economic and strategic bloc equal to or bigger than the Euro-Atlantic bloc”. Since the beginning of this year, the policies and actions of the Trump administration based on “American First”, withdrawal from TPP and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change have further been interpreted by Western Media as the US giving up the world leadership to China, resulting in the clamor of “changing guard” between China and the US, “sharing the hegemony” and “filling in the vacuum”.

As the US has assumed strong geopolitical cognition and behavioral inertia as well as fallen into the geopolitical trap of its own making, the differences between China and the US on geopolitical and security issues are great, their policy coordination is difficult and the tendency to compete is stronger than to cooperate, resulting in the contest between China and the US over the Chinese solution exceeding the issue of global governance itself. The stalemate between China and the US at the geopolitical level is likely to persist for a long time and they will be very cautious in evaluating and choosing relevant policies, as any major decision and action by them will upset the regional or even the global pattern, form a new way of interaction, establish new rules, and determine their respective position and role in the new order.

C. In Ideology Competition and Amalgamation. New China has progressed amid various misunderstandings and misjudgments by the West from its founding to reforms and opening up, and to peaceful development. The political prophecies about China from “breaking down theory” to “threat theory” and to “responsibility theory” have failed one after another, which has not only resulted from the Western ideological bias about China, but also reflected lackof basic understanding, patience and inclusiveness of the Western mainstream scholars about China’s national conditions, systems and culture, who would even go so far as to take negating China as a makeshift to incite and unite their domestic majority. As China’s achievements in economic and social development have demonstrated the Chinese values and development path to the developing countries, the Chinese solution is in reality “challenging” the Western model. The US and other Western powers are reluctant to recognize and accept this fact. Since the Western countries are not interested in or prioritizing the “development” issue stressed by the developing countries including China, they have instead launched a political offensive against China by taking up the “democracy” issue in ideological and public opinion spheres. As a result, how to define and realize democracy has more and more become the theme of the new round of international ideology debate.

As facts show, Western democracy is not a perfect system that can  resolve all problems, build consensus and cultivate political community; while whether or not the world would embrace the Chinese democratic thought and culture depends on whether or not the Chinese solution could keep pace with the times, be inclusive of international universals and also show humanistic concern for the common development interests of the world and mankind, while concerning the development and interests of its own nation. In this sense, as long as the ideology debate does not evolve to overwhelming antagonism like that between the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War and can avoid the fatal aftermath of “mutual burial of each other’s ideal”, the system competition between the East and the West advancing toward a state of mutual learning and amalgamation through collision and exchanges might be a way forward for exploring the future international order.


(The author is Deputy Director and Associate Research Fellow of Department for American Studies, China Institute of International Studies. This article was received on Nov. 5, 2017)

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